And…The First Fire-Related Lawsuit Is Filed. Compassion Is Needed.

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Tonight six more individuals were added to the list one never wants to be on…deceased. Dead due to a fast burning out of control wildfire. This brings the number killed to 48 with hundreds still missing. It is a sad day for our state but especially for the towns of Paradise and Concow where most of the victims resided.

Paradise is not a compact city. There were many folks living down miles and miles of long country roads. People spread out far and wide surrounded by tinder dry forests. As I read over the list of the missing I couldn’t help but notice that about 90% of them were over 70 years-old. Grandparents who couldn’t run fast enough, couldn’t drive, or maybe even hear any warnings that might have come their way.

Tonight it was also announced that the very first lawsuit was filed in court with the fire still raging and fault not yet determined by fire investigators.  The defendant in the lawsuit is PG&E, the local electrical utility. Right before the fire became an inferno, the utility emailed an individual requesting access to their property as the PG&E’s transmission wire was sparking. This is most likely just the beginning of a long list of suits that will surely follow.

While I realize that many will want to see someone held responsible for the deadliest fire in California history; I am hoping people will not turn on those who did their best during a chaotic situation…the first responders. Having lived through several emergencies, I can only believe that everyone did their best to save lives while a fire was swallowing up land the size of 8 football fields every minute. With hot embers flying through the air driven by radically changing winds which were being pushed faster than a person can drive, it seems to me that to try to point fingers is a game in futility and one that degrades our collective humanity. Yes, looking back we always find things that could have been done better and faster but when calamity strikes we all do what we can and  we do what we can to the best of our ability and with the knowledge we have at the time.

Unfortunately, we all have noble ideas of how we THINK we would react in certain situations, often playing those scenarios out in our minds at different points in our lives. But life isn’t that simple. We often find in an emergency that our previously good ideas no longer work. Trees fall, lines are long, folks stay behind for one last thing, we fail to heed the warnings soon enough or we don’t have enough gas in our car.

Unfortunately, I suspect that there will many people who will go to their graves second guessing themselves for failing to act in ways that were impossible to implement when there are so many lives to save in a cataclysmic event. It is truly one of those moments that you can never totally prepare for. The notions and ideas that survivors had about themselves and how they would react in life changing events often entrap them. Then the “if only’s” begin to slowly eat away at them until they are but shells of their former selves.

I hope this does not happen. I hope people will look at one another and not point fingers but will show compassion and understanding. Perhaps one of the greatest things folks can do for themselves and others in this type of situation  is to stop, breathe, and say:

“I know you are suffering. That is why I am here for you.”

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The “end” of an emergency is really just the “beginning” of a new normal. It isn’t easy. Anger appears out of nowhere and despair can rob us of moments we formally enjoyed. Yet, compassion and forgiveness (a blame free envirnoment) can go a long way towards bringing a community back together and re-building it in such a way that it creates a long-lasting atmosphere of vibrancy, restoration, and love.May everyone impacted by this fire remember that blame creates suffering which only causes further suffering for ourselves. And may those involved look for the best in each and every person and not assume the worst; so that seeds of compassion planted now will flourish in the future creating Paradise once again in this amazing mountain town.

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View of the area around my home

 

Springtime Hell

There is something about the TWO weeks of spring that we experience here in the middle of California. All the trees blossom at once and everyone walks around sniffing, eyes watering and holding their heads because they have massive allergy induced headaches. The amount of anti-histamine sold here in one month maximizes the pharmaceuticals profits and gives their CEO’s the 20 million dollar bonuses they have come to expect as their due compensation.

 

For two weeks the weather is a lovely 70-80 degrees. The shorts come out and there is a spike the number of new memberships at the gym as folks suddenly realize that swimsuit season will begin April 1. Of course, everyone’s posture soon becomes stooped as they realize that those 25 pounds they gained over the winter will never disappear in two weeks… if ever! This leads to an uptake in drinking in the local bars as residents try to forget about those extra 25 that are now hanging over their bar stools. Sigh. Yep, spring around here is a challenge.

But as big as a pain that is it; this time of year is really beautiful. Everything is lush and green.The kids swing with delight in the cool breezes as they try to touch the sun. The hummingbirds re-appear; their wings buzzing with delight. Bears come out of hibernation and this eagle built her nest on a power pole a few miles from my house. Best of all the photo ops are maximized as thousands upon thousands of acres of fruit and nut trees are in bloom while the cows roll happily in the fields not realizing that everything will turn brown 14 days from now as the temperatures start climbing into the 90’s.

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I love spring because my garden comes alive. My grape vine buds, my apricot tree is in bloom as are the guava and the asian pear. The lilies appear out of nowhere from the deep rich earth. Blue hydrangea buds push out and massive blooms of roses appear around the yard. Unfortunately, the pool man just rang the doorbell to remind me that I need a new motherboard for the pool system that will cost a mere $700. I nearly pass out from this most unwelcome news on my soft green grass.

Yes, I love these two weeks of spring. I appreciate it even more as I watch my relatives on the East Coast endure yet another blizzard. Shoveling vs. gardening… it’s an obvious choice.

So now I am off to get in my 10,000 steps on this glorious morning but first I down my Claritin like an alcoholic downs his first drink of the day. My eyes are watering, my head is aching and post nasal drip inflames my throat. But as I pass my neighbors all of us with a smile plastered on our face; I get a perverse sense of satisfaction that we are all experiencing the same special sort of Springtime Hell that can only be found in this lush Valley.

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Holidays

I love a good holiday. A four day one is especially appreciated. I love the time spent relaxing, the time used to connect with those I love and those special moments that the holidays give me to appreciate all the little things that make life precious. As I have reached middle age, I recognize more than ever, that these moments are fleeting… they come and then they are gone…in a flash. The time spent with the four youngest is quickly counting down like the number of  jumps I am successful at completing as I jump rope at my age .

This sense of time moving ahead quickly is apparent as I contemplate my older children. These days Nicole lives on the East Coast and West will be moving to New York City in the coming month. How did this happen? How did my babies grow up and away from us? Grandchildren living in different cities too! I talk to my daughter almost daily but it is not the same as being a short drive away. It makes me wonder where will the youngest be in 10 years? But more importantly, what will they remember about me and our time together as they find their place in the world?

That is one of the reasons I love holidays. It gives us a chance to make lasting memories. The kind of memories that are important. Kayaking, puzzle building, and walks along the beach together. These are the things that matter and with the chaos that is everyday normal life; these types of memory makers seem to get pushed to the back burner to be done “some other day.” But they rarely do. Life intrudes and sweeps away the moments that might make an imprint on our minds. That is why I treasure our time away from our “normal” so that we might spend time as a family away from life’s distractions.

And I hope that these pictures I share with you, will, for a few minutes distract you from your “normal” allowing you to remember all that is good in your life too. May they bring to mind the things you value most and may they spur you on to find time to create the memories that will bring your kids home later on in life.

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Bats getting some “fast food”

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My Garden

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Tinder Box

This weekend we traveled up to the cabin in the woods. The valley was searing hot and the 10 degrees cooler that you find in the mountains seems like more when you are melting on the valley floor. So up we went into the foothills, into the big hills, and finally into the bosom of the mountains with all her craggy passageways and lush miles-long scenic views.

Our family loves it up here where the snow caps the peaks in winter and the abundance of Redwood trees captures our imaginations. But this year the landscape looks moon-like in some places. Cabins that were once hidden by trees stand naked and exposed. Instead of cypress and pine trees the only thing left are the oaks. After years of drought mother nature is suffering. The once majestic trees have been weakened and have become susceptible to disease and the insects that wish to take them down. And so they do…the leaf miner and the bark beetle cutting their way through huge swarths of forrest reducing the trees to nothing but huge stands of kindling. It really is a natural disaster of epic proportions that few are aware of.

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And so, as we traveled up the windy mountain passes, we watched as the air became noticeably streaked with brown from the huge forest fire that is down the road a spell. Its a fire that in  a few short minutes killed two people. Its a fire that has taken out hundreds of homes leaving people with nothing but memories. It’s a fire that has crews risking their lives in the hot blazing sun trying to put out a fire that has grown to over 50,000 charred acres. And from a distance I see the smoke that sends an ominous signal warning of worse to come.

So this weekend while in the smokey air we worked to clear the grass and debris 100 ft away from the building. We worked in the heat to try to ward off the threat of a fire destroying this 100 year old cooks cabin that the lumberjacks once relied on for their meals after a hard days work deep in the old growth Sequoia Forest. Yet, while motivated to save the natural beauty beside us, we are also realists, and we know that should fire hit this part of the world, that in just a few minutes, everything would most likely go up in flames no matter what measures we might put into place.

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So tonight, as you head off to dreamland, I ask a favor. I ask that you pray or send positive thoughts for those who have lost everything in this fire as well as the firefighters who do their best to save the property, wildlife, and the people of our neck of the woods. And please remember the families of the firefighters who worry about them out in the middle of nowhere with nothing but minimal equipment and their wits about them.  For firefighting is a dangerous and dirty job.It’s a job in which 19 firefights lost their lives on one black day back in 2013. It is a job in which flames dance above heads and threaten the firefighters life with just one turn of the fickle wind.May our firefighters stay safe this fire season so that they may return home to tuck their children into bed at night knowing that once again they can be proud of a job that demands so much and pays so little.

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Under The Strawberry Moon

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Tonight, the first night of summer to be exact, a strawberry moon rose steadily from horizon to that place so high in the sky that it appeared to take up almost all the space in the galaxy, leaving room for nothing but a few pulsating stars. The moon’s color was like a Mary Magdalene rose…fluffy and full the luscious golden pink  tinged color. I have seen better strawberry moons where the sky had the hue of a hearty David Austin Sharifa Asma rose, it’s brilliant pink filling the night sky; but if you were just looking for something like a miracle of nature, the other night would do just fine.

As B and I held hands in awe, gazing at the nights passion play, I thought about how the moon had changed from when I was a child. Back then, I would search for the Man in the Moon, who seemed to hide in delight every time I tried to get a glimpse of him. Later, as children arrived and the busy demands of motherhood intervened; I stole quick glances at the sky seldom appreciating the miracle that was unfolding above me. But tonight, my appreciation for the moon peaked when B said, “I love to see the glow of the moon as it shines over you.”

These days as I settle into the later part of my life, I see in the moon what I see in myself. A creation that is glorious in its simplicity, sparkly, and has no ambitions to be anything but what it is…a moon. Like the moon I wish to be appreciated for the light that shines outward from me and for producing those joyous high tides can help change the landscape around us.  And as moon also provides stability to the earth, its gravitational pull ensuring that we don’t spin violently out of control, I would like to be seen as possessing that kind of dependability and support to my family and friends as life shifts around us. And while the moon is moving away from the Earth at a rate of 4 cm per year, I would like to think that when it is my time to move on that I will have left just enough light in my children’s lives to guide them even when clouds linger overhead.

For I am like a strawberry moon…I am brilliant, full of life, and just freakin’ spectacular.

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