This is Orange

By Jill Kolongowski

March 15, 2021

This is Orange

Around 10:30 this morning the world is orange. The sky, the houses, the air. Inside, my new baby is trying to roll over. She wants to do it so badly she tries to do it in her crib instead of sleeping. She is hopeful. She is determined. She tried it yesterday, and tries again today. She is so close. She does not notice the orange. 

This orange is not fire, but an atmospheric phenomenon, the result of wildfire ash high above the marine layer, scattering the sunlight into color. Though today doesn’t feel safe, the three massive Bay Area fires are actually more contained than they have been in weeks, and today the air smells much fresher.

And yet, things feel wrong, unreal. Cold during the hottest part of the year. A layer of ash blankets everything, even the insides of cars, somehow. The automatic streetlights have stayed on all day. When I go for a walk, it’s quiet, everything muffled when there should be a hum of cars, people, dogs, life. I never thought that disaster could be so silent. Because we have nothing else to compare disasters to, we say, “It feels like a movie.” It’s Dune. It’s Tatooine. The only thing we can find to hang onto is fiction.

But this is not fiction. I hold my daughter up to the window and say, “This is orange” and hate the lesson. I tell her the sun will be back and hope, hope it’s a true story.


Jill Kolongowski is the author of the essay collection Life Lessons Harry Potter Taught Me (Ulysses Press, 2017); other essays appear in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Brevity, Sweet, and elsewhere. Jill lives in Northern California, and she’s working on a new book about disaster and anxiety.


Image by Arthur Ver courtesy of Pexels 

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