A quick ping to the web tells me that “for Christians, ashes are a symbol of being sorry for things they have done wrong and want to get rid of forever. It is also a reminder to them that we all come from ashes, and to ashes we all will return.” As a child attending Catholic elementary school, there was a specific day of the year on which ashes were smudged on our foreheads, it was called “Ash Wednesday.”
But it was Thursday morning, a ride morning, sunny with lovely blue skies over the ocean, so I kitted up and headed for Palos Verdes on my road bike to meet some other old guys at Malaga Cove Plaza for a jaunt around the hill. I wasn’t thinking about the multitude of things I have done wrong in my life, things that would weigh me down like hanging sacks of coal on my bike frame. Nor was I thinking about returning to ashes. I’m trying to put that off as long as I can and the biking is integral to the effort. But the ashes chased me down anyway.
By the time I got to Malaga Cove Plaza, the light had changed, like during a partial solar eclipse. I looked up toward the sun and there was a brown/gray cloud moving in from the northeast. Turns out it was a plume of smoke from fires on the slopes of the San Gabriel Mountains near Glendora Mountain Road. The winds from the desert were coming into the LA basin such that the smoke was being blown out to sea directly over Palos Verdes, exactly where I was riding. Here are a couple of pics courtesy of LA Times:
The smoke was up pretty high so we decided to ride anyway, but not hard, try to minimize the smoke inhalation. On the ocean side of Palos Verdes it wasn’t bad, but while coming back on the city side and through south Redondo Beach, the smoke had started to drop to the ground. When I got home I looked in the mirror to see smudges on my face below my sunglasses, and my car was covered in a layer of ash.
Later in the day the wind direction changed so that the smoke was not being blown over me, and the smoke that already was over the coast drifted out to sea. Every coastal resident prefers clean air, but we also know that smog makes for lovely sunsets. All the smoke from the fire made this one pretty interesting: