I never got the idea of “jewels.” What made the diamond on my mother’s finger more beautiful or valuable than any other rock? Even when it was explained to me, it made no sense. To me it always seemed a variation on ravens picking up shiny things for their nests — a cool thing that ravens do, but people?
I just don’t get it.
In the passage of time, I inherited my mom’s diamonds. They are in a box with a couple of other treasures and I think it’s interesting what those treasures are. There is my dad’s Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, the Bible my grandma gave me when I was six and able to read, and my mom’s diamonds, metaphors for all three.
But I have some jewels…
I can’t wear any of these, but I have one rock treasure that I can wear. It was given to me by a Chinese student years and years ago, soon after I returned to the US from China. I complimented her on her jade pendant, and she took it off her neck and gave it to me. It was embarrassing. I had nothing of equal value to give her, and it’s a very precious thing. I love it. The old-style Chinese writing on the back says, “Bamboo whispers peace.”
I think having been through a big fire, I still have PTSD. Seriously, every time — but especially this time of year which is a couple weeks after my dogs and I finally got to come home after being evacuated from the Cedar Fire — if there’s a big fire anywhere, but especially CA, CO, MT or NM, I’m a wreck.
You don’t forget what it feels like to see a huge wall of smoke and flames crest a mountain that’s between you and your house, or finally to be released from the Red Cross shelter, or where you’ve been waiting (in my case it was both a shelter and a park), and told you can’t go home, but you can drive on the freeway to friends in another town, if you have any.
In 2003, I was lucky to have friends living near the beach. I drove west on I-8 with fire to right, left and in the median strip. The fuel was mostly gone, but some of the flames were high.
Safe at my friend’s, I waited constantly for word that my town and house were OK. The smoke still shrouded my mountains and phone service was sketchy. I was in a state of shock and anxiety.
I was (obviously) very lucky, but it was terrifying. When I did go home, the fire wasn’t out. It had just moved on to where there was fuel. Ash and smoke were everywhere. The road to the north was closed due to fire for six more weeks with firefighters from all over the US battling the fire in very rough terrain. At night the flames were visible. The firefighters were trying to encircle the fire and get it away from the two towns higher up CA 79, Julian and Lake Cuyamaca.
At the time I had four dogs, and they were all freaked out from the experience we were sharing. We lived in a rural area, so naturally, at the Red Cross shelter, were people who’d evacuated their farms and ranches, taking what animals they could with them. Imagine a flat-bed trailer pulled by a pick-up on which were strapped cages of chickens, ducks, rabbits, two sheep and a goat, horse trailers and livestock trailers filled with animals and feed. Horses tied to light poles at the high school parking lot, their trailers too packed with possessions and food for anything other than a brief, necessary ride. I overheard conversations, “I couldn’t do anything with the cattle. They’ll have to fend for themselves,” and “I just turned the horses loose. I don’t have a trailer. Nothing else to do. The Lord knows if I’ll ever see them again.” A little girl at the high school that was the Red Cross shelter was especially taken with my pitbull, Persie. It turned out they’d had to leave her dog behind when the fire hit Alpine, and they’d had ten minutes to get out. The little girl was devastated, and somehow Persie helped.
SO…I feel especially for the animals affected by the fires in California.
Yeah, I know the comparative value of human life, but I think there are more resources for helping people. I’ve found a couple of organizations that are working hard to help animals who’ve been lost, burned, left homeless. These organizations are caring for the animals and trying to find owners who might be dead or disoriented or injured themselves. So if you’re so moved, North Valley Animal Disaster Group http://www.nvadg.org is one very active rescue that could benefit from your help. It has literally rescued more than a thousand animals left behind from the Camp Fire and the town of Paradise. Other agencies are helping them that could use your help too.
I don’t have a lot of people on my Christmas list, but this is what they’re getting from me.
It doesn’t last long enough. The longest I can get it to last (and remain hot) is 20 minutes while Dusty T. Dog drools beside me and looks up with longing in eyes. All he gets is whatever coffee and cream have clung to the edges of my cup, but it seems to matter to him a LOT.
Maybe it’s that he’s the ONLY dog who EVER gets to “drink” from my mug. My “mug” isn’t really a mug. It’s more like a small soup bowl or those things French people drink from when they have their cafe au lait in movies and maybe in real life. I have yet to spend a morning with a French person.
I buy my coffee in five pound bags from Solar Roast in Pueblo, Colorado. It’s the world’s FIRST (and maybe only?) solar roasting operation.
My order arrives in a big box, carefully and personally packed. Last time the package contained a whole burlap coffee sack from Guatemala and the words “You’re awesome!” written in magic marker on the inside flap of the box.
Solar Roast has somewhat lower acid, which is a nice, and it’s very flavorful. The coffee is amazing. I never imagined giving up on Lavazza, but I did.
57% of California forest is under the “control” of the federal government: the rest is in the control of corporations and Native American tribes. So, the question is, is Trump copping to the reality that budget cuts, a reduction in EPA funding and regulation, a reduction in federal woodland employees and the persistent denial of the realities of climate change by the Republican Party have all contributed to California wildfires?
NO. He tried passing the buck, only to learn that the buck stopped with him.
I lived in California for thirty+ years. The number and size of wildfires grew each decade I lived there. Between 2003 and 2014, when I moved back to Colorado, I lived in Descanso, a small town at the edge of North America’s southernmost rain forest. This forest covers the Cuyamaca Mountains in San Diego County and has America’s southernmost indigenous redwood trees.
In 2003, the largest wildfire in California history (until last year), the Cedar Fire, swept through those mountains burning hundreds of thousands of acres, destroying an entire town, and killing people. It is the third deadliest fire in California history. (The two most deadly happened in 2017 and 2018. Think about that.)
The Cedar Fire began as a signal fire set by an ignorant dumbass hunter who was lost in tinder-dry chaparral, and wanted his friend to find him. If you look at the featured image, behind the biggest mountain in the photo (Mt. San Miguel which isn’t actually very high) is the forest near where I lived. The forest where I lived is about 50,000 wilderness acres, all of which burned. The Cedar Fire also burned through parts of San Diego all the way to the ocean, a total of 273,246 acres burned. I was evacuated from home for more than a week.
California fires for the past two years have been worse but bad is bad, right?
“I think people have to see this really to understand it,” Trump said in his visit to the site of the recent Camp Fire.
I got news for you, sweet cheeks. MILLIONS of people in California HAVE seen it, and they understand it fine. Those of us who lived in fire-vulnerable towns on the edges of the forests (some towns were — as mine — more than a hundred years old and hadn’t burned) were scrupulous about controlling fuels on our property. Not just that, when a “normal” fire started (as happened twice while I lived in Descanso, California) people in the town and volunteer firefighters were able to extinguish the fires before they could become dangerous. These fires were a water heater explosion, random cigarette butt thrown by a tourist into a dry field. We were not stupid nor were we unprepared or inexperienced. Besides THAT the volunteer fire departments of these towns issues warnings and tickets for people who do NOT clear their property.
Still, the clearest property in the world will NOT stop a fire going 80 mph.
He went on to compare California to Nordic nations (hang on while my head explodes):
“Other countries do it differently, it’s a whole different story,” Trump said, citing purported comments from the president of Finland on how the Nordic nation deals with its forests.
He said they engage in “raking and cleaning things and they don’t have any problem.”
Beyond that, Mr. “President,” fire JUMPS from tree-top to tree-top. Fire jumps freeways and lakes. A fire in motion does whatever it damned well pleases.
Moving back to Colorado, I was shocked to see people actually stacking firewood BESIDE their houses! How much more reckless could they be, right?
“…when he was asked by Fox News in an interview set to air Sunday whether climate change played a role in the number of serious fires, he said: ‘Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.’ He added that he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire. “This should have been all raked out.”
How many BLM guys does it take to rake out 250,000 acres of forest — roughly the number of acres burned in two of California’s recent fires. Add to that the man power needed to clear out beetle kill oak and pine? What IF there had not been, essentially, decades of increasing drought?
“We’ve never seen anything like this in California,” Trump said.
Yes, actually, California has. Year after year, worse every year. And not just California. Washington State, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, Colorado, the entire WEST is burning along with Greece, Spain, Italy, IRELAND (for Chrissakes), Australia, parts of Africa — it’s a pretty long list of tragedies just like this.
In August 2017, the northern hemisphere firemaps looked like this:
I am sure that these fires have something to do with careless people, flying cigarette butts, a spark from an electric wire or a car passing by, they have more to do with climate change. Wet fuel isn’t fuel.
The data tell the story: Six of California’s ten most destructive wildfires on record have now struck in just the past three years…
…scientific evidence clearly shows that climate change is exacerbating California’s wildfires in different ways:
1) Higher temperatures dry out vegetation and soil, creating more wildfire fuel.
2) Climate change is shortening the California rainy season, thus extending the fire season.
3) Climate change is also shifting the Santa Ana winds that fan particularly dangerous wildfires in Southern California.
4) The warming atmosphere is slowing the jet stream, leading to more California heat waves and high-pressure ridges in the Pacific. Those ridges deflect from the state some storms that would otherwise bring much-needed moisture to slow the spread of fires.
I am not a climate scientist, but I read. And I know how our lives are different now from fifty or sixty years ago, not just my life, but the lives of people all over the world. Economic development isn’t free and the costs are not just financial. China in its rush to become a developed nation (and it was /is/has been a rush) said straight up that it would be interested in environmentalism when all its people had the necessities for a comfortable and prosperous life. It has reached this goal and has taken steps to ameliorate some of the damage its development has caused, but it could be too little too late. But, in my personal opinion anything at any time practiced consistently can help.
What doesn’t help is having a president of one of the largest, most influential nations and economies in the world deny the need for human beings to step up — or keep stepping up — to diminish the contribution of human beings to the destruction of our world through climate change.
A 2015 special report in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that “An increase in fire risk in California is attributable to human-induced climate change.” And a 2016 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that human-caused global warming doubled the area burned by wildfires in the western U.S. over just the past 30 years.
I love this planet. It made me, it feeds me, it helps me continue living, my friends are all here, I find it beautiful.
I loved California. Part of my heart will always be there.
I’m grateful that where I live now, in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, alternative energy sources are not only available, but help the economy in one of the most economically depressed areas of the United States. I was recently given the choice by my electric company to choose where my electricity comes from and it is now all solar generated.
Opportunities like this are happening all over the world. I don’t think our government should drag its heels denying a reality that’s all too real to millions of people.
36 years ago I went to China. It wasn’t the place it is now. Today I’ve had the chance to wander down memory lane through my blog posts with a blogging pal who’s in China now with his family.
It makes me want to invest in a slide scanner so I can see the pictures we (mostly my ex) took while we were there. The things I want to see really are gone — some for real, some just as they were back then, such as junks on the Pearl River, favorite street corners, my apartment, the university where I taught.
Sometimes people ask me if I want to return to China for a visit, but it’s impossible. I wish sometimes there WERE worm-holes in the universe through which we could revisit places AND times. More than once this morning I was moved to tears through the sharing of memories.
AND the miracle of my blog, his blog. and the Internet. Imagine exchanging knowledge of places in China with a man from India (that one has not met) in real time — seriously. That’s unreal and wonderful.
This song by Vasco Rossi is right on.
Ormai è tardi E quanto nostalgia Guarda il tempo Vola via … Non si torna. Comunque sia E la Vita Continua a correr vi
Translation (with the repeated bits left out)
Now it’s late (or) It’s already late And so much nostalgia Look at the time Fly away And we don’t come back And life Continues to run on…
This is my second time working with the new editor which you’ve hubristically named “Gutenberg.” Seriously? Frankly, it’s kind of annoying. I don’t like taking instruction (period? ever?) from my computer screen, and, at this point in my blogging “career,” I don’t need you to tell me to “add content.” I wouldn’t be typing here if I didn’t plan to add content. Right? Whomever this is designed for, I’m worried about them but it’s OK.
Of course you might have a different audience in mind than me, I know, I know… But here’s the thing. I just wanted to write a little blog post. Seriously little. Neither long nor meaningful. I’m tired, kind of brain-dead, and might have a sinus infection (again). Those conditions do not make a sharp tool out of my brain.
I see what’s going to happen. Every time I move to yet one more of your “add text or type/to add content” (I like that creative syntax by the way, very, uh, strange) I get a new “block.”
Listen, sweet cheeks, I’ve been through a few blocks in my time… This will be the third WP editor I’ve been privileged to use. Deep down in the bowels of WP Admin I find the original editor. I still use it sometimes — no no don’t take it away! Its simplicity is refreshing.
SOOOOO…since I have nothing of import to say this morning anyway, I slept in, the extra 30 minutes of snoozing led to some scary dreams, including the part where the demented child stole Bear and though I yelled, “Give me my dog!” loudly over and over it didn’t avail until I spoke French, “Donnez mois mon chien!” With that, the demented child calmly handed me the leash, and I got my dog back. I don’t think you can generalize from that. And no, I don’t know why I sometimes dream in French. Je ne parle pas français.
This time of year (in America) people are pondering the gathering together of family to celebrate a holiday that was made up in 1863 as a way to (symbolically) bring a divided nation together. It would be good if that’s what it still meant, because we have a divided country now.
Very vivid in my memory is my family’s first Thanksgiving back in Colorado after living for six years in Nebraska where my dad worked for Strategic Air Command as a wargamer. It was 1966. We’d moved to Colorado Springs and dad went to work at NORAD. We’d been in Colorado Springs maybe six weeks.
My dad hadn’t wanted to move back to Colorado. He knew his physical abilities were deteriorating rapidly. With MS back then, before there was really any treatment, stress could have a yugely deleterious effect. My mom, facing my dad’s deterioration, didn’t want to be alone. Her closest sisters lived in Denver.
So we moved, rented a house and hosted Thanksgiving which involved buying a fancy new turkey roaster.
I think we used it once…
I was homesick for the small town in Nebraska where we’d lived. I was 14, almost 15. I had had my first boyfriend in Nebraska meaning my first kiss and hand-holding. I was very occupied with YEARNING and listening to The Association sing Cherish. My brother was a kid. I didn’t have friends in the Springs. I sat in the basement watching college football, rooting for the Cornhuskers and trying to care about the outcome because, damn, that was NEBRASKA.
As my mom tried to orchestrate a small family reunion (Aunt Martha, Aunt Kelly, Cousin Linda, me, Kirk and dad) I just wanted it to be over. I wanted the radio to go back to playing the top 40 Rock Hits of the Week (that mattered a lot to me when I was 14). I didn’t even want the days off from school. I wanted normalcy, but it was not to be.
The turkey roaster cooked the turkey OK, but it wasn’t the same as an oven. The skin wasn’t golden and the meat fell off the bones. The dressing was tasty, the gravy had giblets in it (ew), the green bean-mushroom-soup-canned-onion-ring casserole (Aunt Kelly’s, “Bless her heart, Kelly could never cook.” True that), all of it was beige and brown except Aunt Martha’s Jell-o salad. It was the best part of the meal (I made it for a family Thanksgiving a few years ago and it surprised everyone — yeah it’s old-fashioned but it’s really good and refreshing, and so everyone agreed after trying it, though the young’uns initially laughed at it — whether in fear, ridicule or surprise, I don’t know).
Kinda, sorta. Cream cheese and walnuts (should be on the bottom). Lime Jell-o and pineapple, raspberry jello and cranberries on top. No idea what the mint leaves are doing…
We were all seated around the table (“Martha Ann, made the centerpiece,”) set with the “best china” and the silver-plate and the crystal stemware and the grownups had champagne and my dad had muscle spasms and I yearned for my boyfriend in Nebraska and my brother just wanted to get back to his drawing table in the corner of the basement and continue drawing cartoons.
It didn’t really occur to me until this morning that people who resist the way holidays interrupt their normal lives might have the most to be thankful for. It’s no small thing to like your life. ❤
“Yep. On this day, 1743 years ago, you fell from your mom during a windstorm, landed in rich humus of oak leaves, dirt, and cow dung.”
“What are you talking about?”
“You were a tiny acorn. No one imagined that out of the hundreds tossed about in the gale, YOU would send down roots, send up shoots, reach your tiny branches to the sky, and voilá, after a couple of centuries your gnarled and lovely branches would shelter many a weary traveler, host many a Druid feast, provide a home for squirrels, insects, birds, your friend Mr. Owl…”
“Good lord. Mr. Owl?”
“You don’t remember?”
“Yeah, but I don’t think I called him ‘mister’. How do you know I was ‘born’ on that day?”
“I was there, remember?”
“You were an acorn.”
“Yeah, but I was paying attention. Anyway, that storm was unforgettable.”
“Mom made it through. Amazing, considering her great age.”
“I don’t remember ‘mom’ at all.”
“Well, you fell pretty far away from her nurturing influence.”
“Don’t you have a job to go to or something? A Smilodon suit to don? A long, harrowing drive?”
“I quit. Last week. I told you. It got to be tedious after a while. Those Smilodon urges, well, you know. You can’t just put on a costume week after week and not want to hunt mastodons.”
“I think I could do that, Dude. I mean, it was an income. That was a good thing. You got paid a lot…”
“To sweat for two days a week, snarl and make paw swipes, hanging around while my ‘handler’ let the kiddies ask questions that I wasn’t allowed to answer. It’s amazing to me what these so-called scientists don’t seem to know. You’d think they’d remember a little something.”
Lamont and Dude are characters I came up with a few years ago. They have the uncanny ability to remember many of their past incarnations which gives them a unique perspective on life, the universe and everything.
P.S. Decided to test out WP’s new editor. Has some glitches but so far so good. I didn’t challenge it much. You can edit the size of an image without going away from your post, which is nice.
I write historical fiction so the words “the past” is not just my own past (which seems fictional a lot of the time) but a lot of peoples’ pasts. Mostly I don’t think we know that much about it. Even our own.
The other night I was talking on the phone with an old friend and he shared a memory with me of a time that I don’t remember and don’t think happened. I could see the conversation going into that place where a lot of conversations go, so I just said. “Interesting. I don’t remember that.” He started justifying his memory of events, and I just let him.
What stands out in the memory of person A might not in the memory of person B — for a lot of reasons. In this case, if this event he remembered so vividly DID happen, it would have been crowded out of my memory by things that happened afterward — my mom being hospitalized, having to fly to Montana, fearing I’d gotten scabies from a dog we tried to rescue, etc. etc. a whole litany of chaos that included both the dishwasher and washing machine breaking, my purse stolen and my car breaking down. Yep. All in one evening. Those things didn’t happen to my friend or involve him directly. Why WOULD he remember them? He doesn’t.
History is propaganda. I saw that most clearly when I was researching the way lepers were treated in the middle ages. There was a clear discrepancy between what the literature of the era said and what modern historians said. All this was being examined at the time by paleo-historians who were digging up graveyards in what were regarded (by modern historians) as “leper colonies.” What they found supported the literature of the time and went against the whole pariah myth that — it turns out — was a post plague thing and propagated by Sir Walter Scott hundreds of years later. The marginalized leper was not a medieval thing and medieval doctors diagnosed leprosy accurately.
Then there is the noxious historical period known as the Renaissance. I don’t think there was any Renaissance at all. A sixteenth century Italian propagandist and second-rate painter, Giorgio Vasari, coined the term to describe his OWN period in history. Yeah, there was a lot of beautiful work done at this time, but it was because the church was 1) rich and 2) threatened by the Reformation. All that beautiful painting and stuff? Big character posters.
Then there’s the floating point of historical periods. Giotto — because people in some era future to his own liked his work — has been included in the Renaissance because his paintings are not “primitive and medieval.” This is (to Renaissance propagandists) clearly an indication that the art of painting was progressing, moving toward Michelangelo et. al. It doesn’t seem to matter to anyone that Giotto lived and worked in a century — the fourteenth century — that these same historians have included in the “Dark Ages.” Fuck them. It pisses me off every time I think of it. Giotto’s work was loved and sought in his own era. They have a right to it — as long as we’re going to arbitrarily assign eras to history.
And WHY did medieval painting cling to the Byzantine model so long? Was it REALLY because medieval artists couldn’t paint “better” than that? No. It was because they believed that the Holy Family should not be depicted as ordinary human beings.
Berlinghiero Madonna and Child, 13th century
There’s a lot of medieval painting that isn’t of the Holy Family, and a lot to be learned by looking at it. Just a couple of very random examples, 12th and 13th century secular paintings:
Market Street in Genova, 13th century painting
12th century Accountants in Genova counting out the widows and infants “dole.”
Anyway, you can see the “past” is kind of a “hot button” topic for me. I could rant all day on how the Reformation ruined the color and beauty of the Middle Ages by stripping the churches, making a cult out of the color black and destroying paintings, but I won’t. Just remember when you think of the past — even your own past — you might be editorializing without even knowing it.
Featured image: The Massacre of the Innocents by Giotto di Bondone, fresco at Assisi
Bear’s Bliss fell last night, so today Bear and I went tracking ungulates on the golf course. Moose, elk and deer.
When it snows, I can SEE what Bear smells. We get to be a team. I see footprints and , where snow has blown against a cottonwood, even urine splashes on trees.
There are a lot of low leaves on the elm and cottonwood trees between the second and fourth holes so we started there. If there had been no tracks, we’d have left the golf course and wandered out into the fields beyond the driving range where, often, we find fox, raccoon and deer tracks and sometimes animals. But we were lucky.
Tracks and tracks and tracks. Rabbit, squirrel, domestic cat and
Moose??? Elk??? Whitetail Deer???
I spy tracks going off into the “wilderness”
Bear asks me what we’re waiting for
My personal jury is out on that one. I’ve seen moose tracks on the golf course before, but these seemed a little small, though the right shape. Whitetail deer, possibly. They are around here, too.
Bear caught scent after scent. It was nice for me because I could look ahead and see where she was going. When there’s no snow, I might be yanked in a random direction — random to me.
Of course, there was snow on the ground, but you see how Bear walks me. The tracks went mostly from tree to tree, so we did, too. 🙂
The whole route…
Once we’d exhausted the tracks, and Bear had several chances to roll in the snow, it was time to check messages. On the map that’s the straight line at the bottom, on E. Prospect Avenue, right in front of Monte Vista High School. Many people walk past there with their dogs, and Bear has many messages to collect — and leave.
My dog walks me, and I love it. It’s never a brisk walk, but Bear is a constant reminder to stop and smell the elk urine.