Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fire Gypsies Come Home

It's Sunday morning, I'm sitting in the blue chair, the wind chimes are tinkling in a gentle breeze. I awoke to lovely, wet fog, all night long it's damped down the smoldering trees above and below us. My dog is flopped happily in the tall grass, my tabby cat is meditating on the wooden table beside me, nope, there she goes, off the table to wander about again, so happy to be HOME.

How do you come home to a place you had consigned to flames? Very tentatively, heart opening slowly, not quite trusting, in a state of wonder. The simple joy of washing my hands at my own kitchen sink. Watering plants, pulling weeds. Hearing the hawks cry, the quail chitter in the bushes, watching the fog roll up the canyon. Everything is green around my house, but the ridges above us and the entire watershed south of us is black.

The forests of Partington Ridge are cleared of undergrowth, the ground covered in snowdrifts of ash. In some places only the redwoods, trunks charred to 20' or more, remain. Our house is surrounded by huge, and I mean huge, bulldozer lines, down and around, up to the water tank, into the greatly expanded paddock and meadow. One neighbor's skylight was splashed with fire retardant, giving the inside of her cabin a rose-colored hue. I've resisted using profanity in this blog, because it just works so much better in spoken rather than written form, but now, I think recent events merit this statement: Holy shit, we made it!

Firemen still show up from time to time, heavy trucks thumping down our entry road. They filled the pond with a fire hose two mornings ago, concerned about our koi. Earlier this week, a fire radio repeater appeared, a strange space age tower perched on the point. Last night the Sheriff waved me through on the Highway when I flashed my magic green piece of paper, my "resident's pass." From the thick of the fire-fight on this ridge, here is a brief movie, courtesy of professional firefighter Mike Hodges.

It's funny how suddenly fire is OK –at night we see constellations of orange stars in the forest, burning trees in already torched areas. This is good. On a more prosaic note, everyone marvels at how clean their refrigerators are, after a thorough scrubbing and throwing out of rotten food, just like new. The local "free box" is overflowing. "If I left it to burn, I don't need it," as one friend said. After three weeks of being a fire gypsy, schlepping clothes and belongings around, I marvel at how much crap I actually possess. Less really is more, a potent lesson deeply felt in these circumstances.

The weather conditions were so perfect for this fire: most important of all no wind, plus a marine layer of cool air hugging the coast for many days...almost like Mother Nature decided to do a nice, enormous controlled burn in the wilderness. This will only hurt a little, you can almost hear her say. Once again, Big Sur has come up smiling from devastation.

When our awareness is forever altered, when our sense of complacency and safety is destroyed, it's a ripe time for learning new things, for powerful creativity, for healing. From destruction comes creation, the eternal law. May it be so for all. We are all of us fire gypsies, floating with the flames.


lifeonthecoast said...

So happy you made it home and that home was right where and as (more or less) you left it. :-)

Linda said...

Home. Yes, you made it. I can picture you in that blue chair, where you had that one last beer a few days ago. May your mountain sustain you, and heal you, and all your loved ones in the Shire.

Anonymous said...

hey Linda, I appreciate your words and spirit. My family left the Tassajara area and I am being vigilant on site. I look forward to when we all can be together in our home. Thanks for the guidance and sentiment! Steve

Linda Rowland-Jones said...

Dear Steve, Please BE SAFE and stay in touch with your neighbors! So we can all celebrate together when this nonsense is over. Sending you love from the now quiet western front. Linda