This morning The Shire is calm. Fog rolls in from the ocean below while the sun comes up over the ridge-top. Birds sing their morning chorus, and green lawns stretch to the horizon.
Last night, the shortest of the year, I stepped outside my bedroom to the gentlest of sounds: wind chimes tinkling, critters whispering, earth humming. Stars sparkled, and the moon spread her light on the sea, shining on my doorstep, on me.
Peace and tranquility beyond my dreams, a glimpse of heaven, really. If only I could merge with the earth, the breeze, the dark sky, to be one with Spirit for longer than a breath.
It's hard to believe that two years ago yesterday, on June 21, 2008, one of Big Sur's biggest traumas began. A gigantic wildfire, eventually consuming a quarter of a million acres, sparked from a lightning strike within sight of my home (see above.)
A beautiful summer afternoon, bizarre barometric pressure and human fallibility conspired to create a scenario that for the next two weeks scared many of us out of our wits, and / or stressed us beyond our imaginations, providing the adrenalin high of a lifetime.
There is something profound about a community united in purpose, and on Partington Ridge we felt it in spades. Renamed Renegade Ridge, here a small band of determined people made a stand to protect all of our homes.
On this anniversary, we honor them: Toby Rowland-Jones, Christian Nimmo, Martin Hubback, Kevin Southall, Kate Healey, Sula Nichols, Kevin and Lyle Southall, T.S., Dave Smiley, and the Dubois brothers. We thank our neighbors who joined in, from north and south: Aengus Wagner, John Knight, Tevya and Branham Morgenrath, Krystal and Tom Gries, and other brave souls. This group was joined later by hot-shot crews from multiple states, and the USFS.
This gracious ridge, with rolling hills sloping down from 3200' to the sea (with a handful of homes from 1900' to 700' ) is known to many of us as The Shire. Like Tolkien's Middle Earth, here we live in (relative!) peace with the land.
As if to confirm this we have a high number of residents originally from Jolly Olde England. It is possible on this mountain to hear some plummy British accents, drink Earl Grey tea, and be affectionately called "ducky". My theory is that the love of the land, while it runs deep in all of us, is perhaps especially strong for those who come from that chilly little island.
Today I contemplate the peace, while remembering the war. The sky thick with smoke, the hissing and crackling of the fire, the terrifying bright orange flames so bloody near. Unable to take a breath during those weeks, today I relish the deep cool air of The Shire. As summer begins, and another fire season looms, it is good to know that nightmares end, and that peace always prevails.
Photos by Toby Rowland-Jones