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    About Our Cover

    The October 2017 Northern California fires in Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Solano counties are the deadliest wildfires in California history. As the death toll climbs, so too do the number of structures and acres burned. As of this writing, an estimated 5,700 homes, wineries and more have been destroyed, while 210,244 acres have been reduced to ash. At least 41 people lost their lives in the inferno.

    Our state will never be the same.

    Both within and outside of the fire zone, air quality has been extremely poor. This was particularly true during the days following October 8. Many remarked on the “apocalyptic” sunrises of that week, unlike any that those of us who have been here for decades have ever seen. The blood-red orb shone through dark haze, reminding onlookers of the devastation to the north. 

    Below and on our cover, we share the words of longtime LGBT and civil rights activist Joanie Juster:

    They call it ‘particulate matter,’ and warn us to stay inside, windows closed.

    But there is no avoiding it. 50 miles south of the fires, in our homes, in our work places, we breathe it in. We taste it in our mouths, feel the grit on our teeth. It makes our eyes burn, our throats scratch, our lungs ache.

    But mostly it makes our hearts ache. We are reminded of the devastation up north with every breath.

    We aren’t breathing ‘particulate matter.’ We are breathing the collective sorrow and loss of countless neighbors. We are breathing bits of blankets that used to keep them warm. Family photographs. Favorite jackets. Baby toys. Books of poetry. Homework. Dog leashes. Grandma’s recipes. Art projects. Love letters.

    We are, quite literally, breathing in the tiny remains of people’s lives.

    Our hearts and lungs ache for what they have lost, even as we dedicate ourselves to helping them rebuild.