We had a thunderstorm earlier this week. It came late in the evening, as we were settling into bed, and so we lay there with the lights off and the windows open and listened to the rumbling thunder. The storm was distant enough that we couldn’t see individual strikes, but the lightning brightened the sky, throwing the silhouettes of the trees into stark relief. Coupled with the fresh scent of rain, it was a lovely way to end the day.

Others did not find it so, however. It was a warm, dry winter, and so all that is needed is a spark to start a wildfire blazing. The lightning marked the potential start of fire season in our area, and I’m sure there were anxious hearts in the high sierras as the storm played above them. A strike under the wrong conditions would have meant destruction and smoke and danger, loss of property and potential loss of life as men and women evacuated their homes and others fought to preserve them. Wildfires are no small thing, no laughing matter, with ugly, damaging consequences for those whom they affect.

This mystery is far too much for me to comprehend: that something so destructive, so harmful, can seem beautiful when seen from a distance.

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