Sunday night I had the dubious pleasure of sailing on the Bay for the Mill Valley Film Festival Party with my good friend Alfre Woodard (who's career and new film were featured on closing night). It was a most beautiful evening. The water was still as glass and the air was warm with a light comforting breeze. The thing that broke the evening's spell was a sweet orange glow that began rising off the top of Angel Island around 9pm. After staring at it for a moment, I called 911. They said they had received several calls already and asked me to describe in detail what I was seeing.
As we sailed the bay, the glow grew bigger and bigger and the flames began to spit and reach for the sky. There was a surreal quality to watching this devastation while sipping champagne with well dressed celebrants, some of whom were chatting and laughing as the natural beauty burned before us.
There was another awkward aspect to the experience - the fire was just beautiful and spellbinding. There are few things as primal and beautiful as fire. We have all had the experience of sitting around a campfire, staring at it and getting lost in the dream and mystery of the flames. Imagine that, times several hundred acres. It was exquisite, and to some extent knowing this wildfire was burning on an uninhabited island made it possible to appreciate without a total sense of panic.
I feel lucky to have seen the beauty of the fire and disturbed that destruction could be so beautiful to witness. Of course, what will follow is renewal. This will be beautiful too, but slower and less sensational. I look forward to seeing the first blades of grass break ground when the rains come. There is real beauty in that as well. This cycle of life reflects our own capacity to rebuild after a storm, fire or otherwise. Miraculously I don't think nature worries about that.