It reminded me of a fire in the San Gabriel Mountains, many years ago. It was several fires, all at once, actually. Ash fell over my neighborhood, ten miles away. I caught in my hand a falling leaf, small, perfectly preserved, reduced to fragile ash. It was like the ghost of a leaf, and it crumbled to a fine, oily powder when I touched it.
There were other, more disturbing bits of ash. One was a tuft of fur, probably from a squirrel. Another was the pin feather of some unlucky bird. Every line was exactly as it had been before it was carbonized, but it broke in half when it landed in my hand.
That night, as the smoke hovered low over the entire valley, the light of the fires was reflected from the bottom of the cloud, giving the city an apocalyptic glow. After a few days, the fires were put out, the ash disintegrated, the evidence of annihilation removed from our daily lives. But now, living in this forest, each time I smell smoke, I recall that leaf, that bit of fur, that feather. I see them settling down from the choked sky toward the inevitable earth.