It smells like my favorite temple area, Tirupathi. I feel almost holy and sacred as I smell the burning wood.
The sun is surreally orange, having turned into the warlike planet Mars. It might as well be the sun in Delhi over the Red Fort.
It is different from the Hawaiian vog. It does not smell of sulfuric acid.
The smoke tells an old and sacred tale from the Hindu, Muslim and Parsi traditions.
In this story, a poor woodcutter goes to cut wood to buy food for his daughter and finds the forest ablaze. Unable to feed his daughter, he comes home dejected, calling upon God, who then reminds him that he had forgotten about Him.
Repentant, he calls upon God and the angels to help him and finds a handful of rocks turned to gems that he can sell to feed his daughter. He is reminded that he must tell this story and be grateful to God on a regular basis.
In the Hindu tradition this God is either Jupiter, the planet of prosperity, or Satyanaryan. In the Muslim tradition he is “Mushkil Gusha,” one who removes troubles. In my Parsi tradition he is the angel “Behram Ijad.”
As the woodcutter keeps his word and expresses his gratitude regularly, he prospers. When he forgets or neglects, he is brought down.
The gratitude is expressed not just by saying thanks, but by either feeding birds, animals, or the poor, particularly with wheat scattered for animals (or, in India today, St. Anthony Bread for the Poor), chickpeas fed to the birds, or chickpeas and golden raisins stewed and fed to the poor.
But the thanks also have to be expressed publicly, like those to St. Jude or St. Expedite who expedites all causes – the unnamed statue which arrived in Louisiana from France with only the word “Expedite” written on its wooden crate and was promptly sainted for speedy miracles.
So if you want the smoke to stop or prosperity to return to the regions, feed the birds, express your gratitude, even as you walk through the fire.