Wild Fire

F3VA0vklSrGxHrde4ULP4w

When I left my house at 7:45 am I noticed a HUGE plume of smoke over the mountain. Checking the internet, I found that there was a wildfire burning about 25 miles from my house or 17 as the crow flies. Ten acres were involved.

An hour later the fire had grown to 100 acres. An hour after that it was at 1000 acres and about two hours later it was at 5000 acres. Now, five hours later this fire has grown to over 8000 acres and entire towns in the hills have been evacuated and there are over 100 homes that have already burnt to the ground.

%DQAOjnySDKHrbh7gQ59og

My son’s teacher told me that his good friend lost everything in a fire several years ago. Today, when his friend saw flames a long way off from his house, he quickly packed his car. Having survived one fire he knew just how treacherous they couldbe. By the time this man and his family made it to the highway both sides of the road were on fire with lines of cars trying to make it out of the area.

It doesn’t help that we are having 30 mph wind gusts that are suppose to be around for another 24 hours.  The winds are spreading the fire here and there with spot fires popping up constantly. I fear for the people and wildlife who may not make it out of this firery hell in time.

Later in the morning I called my father who said, “Pack your car and go rent a trailer.”

I chuckled. He is over reacting I thought.

Later my cousin who lives in the area issued the same warning. “Be prepared,” she said.

And so, I went home and I handed two of my kids who are sick of the sofa  each an empty box and told them to fill it with those things that had meaning for them. I did the same while also creating boxes for each member of our family trying to determine what things were most important to their hearts and to their heads.

It’s a strangle thing putting your entire life into a few boxes. What stays and what goes is not as easy to determine as you might think. Of course, I put the box of important papers (birth certificates, adoption records, passports) into the back of the car. I took one painting that we obtained from my a few of my kids birth country and a bunch of old video cassette tapes that I have yet to put on DVD. The old family Bible went in as did a few photo albums, a necklace from my GG Grandmother, my writings, one of my stamp collection albums, our wedding picture, my husband’s bagpipes, my kids Eagle Scout pins  and an ancient Chinese incense burner. My GGGG grandmothers sleeping cap which sits in a shadow box in the hallway was included, as was my GG grandmothers vase, my kids early drawings, some of my daughters diving medals and a few souvenirs from our many travels. Most of the photographs I left behind, except for some of the older pictures, thinking that so much was online, that I could easily make re-prints if need be.

And so my car sits in the driveway packed and ready to go should we need to. I doubt that it will happen but with such a fast moving fire and such high winds I decided that it was better to be prepared than not.

Please pray or send positive vibes for those in harms way of this very dangerous fire. The fire is still a long way from us but it is burning so many others out of their homes in the mountains.

(Picture from my house)

3GGHoGUtT2eMH63LgguI%w

Update- It is now 2 p.m. and the fire has exploded to 17,000 acres

The Other Side Of The Mountain

 

The other day we were driving up to the cabin. The wind was quiet and the sun bright as we climbed higher into the mountains. It brought me back to a year ago when I was making the same drive. My marriage was a mess and I was a wreck. It seemed like nothing was ever going to get better and I wondered if I was ever going to feel happiness again. Last year it was a hard drive and I made it alone.

This year the drive was different. The wolf spiders were out along the roads doing their mating dance. img_1929

The leaves were just beginning to turn with brilliant yellows and a few orange ones dotting the landscape. The birds were singing and the deer were just frolicking with one another in the backyard. We also felt lucky as we saw large embers from the fire laying on our deck knowing how easily the cabin could have gone up in flames as the embers were carried by the wind.img_1933

B and I just enjoyed our time together and wished for nothing more. It was a fantastic day.

When it was time to leave we opted to try a different way home. It was a road we had never ventured on before and we hoped to see how close the big fire of a month ago had made it to our cabin. About a mile from our place we left the pavement and headed down a dirt road. Further and further back we climbed until we could look back upon the entire valley. It was clean and clear. No sign of a fire anywhere. We climbed higher, the trees in thick clusters, more colors to their leaves. We were high on the mountain and you could feel the tightness begin to shape your lungs like the blue rubber bands you find on bunches of celery in the grocery store.

Finally, we came to another paved road. Here we found signs still mounted on the trees which read THANK YOU FIREFIGHTERS and STAY SAFE. But still no sign of the fire itself. We saw the red fire-retardant splashed on the road that had been dropped from airplanes that once buzzed through the smoke choked sky. But there was still no trace of the devastating fire that had ravaged the mountains just one month ago.

As we descended, we realized that we were on the backside of the mountain which usually takes us up to the cabin. It felt like an entirely different place. Long grasses lay flat and swirled around massive tree trunks creating a kaleidoscope of colorful designs.

img_2046

Huge boulders the remnants of dinosaur days dotted the landscape in odd places looking like they had been dropped there by some humongous creature playing chess. It was the other side of the mountain but it could have been worlds away from where we had started.

Finally, after another 10 miles we made it back around to our usual road, the one that could take us back up the mountain. As we hit that mile marker I realized that our marriage in the past twelve months and this trip to the cabin shared many commonalities. For over this past year we had the courage to take an unfamiliar road which brought us new things to see/contemplate which eventually brought us to a happiness/coziness that we find amongst the trees. We also fought the flames of divorce, and while we did get singed, we didn’t get burned. Our marriage, just like this new road, looks different from the other side of the mountain at which we started our trip.  And today, more than at any other time during this journey; I feel blessed that we were able to traverse the vast unknown and make our way safely home from the other side.

images

Great-Grandma’s Door

When B’s grandmother died 10 years ago we went into the barn where we discovered a beautiful old wooden screen door. It used to belong on the farmhouse of B’s great grandmother who had died well into her 90’s. We picked up that old door and took it with us and it has accompanied us move after move where it has always been taken out to the shed.

Now I am not one of those artsy-fartsy kind of gals. I can’t walk and chew gum at the same time. (Well, actually I NEVER chew gum because it is one thing that is completely non-biodegradable) So most things around my house are usually made by someone else, usually in a far off land by a person who probably works for slave wages. Yes, I feel guilty. So to absolve me from some of it; I decided to create something and that is where the door came into play.

Several years ago our dog decided that the we didn’t need a gate between the house and side yard so he destroyed it in about 2.2 seconds. Today, I created a new gate out of great-grandma’s door.  I think she would be pleased.

IMG_0328

On a totally different topic, today I took a picture of our cabin off of Google Earth. It is not a great picture but is shows the old cooks cabin up front and a little bit of our two story addition. The fire is edging closer everyday but there has been enough time that the firefighters have been able to create many bulldozer paths in an effort to stop the blaze should it get closer than the 3 miles away that it is.

Sadly, in this morning’s fire report I noticed that six cabins were lost nearby. I grieve for those folks.

Our Cabin from Google Earth

Yesterday, in a last ditch effort,  I decided to call the sheriffs office. I knew that the road up to the cabin had been closed but I wondered if residents were allowed up. While I would be disappointed to lose the cabin, its the things that reside within it are much more important to me. There is a huge old tool box that I use as a coffee table. My great great grandfather brought it with him on the ship from Germany in 1854. There is the drop-leaf dining table on which my 80 yo father had his tonsils removed by the doctor who made house calls. There is the bookcase that B made in high school and the old chest that was in his grandmother’s attic.  And there is the old wooden ironing board that I use as a long table below the window that looks out onto the cedar trees. Those are the things that are meaningful to me. They are family things that are precious and are irreplaceable…like family itself.

And so I will keep my fingers crossed for the cabin, for family treasures, and for the firefighters who are battling tough conditions, unbearable heat and exhaustion. For in the end, a cabin is just a building, but to the families of these 1,000 firefighters who are  trying to save these mountains and villages, they are waiting for something far more important. They are waiting to know that their loved ones are finally headed home safe and sound once more and that is what is truly important.

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.

IMG_8528

IMG_7927

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.

images-13

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.

images-14

images-16