I've been watching the world around me change over the last couple of months. Autumn came early to East Texas, with the leaves turning yellow and brown well before fall ever graced us with her cooling touch. I have been hearing the rustle of dried, dead leaves for months without the benefit of the decrease in temperatures that usually accompanies it.
We haven't had rain in I don't know how long.
The ground is hard. Wide, deep cracks have opened up, waiting for runoff to rush in and save the earth from splitting into a million tiny pieces. When the wind blows, it takes the topsoil with it. Everything is cloaked in dust, making the world a grey place to navigate. Even my tiny little puppy's footsteps kick up noticeable clouds.
The grass crunches under our feet where it hasn't disappeared altogether.
My drive to town, no matter which town I choose as my destination, is more of the same. Except it isn't.
My drive to town takes me past charred wastelands, through smoke, past carcasses of animals that died while trying to find refuge from the fires. Buzzards and crows are my companions as I drive.
All across Texas, it is more of the same. Ranchers are selling off their herds because there is nothing for the livestock to eat. People have lost everything they didn't take with them when forced to evacuate to escape the relentless march of the fires. Farmers' harvests have withered and died. Reservoirs that provide water to towns are all but gone.
Firefighters and equipment have been pushed far beyond what they were designed to withstand. Planes and choppers fly over the fire zones, dropping water and fire suppressant chemicals.
It looks, sounds, smells, and feels like a war zone.
As soon as they get one fire under control, another breaks out, or an old one reignites. Flyovers show vast expanses of charred stubble and piles of cinders where things used to be.
Our reality is slowly shifting. I don't know if it is better this way, or if it would be easier to wake up to drastic change that occurred overnight. I've been through the overnight change after living through a surprise tornado. It was jarring, with the sun going down on a peninsula covered in trees and having the sun rise to see those same trees lying splintered like matchsticks.
I think this might be harder. At least the morning after the tornado we knew it was over and we could begin to pick up the pieces.
This? This just seems to drag on and on. With wildfire season not even at its peak yet and La Nina forming again, there is no end in sight.
My mind feels like it is stretching, warping, as it tries to wrap itself around our new reality. I find myself lying awake at night, in spite of the benadryl that serves dual purpose in my life--allergy relief and sleep aid. Logically I know that, for the moment, we are safe from the fires. Yet, no-one seems to be truly safe from the ever-present threat of fire these days. I go to school and sit in class with only half of my attention on what the professor is saying. The other half is wondering if the call to evacuate will come in while I am sitting there. My phone is no longer safely ensconced in my handbag; it sits on the table, directly in front of me. I want to be able to see it. I don't want to miss that life changing call if it comes in.
I don't have much interest in shopping these days. Usually, pouring over clearance racks is my favorite way to pass the time. I can't let go of the constant, niggling fear that has taken up residence in the corners of my mind.
I haven't even begun an earnest job search. As much as I don't want to "rely" on a man to take care of me anymore, I also understand that in some way I am serving our common good by staying close to home. At least if I stay close to home, I stand a chance of saving us a lot of headache and expense by driving our home, this delightful magic bus, out of here.
So I sit. And wait. Whether I am waiting for the worst or waiting for this nightmare reality to end, I don't know. In the meantime, I will continue to watch the world change before my eyes and try to adjust to a new reality.
An apocalyptic wonderland.