The Woolsey Fire swept through the Malibu hills in November 2018, decimating nearly everything in its path. There’s a curious result of the destruction, though: the fire actually cultivated a scenario in which wildflowers flourished the following spring. The heat above ground melted the protective casings surrounding flower seeds buried deep in the soil, and the following winter rains prompted those seeds to germinate. The charred hillsides are now covered in abundant new life. The images you see today were taken at dawn in Malibu Creek State Park in March.
There are times—usually every six months or so—where I’ll feel intensely claustrophobic living in Southern California. The sprawl, like a creeping dread. People stacked on top of one another, cars woven into the unending plait of traffic, space a premium whose cost only ever rises. It’s a lot to take sometimes.
The first time I discovered it was in college. Feeling stir-crazy, I set out to drive until I was the only car on roads winding through lonely countryside, just like I’d done growing up. Except it never ended, the sprawl. The houses never thinned. The grid flexed itself tighter as I crept along a busy avenue, feeling panicked.
So every few months, the feeling materializes, and with it, all the resignation and revulsion one might feel about a latent sore throat or the first stomach-dropping flip of the flu. Except that now, I have better coping skills.
Now, I know that one of the ways to fight That Old Feeling is to wake before the sun and sacrifice sleep for that breathless hush of dawn. It means I plan ahead and do some research before I set out for an adventure. A certain kind of wandering spontaneity is lost, sure, but it matters less when what’s gained is a view like this one, barely removed from the grind, yet still miles away from That Old Feeling.
“Wow,” I said to my hiking companion. Wow, to the sunrise. Wow, to the lupine-blanketed hillsides. Wow, to the bare trees, limbs still charred. Wow, to the golden creek wending its way through the valley below. Wow to all of it, wow because no other words came close.