Tag Archives: California

Plumes and clouds of sadness.

Above is a photo I found online, taken by a passenger on his flight over the Sierra Nevada, and showing a smoke cloud billowed up from the Big Creek Incident in the Sierra National Forest, which as I write is not two days old, and is 0% contained. Yesterday it grew from 5,000 to 36,000 acres, and necessitated the airlifting of more than 200 campers by the National Guard. Many campgrounds, lakes and residences in these mountains have only one real road going in, and if fire blocks that, you are stuck.

On the National Guard plane.

None of these photos are my own, of course. In the satellite images below, you can see San Francisco Bay on the left, and the smoke spreading across the state line into Nevada. The lower photo shows more fires over more of the state. (Let me draw your attention also, again, to how much of the state lies north of San Francisco.)

I might not have paid much attention to this particular fire except that it has abruptly changed my plans for this week. The fire itself isn’t threatening the area where my family’s high mountain cabin is, but the road we take branches off another road that has been closed by the highway department, several miles below our road in. So… we won’t be going up after all. But God willing, I will still be seeing Soldier’s family down here, and it will be good.

Don’t know which lake this is, but it’s not near ours.

The indecision of yesterday has left me mentally and emotionally exhausted all out of proportion to my own situation, so that I can hardly compose a thought or a sentence, but I wanted to give an update. ❤

That fiery quality.

I love the little skippers. I had forgotten until I looked it up again just now, that the type playing among my salvia flowers is the Fiery Skipper. Which makes me think I should mention the currently fiery conditions in California. I am glad to tell you that my situation is still low-risk. But the smoke has been more constant the last week; I suppose it blows in here from various fires, but I don’t keep abreast of their details on even a daily basis. I just looked for an update, but there are so many burns making up the various fire complexes, it’s a lot to keep track of. Especially when acronyms generally are so hard for me to remember.

When I start to look up the fires in the Santa Cruz Mountains, I cannot for the life of me remember that those are not part of the SCU Complex, but rather the CZU Complex. “The SCU Lightning Complex Fire is composed of 20 separate fires in San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Santa Clara, Alameda, and Contra Costa counties.” The LNU Complex spreads over six counties. See how it is? And I haven’t tried to learn anything about the fires beyond those three, in other parts of our huge state.

Wines of the 2020 vintage from northern California might be interesting: “The early fires pose a threat if they persist and heavy smoke blankets the region for several days before grapes are picked. That can lead to ‘smoke taint,’ an undesirable burnt taste in wine made from grapes with skins permeated by smoke.”

In some areas, as below, with San Francisco Bay close to the middle, the burn scars are so large they can be seen in satellite images.

What is it like for the birds and the tiniest creatures when the air is full of ash?

They continue to go about their business, doing their work, but are they slowed down by the smoke? Are their lives shortened? They don’t worry about longevity; they just keep going until they are struck down.

A man in my church lost his house in a fire near Lake Berryessa. He had sold it only three weeks before, but was still living in it. All of his belongings burned. He said he was very glad that it happened before the new owners had moved in, so that they were his things and not those of people who would have lost all their belongings and their new house. He is a single man and seems to feel content with being completely unencumbered.

I am continuing to do what I do… Last week my neighbor gave me a couple of quarts of strawberries that were left over after the food bank distribution that she helps with. They were perfect for making into popsicles. I found my ancient molds on a high shelf in the garage and poured in the sweetened puree. Several grandchildren will be visiting next month and I’ll be ready!

Soldier and Joy’s family are meeting me in the mountains for a few days, as part of our time together. They are flying to California, so I am trying to bring most of the stuff we’ll need in my car. Like books!

The sun will shine and we’ll be at the lake a lot… I hope it’s not too smoky up there. I also hope we will have thunderstorms, and it will be nice to be cozy and read by the fire. A fireplace fire, 100% contained.

The season we dread.

The California “wildfire season” has gotten off to an early and roaring start. In this era, mailings from the power company and other agencies remind us ahead of time that here, in addition to the usual four seasons, we have Fire, which can overlap both Summer and Fall. Others of you have Hurricane, which is another season that could be nicknamed “Scary.”

I don’t enjoy writing about flames and destruction, loss of buildings and human lives, and I trust that we all see plenty of horrific images of such things already. But because the location on my home page says “Northern California,” you might wonder if I’m okay. Yes, I am. I don’t live in a hilly, woodsy area, and my town has its power lines underground, so generally this is a less fire-risky place to live.

friend on bulldozer

But many of my friends nearby have been evacuated, as the same ones were last year. In the Santa Cruz Mountains, the homes of other dear people are in danger, or may be gone. I pray that they are saved! I wrote about that area in a couple of posts here; this one, Bridges and Streams, has the most photos that will give you an idea of the terrain. It’s where my husband and I honeymooned, where his grandma had two cabins at different times, and of which most of our children retain strong memories.

Currently the only direct effect on me seems silly to mention. Smoke drifts through from nearby fires; I keep checking the AirVisual app to see if I am in the “Good” green range, or if the Air Quality Index has jumped past “Moderate” to “Unhealthy.” Daughter Pippin is not close to a fire, but has been suffering from unremitting high smoke levels for days and is on her way to Oregon in hopes of being able to breathe at least a little better up there.

If Green seems likely to last an hour or more and it’s not midday, I open the windows to cool off the house; most homes around here don’t have AC. So far we’ve had a Green period once or twice a day, and the recent heat wave has ended, so all is tolerable. But I did just order air purifiers, so that if evacuees need to come here, it will be a reliable refuge from smoke as well as danger.

This morning I woke thinking of a blogger I’d been missing. When I looked her up on my little phone, for some reason the first post that came up was from April of ’19. This was one of those Divine Meetings that angels can arrange, evidently even by means of WordPress Reader. Because it is about the Notre Dame fire, and includes a video (best to click through from her site) of the people who gathered to sing as they watched the devastation. I knew about that response but hadn’t seen any footage before. It was just what I needed, a connection to the prayers and sorrows of people everywhere, a reminder to sing myself. I know quite a few hymns that are appropriate.

Lord, have mercy!

Walking in foggy time.

I did it – I went back to the beach all on my own, only about three weeks after that last trip. Because I didn’t arrive until the afternoon, and I could only afford to spend a couple of hours at the most, I thought that time pressure would make the minutes fly.

Sea Rocket

But somehow, the opposite happened. Time swelled to be as big as the ocean; it was as vague and undefined as the fog. I walked and walked, lost in it, and when I checked my phone, I couldn’t believe how little of my allotment I had used. So I walked some more….

Believe it or not, I have the plant above, with the whitish leaves, in my garden. I bought it a the native plant nursery years ago, and knew it was a beach plant, but I’d never seen it before in its natural habitat. I recognized it immediately. I won’t worry about my plant anymore. It looks more spindly than these but otherwise … yeah. And I don’t know its name.

The sun never came out, but the air was pleasant. I wore a thin linen shirt, and carried my Teva sandals so that my feet could get the full sand experience. A girl spun cartwheels in the fringes of the incoming waves. Fathers with their children dug holes to catch the water. Bodies huddled like seals in driftwood teepees.

Coyote Brush
Bull Thistle

On my favorite shortcut road home I stopped many times to take pictures, and wished I could take scents. The masses of eucalyptus trunks and leaves exuded their distinctive aroma, which mixed with that of the cypress trees and the drying grass. Probably the coyote brush contributed to the heady perfume that was part of the afternoon’s fog on that particular hill.

Orange Bush Monkeyflower
Coyote Brush surrounded by Poison Oak surrounded by Coyote Brush

My app said that the little tree below was in the rose family. It had fruit looking like cherries, but didn’t resemble a cherry plum tree. I guessed it was a volunteer/escapee from an old farm nearby.

From the top of the hill I could look back and see just a bit of the bay and the hill above, through the fog and mist — and the barbed wire.

A wind came up and whished the slender eucalyptus leaves into a loud whisper, and they were still telling their secrets when I had to drive away. So I must go back soon for the rest of the story, right?