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Hi. This is Richard. Welcome to the podcast for December 21st, 2018.
Over the weekend, firefighters in California had the chance to talk to a tree that they saved during a wildfire. The following is what the tree overheard a nearby flame  saying to itself before the firefighters put an end to the flame’s life.
I don’t feel so well. I feel weak . And I’m cold. Imagine that! Me – a flame – cold!
Look at me! I’m so small now. Not long ago I was huge  – I was an unstoppable monster burning everything in front of me. And now… I don’t think I should even try to move anymore. I think I should just keep hiding  behind this tree here. It’s a good spot. It’s quiet. Such a big tree. I’d like to bite into its bark . It would do me so good – make me stronger and bigger again. But I’m just too weak. And there’s no wind around to push me to it. And it’s too healthy-looking. I think it’s a pine.
I wonder what happened to all the others. There were so many of us. What a time we had! Oh, and the wind! So warm! We danced all night long, so high up into the air. I can honestly say that I reached the sky. Where does the sky actually begin? And those houses! They were just sitting there, all together, waiting for us. All that wood. It was delicious . We ate everything; well, almost everything. At one point, after we finished and started moving on, I looked back and saw all the ash  we left behind, and all the smoke rising into the sky. What memories!
What I didn’t like was that some of the other flames went a little crazy. They started going after animals and people. I don’t do that. I’m a vegetarian. I like wood. I like plants and dry grass and trees, and anything with leaves. I’m not exclusive – I like wood products, too: paper of all kinds… cardboard. But wood! Uhhmmm. Pine and oak and cedar. Just great! I love it all – roofs and walls and doors and furniture. Furniture is like dessert, especially when it’s polished . I like fabrics, too. I love the climate here in California. I love that it gets so hot… and for so long. And that it doesn’t rain much; it gets so dry. There are so many things to snack on . And I love the ocean breeze. So constant. It’s always there, blowing. And then when those warm winds from the desert rush through the valleys. Ohhhh!
I must say, California’s a great place to be born. A flame has got a real chance to do well here, to have a good career… to make a name for itself. It’s a great place to grow up. We flames could do a lot worse. I wouldn’t want to be born in Singapore or the Sahara. Not much wood there. So many more opportunities  here for a flame to grow and do what we’re born to do. Burn!
I also like gas… when I can find it. Gas in all forms: hydrogen, butane, propane, methane, ethanol. Those are my drugs. They really light me up! Come on, baby, light my fire!
But people? That’s where I draw the line . I can’t say I haven’t eaten any before. I have. But it was an accident. That one just got in the way . Not proud.
So, we were dancing and eating, following the hot winds, really partying … when the water came. It fell out of the sky - came every time those noisy things flew over us. Hunted us, like we were outlaws . I got hit by some. Oh, it was cold! It got me on my back and half of me just disappeared – turned into smoke. There was such chaos, and we all ran in different directions. I went into a field to hide, and when I looked up I saw flashing things rolling into the area. They stopped, and people got out and started spraying water everywhere from what looked like long snakes. I got hit again. That’s when I got scared. That’s when I turned and fled .
I made a small path through a nearby field. I kept low and crawled in the grass. I didn’t want those snakes spraying me again. Then I jumped over some rocks and went up the side of this hill; found this tree I’m behind now. I just need to catch my breath . I just need to rest… and think. Think about myself, and what I’ve done in life.
I’ve only been alive about a week. For a flame, that’s long. So… what have I done in that time? I’ve had fun! That’s for sure. A lot of good times! But… will I be remembered when I’m gone? Do I have any kind of legacy  to leave behind? Will I be remembered for any positive changes I’ve made? Or will I be held responsible  for my actions and judged  as something evil?
What have I done?
Who am I?
I was born at a campfire a few weeks ago – that I remember! My mother gave birth to me when she threw a small part of herself onto a rose bush. There I was suddenly. A tiny flame. I remember her watching me as I slowly ate the plant and got bigger. I think she wanted to make sure I could find more to eat when the plant was gone. And when I jumped onto a nearby tree branch , she seemed satisfied  and then moved away. I never saw her after that. I have some children of my own. A couple dozen, I think. It makes me wonder how many siblings  I have. I never met them. I think I was a good parent. I made sure each of my kids found a second thing to eat before I ran off, too. But I was a single parent, like my mother. It wasn’t always easy.
Listen to me! I don’t have time for sentiment now. I don’t have much time at all! I hear the snakes coming again. So… maybe all I do have time for now is sentiment.
So, then… how have I spent my life? Wildly, that’s how. Consuming  and moving on for more and more. Do I feel bad about that? Not really, if I’m honest. It’s my nature. I’m fire. I am what I am. That’s what I do, burn things to stay alive. I joined up with a group of other flames – we were all young and parentless – without supervision . We all just started burning things. We didn’t know any better. How else should we have spent out time? Making friends with the animals? Hugging  them? Cuddling up  with the trees? Would this tree here like to cuddle with me?
What was that? They found me! Ahhh! I’ve been hit! But… not water… white, sticky foam . Oh, I don’t feel well. I feel like I’m going ….
Thanks for listening.
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I’ll be back on January 18th to talk about something else Californians live with - earthquakes.
All of us here wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy New Year.