Song: “Fragilidad” by Sanmera
Having lived in the SF Bay Area now for over 15 years I’ve been through a number of wildfires, but nothing like what we saw this year in 2020. A freak lightning storm started while we were filming our Bay Bridge video and smoke choked the air in the Bay Area for months after.
San Jose was one of the worst cities in terms of smoke, nestled in a valley and surrounded by major fires on all sides. Going outside was a health hazard, and we had to halt production on all of our video projects while we waited for the smoke to clear.
Working on dance videos was one of the few bright spots in a year of pandemic lockdowns, so I was incredily disapointed that even that was being taken away. As I drove through the deserted streets of San Jose with an apocalyptic haze hanging over the city, the song “Fragilidad” came on, and it really resonated with me in the moment.
“Fragilidad. How fragile we are.”
Life definitely seemed fragile in that moment, seeing how quickly life could go from normal to a smoke filled hellscape in just a day. I was also saddened to see the images of California’s famed Redwood forests going up in flames with tens of thousands of acres going up in flames.
My perspective shifted when I read an article in the news, stating that most of the forests would eventually recover, many in a matter of just months, thanks to the fact that Redwood trees have evolved to resist and even benefit from fires.
When the fires were eventually put out, we drove into the Santa Cruz mountains to see for ourselves the devastation that had filled our cities with smoke for weeks.
When we reached the fire buned section of the wood, the forest was eerily quiet. There was not a sound of birds or life, just the occasional rustling of the wind. The air smelled burnt and acrid, and as we got out our car to explore on foot, each step kicked up fresh ash into the air and into our lungs. There were even patches of forest that were still smoldering, with white smoke drifiting faintly into the air.
We also saw that the article had been right. Amidst the burnt blackness of fallen trees, new green shoots were sprouting up, and Redwood with charred exterirors were starting to grow fresh green leaves.
It is this experience that we hoped to capture in our video, showing both the fragility of life, but also its incredible resilience in the face of devastation. A metaphor perhaps for all of our lives as we begin to brush off the ash and smoke of the pandemic, and begin to grow new green shoots of our own.