Future Dead Girl

Carr Fire
Photo of the Carr Fire, taken by Ted Goldsmith

It is 113° in Redding, California, and the Carr Fire continues to burn, destroying boats at the marina and buildings to the west, and filling the sky with ash and smoke. Those who haven’t been forced to evacuate stay inside to keep from breathing it in.

Blood-red skies and flickering horizons bring perspective, especially if it’s your family holed up in a motel hoping their home is still their home at the end of it all.

As all fires worth knowing about tend to do, this one leapt out of control quickly. As far as I know there haven’t been any casualties at this time, but there are no guarantees.

 

A week ago, I dreamed that I died. It wasn’t a dream of monsters chasing me, but it felt as real as those nightmares often do. I was in the liminal space between death and life; time had stopped, the time had come, and I was about to find out what really happens when you die. I only knew it was a dream when I woke up, and then I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“Have you ever almost died?” It’s a question that surfaces on social media and road trips, and like others I have stories I dust off for just such occasions. Those of us who haven’t gotten nearly as close as we think we have laugh about our near-misses, but it’s only a temporary reprieve. I am a future dead girl.

Those who were once living wrote about beautiful and terrible places in their sacred books, but whether they have gone to those places, I don’t know.

We will all die, but we don’t like to talk about it, except in the wispiest of language. Maybe that’s why we love stories of resurrection so much. In fact, I’ll be telling one myself soon, with my fancy editing tools, and with my body. The camera will find me lying on a table, still and gray, then it will move close to my face, and, just as we planned, I will open my eyes.

If only it were that easy.

I am From…

I am from evergreens and cutting down Christmas trees in the backyard and carrying twice my age of firewood up the stairs.

I am from bunk beds and sleigh beds.

I am from the California of snow and mountains and desert summers and Tinkerbell Lane.

Even when I don’t close my eyes at 4:30 p.m., I am from the town of Odyssey and the ice cream shop they call Whit’s End. The old man with the mustache, the young man with the glasses, the girl with the green sweater who is the last to know everything…

I am from televisions that hide behind blankets and know no channels, but that welcome weekend movie nights with that green splotch in the upper-right corner of the screen.

I am from Christmases with few traditions and Thanksgivings at Granny and Poppa’s house with the crepe paper and balloons because it’s my birthday.

I am from a small family, a small town, a small church.

A mother who feels and a father who thinks

A father who runs marathons and a mother who talks marathons

A first-generation Christian family

I am from all-natural soaps and organic everything.

From Honda cars and Ford trucks

Taco meat and Rice Krispies

Jean jumpers and matching clothes and modesty

I am from homeschooling at my little desk, and always wanting to pledge allegiance to the American flag

I am from those who distrusted the Newsboys and then loved the Newsboys.

I am from conservatives and middle-class and Christian bubbles.

I am from angry words and gentle words and too many words and not enough words and sarcasm.

I am from sparse decorations and piles of papers and a certain way to put the dishes in the dishwasher.

I am from hiding away from people and worrying what they think.

I am from the west. I am from the Midwest. I am from the near and the far. I am from deep down and close up and the space between fear and freedom. I am from home, and I am for home.

my family
My family and me in 2006