Saturday, August 22, 2020

At Home in California

Once you've been through one fire evacuation, or more, the apprehension stays with you... the smell of smoke, of chaparral burning, the sight of billowing smoke, a line of flames on the horizon, the filtered light that dulls everything in ominous hues of heat and haze. The darkest smoke means the fire is new, or well fueled, and not contained. We watch for the air tankers, dropping water, or bursts of red retardant, then pale smoke plumes, that signal steam, a successful drop...

Not now. Not us. It's so familiar, so vivid in memory.

We are safe! Friends have asked, and thankfully, we are safe. Northern California is getting hammered, our friends are on alert, packing, evacuating. Here, in Southern California, at the "start" of Fire Season, we have been spared. I am sorry to say, it's only mid-August, and heat, Santa Ana Winds, low humidity, lightning strikes are of concern, all over the West, at least through November.

No one is imagining this: Fire Season is longer, the fires are bigger, more frequent. This year alone, there are more than 500 fires, in California, so far. The incidences are not only changing the landscape, but changing our language! Fire whirls, eddies that can contract a tornado-like vortex that sucks in debris and combustible gases have been developing into an even worse phenomenon, known as firenados, "where a fire has such intensity that it generates an actual tornado."

Clearly, I can get myself very worked up and anxious about all of this, and not just because it's scary, or because I am preoccupied with cataclysm and disasters. I am not inclined to dwell on cataclysms and disasters. I'd like to watch a sunrise, and not sniff the air for smoke, check for flames on the horizon. "Fire Season" should not be a thing. Wildfires, here, and like what Australia suffered, are massive, fast moving, deadly, and a very real, very concerning consequence of climate change. There have always been fires, arsonists, mishaps, even prescribed burns, but on this hotter, drier planet, with all of its climate variability, and detrimental human activities, we are facing a crisis, worthy of tremendous concern, action. At the very least, we can vote for an administration, for mayors, governors, judges, and representatives, that know climate change is real. The President of the United States, and all of the people that make policy, and oversee government and justice must demonstrate an understanding of what is at stake, and act to protect our planet. This is not up for debate, because we are at a crossroads that represents life or death, destruction, or hope. Please, vote for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. Let's elect representatives and leaders that care, that will be held accountable.

"Time to remember the best voting advice I have heard: Voting isn't marriage. It's public transport. You are not waiting for 'the one' who is absolutely perfect. You are getting on the bus. And if there isn't one going exactly to your destination, you don't stay home and sulk. You take the bus going closest to where you want to be."

All of these are pictures from my phone, from my sheltered days, at home, minding my business. The house is a mess, and I'm in the middle of a new chapter with the drunkladydriver case, and on and on. Life is so 2020, surreal, disappointing, then sprinkled with unexpected beauty. I freely admit to staring at cats, to napping, rescuing grasshoppers, stargazing, imagining attic rooms, collecting seeds, making wishes, taking pictures. The beautiful things are achingly beautiful. Isn't it a gift, a relief, to hear a cat purr, watch it stretch then coil, and be utterly at bliss in a stream of sunlight? The veins on massive, green leaves, a corn's pale, translucent tassels and dusty pollen, black beans that push through earth, sprout with spread wings, they are wonders, unfathomable, exquisite beauty. I seek it, I take in all I can, hold it close, share it. I thought this would be one of those simple posts, with some moments from the week, an anecdote, or memory, a few descriptions.

I thought I would escape into beauty, relish the corn stalks, and growing pullets, recite poetry.

Then I saw a headline appear on my monitor, about a place I love. Love.
"Big Basin, Home To Majestic Coast Redwoods, Is 'Gone.'"

"When Covid is over, where would you go? Anywhere in the world." My answer is always the same, The Redwoods. When I want to celebrate, when I am sad, when I am daydreaming, when I am imagining the ideal vacation or road trip, when I get lost in thought, or need to meditate: My answer is always the same, The Redwoods.

August 22, 5% contained, 60,000 acres. One fire, of hundreds, burning in California. CZU Lightning Complex Fire. I couldn't not write about this. All of the fires, all of the disasters, the systemic racism, the injustice, the corruption, and willful destruction, malice of conspirators and traitors... all of it drums on my heart, all of it is appalling, sick, and heartbreaking. There is so much cause for outrage, so many causes of outrage, and too often I am resigned to face that there is not a lot we can do, that solutions are slow to realize. I know this though, nothing will get better, nothing will be kind, nor intelligent, nor caring, if we do not get a good President, faithful representatives, new leaders, progressive government. I wasn't going to think about the news today, because I needed a break, but democracy is on fire, and we can't stay home.

“Imagine a time when the whole peninsula from San Francisco to San Jose shall become one great city; then picture, at its very doorstep, this magnificent domain of redwood forests and running streams, the breathing place of millions of cramped and crowded denizens of the city.”
– Carrie Stevens Walter, Sempervirens Club, 1901

Established in 1902, Big Basin Redwoods is California’s oldest state park. In the heart of the Santa Cruz Mountains, its biggest attractions—literally—are its ancient coast redwoods. Some of these giants are more than 50 feet around and as tall as the Statue of Liberty. At 1,000 to 1,800 years old, some may predate the Roman Empire. The park also offers spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean, lush waterfalls, and a fascinating natural and cultural history. "

There is beauty in the world, stunning beauty. I see it all around me. And see the bad, too. But, please, let's do all we can to foster our innate goodness, our caring, our impulses to help, to grow flowers, to make lemonade, and to share, because good things are better shared, and we can make a difference, even with small acts of kindness.

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The Starry Nights

Thank you for the stars and planets, for moons, nebula,
the Perseids, and August nights.
Thank you for fog, rolling clouds, thunderheads,
refraction, resonance.
Thank you for letting me be 14 years old,
then 22, 38, 53,
and for all the experiences and memories,
the stars set in motion
that brought me here.

August 12

It's all gardens and chickens, goats, and cats. It's all staying home, following the news, then banishing the news, then going back and checking, one more time. And then there is the night, and I am consumed with the stars at night, tracking the planets, searching for hours on end for the Perseids, squealing with the thrill of discovery when I see one. It's no wonder stories of fairies were made up, repeated. Sleepless, yet dreamy nights have been my summer's pleasure. My children have been roused on several occasions, dragged out into the garden. Geoff bought me real binoculars. I keep my GoSkyWatch app open, and busy. I take poor quality pictures, and they thrill me. I wince just once, then try again, because even though I could visit the best quality images and captures of the Moon, of the Orion Nebula, and Venus, the rings of Saturn... I still delight in what I see with my own eyes, snap with my own phone.

In August, even the day sky is something thrilling. I love the thunderheads that fill the eastern horizon. Every year. I feel so lucky to see these, every year.