Touch the sky

A Chico newcomer’s take on the connections we share

The author, a newcomer to Chico, recently retired from the faculty of University of Georgia, where she taught nonprofit and community leadership.

We moved to Chico last November to be near our grandkids—and oh, by the way, their parents. We closed on our house the day before the Camp Fire and arrived six days into the conflagration. By now we are pretty settled into our home in the foothills, north of California Park.

I’m from the Deep South—Alabama, Georgia—where the sky is punctuated by tree after tree, a background, rather than the main event.

When we moved here, I joked with friends back East that our house was near some large empty fields, with very little fuel for fire season. Two days into our drive West, a friend from Sacramento texted, “You’ve picked a hell of a time to move to Chico.” I wrote back, “We just want to be closer to you, my dear.” Indeed, we had deliberately avoided listening to the news while we were on the road. That night, we found out about the fire. Five days later we arrived.

On a recent evening, I sat outside and watched the sunset, the horizon streaked with smoke from the Ranch Fire. I felt the impassive power and awe-full generosity of our sky. The same sky that swallows up fire, tornadoes, hurricanes, atom bombs, and spits back sunshine, starlight, rain. Not background but the main event.

It’s unbearable: this open mutuality of me and sky. I am saved by the connection to the people who share this sky with me. When I open myself to the sky, I connect with everyone else who abides on planet Earth. The good ones. The evil ones. The folk I know and those I’ve yet to meet. We’re all afloat in a sea we cannot see, and whether we sink or swim is a matter of indifference to that sea of sky. Our survival really matters only to us.

It’s so huge, so cosmic, what can anyone do? Recycle. Go solar. Cook from scratch. Buy food in bulk. Drive a gas-saving car as little as humanly possible. What more?

Maybe, more than one night, I might come out, watch the sunset, feel the connections, inhale the air, touch the sky. Something more. Nothing less.