Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The World on Fire

Me: That's alotta smoke.
Bigness: hmm? (as he looks up from his paper)
Me: The trees across the way are on fire
Bigness: Gial no worry, the fence will stop the fire
Me: I don't think its going to stop it, the breeze is blowing it right towards us
Bigness: (nonplussed) the breeze is not hard, its just a little fire, and the yard is peeled (cut short) nothing to burn close to the house. (he buries himself in the paper)

a few minutes later...
Bigness: Gial, shut those back windows.

But I don't hear him so well, because I'm outside with the painfully short hose, wetting down the orange trees, the grass, the house, the bushes, the car, the motorcycle, looking for and filling up any plastic container because if the fire hits the electric lines, we will lose our well pump and there goes the water. Its my vivid imagination at work again, thinking out multiple scenerios. Too bad I hate the game of chess.

Bigness: GIAL, let's bring in the motorcycle.
So we do, and find a little board to use as a ramp up the side steps, I pull and lift and he pushes from behind. This machine didn't look so big when it was parked outside, but now it fills our little kitchen next to the lawn mower and washing machine. Its raining ash like snow now.
Bigness: we're almost out of fresh water, I'm going to the store for more.
Me: Do you think this is a good time to do that?
Bigness: Gial, you worry too much
Me: LOOK (and I point here, here and here) the fire is on three sides of us now.
(And I think to myself, you must be worried too if you brought the motorcycle into the kitchen.)

I can see the neighbors down the way on their front porch watching the fire like a reality TV show. I can hear the bagpipe-playing old Englishman neighbor practicing christmas carols over and over. Jingle Bells, Deck the Halls and We Three Kings like Nero playing the violin while Rome burns. Isn't anyone else worried?

I continue spraying where I left off. I drench the baby mango tree, the two baby Jamaican lime trees, the baby almond trees, the red hibiscus bush, all of which we planted this year knowing that if the fire reaches us these might be saved if I can wet them up enough. I spray all along the fence line as far as I can go with this short hose, half of the roof, two sides of the house and curse myself that I didn't buy a longer hose the last time I was in town.

Bigness comes out of the house and moves the car to the leeward side of the house.

Bigness: I hope the fire stops before we go to bed.
Me: Me too.
Bigness: Its burning up the road by the store, the whole roadside is on fire.

Our little house in the bush, where my studio is now, is 30 miles away from Belize City and 18 from Belmopan. Each of these cities fighting their own battles against rampant brush fires, I know that it is just us and the little hose that stands between the fire and losing the house. There won't be any ladder trucks coming, no helicopters dumping fire retardant, no men in fireproof suits. I chose to live here and so I choose to deal with the reality of living so isolated.

I watch as the fire jumps the road and starts burning towards an empty house. I stop the water and go inside to watch from the back bedroom windows as the smoke is thick and burning my eyes now. And then it stops. The flames die down, the breeze slackens and the air begins to clear. I crack the window a bit and lie down on the bed because tomorrow morning comes soon and we're going to Cancun to pick up my oldest daughter and her family from the airport.
I wake up around 4 a.m., the breeze is cool, scented with pine smoke like incense and the air feels wet. We leave the house and start traveling north to the border with Mexico, at daybreak I can see rain clouds on the horizon.


Jess said...

Jeez. That sounds harrowing.

Hope all is well - Jess

Alexandra said...

that's wild. and its really a strange feeling when you're worrying about something and everyone else is not...

DCveR said...

I'd worry too. Up north, in the mountains, we have a place in the middle of a natural park, several times we've had forest fires threatning the place and it really was scary. Have a nice trip to Mexico.

MB said...

OMG! I am so glad that you both are OK...sounds kinda to close for comfort to me! Please God let it rain a lot and soon! MB

Guyana-Gyal said...

The others aren't worried? Well then, I'd take up all the worrying they should be doing, and do it all for them, that's me.

Flood here, fire there. What a world.

Cream said...

Wow, Lee. That sounded like the great escape! Glad the fire is out.
Your Bigness is cool!

Colin & Carol said...

Every year we watch the fires all around us dreading moments like this. Your post really captures the drama I will put a link on my page.

Caribbean Colors said...

Thank you every one for you comments, you keep me inspired to keep writing.