Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Fire haze hangs heavy

Smoke hangs from the trees and fills the hollows on our land the last two mornings, especially when there is no wind. It's from all the fires burning around us, thanks to the lightning strikes of this weekend. And the smell of smoke is ominous.

We're getting it from all around us -- east, west, north, and south, but I think most of it is from fires in Shasta County, particularly in remote areas that are so hard to get to. The fire crews are working hard -- but this is early in the fire season, and I think that already money to call in supporting crews from other states is drying up. I read on one message board that we may have to let some of them burn on their own -- as they did long ago -- until the rains come. Which means that the air may be smoky all summer.

The air quality is horrible, especially if you have breathing problems to begin with. Princess #3 is in the hospital with pnemonia -- went in last night -- and I'm sure the air quality did not help. She's had a rough time these past couple of months, and we just hope she can get better and get some rest.

I'm sure it's the fires, but things feel unsettled to me -- unsettling maybe a better word. A lot of loose ends, a lot of angst and worry and fear drifting in with the smoke and hiding the horizon. The setting sun was orange last night in the haze and the light was a murky, dirty yellow -- everything looks slightly jaundiced.

I am grateful for men and women who fight fires and try to keep us safe.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Lightning welcomes summer

Summer came in with a bang: thunder and lightning crashed and flashed around us late Friday night, moving quickly to the east, and then another round made yesterday -- the first day of summer -- mostly overcast and a little damp, with more thunder and lightning.

In fact, that lightning torched fires throughout northern California, and by last evening, smoke flavored the air all around us, although we coudln't see anything, and it continued all night, although it was cooler than it's been.

A combination of winds and, I hope, successful containment, has pretty much eliminated the smokey air today, although it was hanging in the trees earlier this morning.

I was in Redding, where the skies opened up and dumped water on the dusty ground several times. I don't think we got much more than a little taste here, though, and it dried quickly.

When I lived in the midwest, summer thunderstorms always cooled things off and freshened the air, and I liked watching the lightning -- as long as it was past tornado season. Here, it is frightening at this time of year because of the fire danger. The cats don't like the thunder at all and stay close to us.

And yesterday was the longest day of the year -- more than 15 hours of daylight. In six short months we will be in the midst of rain and cold temps, and planning for Christmas. Fire will heat our home and we will enjoy watching the orange flames dancing behind the glass doors.

I hope you had a chance to enjoy this week's full moon and honor your summer spirit. This return of the sun has been celebrated for centuries with religious ritual and ceremony. Years ago I was in Sweden at midsummer -- one huge party all over the country, marked with maypoles and flowers and green branches everywhere, and business pretty much stops for about a week.

We've celebrated the sunshine by enjoying zucchini and yellow crookneck in various ways this week, and the cucumbers are nearly ready for picking. Green tomatoes are finally appearing, but the lettuce and spinach are done. Swiss chard is taking its time. I need to plant more...

Remember that each season, each day is a gift to us. Give thanks for what the day brings to you.

Friday, June 20, 2008

When he's hot, he's hot

My wonderful husband has a blog, Cat-E-Whompus, where he links to various news and commentary sources and comments on stories in the news. Often these are not the things that make it into the headlines, but interesting tidbits he gleans from his eclectic Internet reading.

He threads things together with wit and well-chosen words, some of which send even this logophile to the dictionary.

While I nearly always manage at least a post a week, he can go a couple of months without a post, which doesn't do a lot for readership -- even he realizes that.

But lately he's been prolific. And even if you don't agree with him (and I don't always), he gives you grist for the mind-mill.

Check it out. Tell him what you think. And don't hold back.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fire strikes -- and so do looters

The Humboldt Fire started near Chico, where Tony works, last Wednesday and many of his company's employees had to evacuate their homes near Paradise.

It has been devastating to watch the news, see the map, and read the comments by worried friends and family. Our home is 50 miles to the north and west, so we were not threatened by this one. But everyone who lives in California fears wildfires, as well they should.

There were 74 homes destroyed by this fire; cause at this point unknown. Thousands of firefighters from throughout California assisted the battle to contain it. Hundreds of people were evacuated and sheltered and fed by volunteers and good people.

And last night on the news there was this report about looters. Today, Tony discovered that one of his colleagues was a victim, and that his insurance company only covers $5K caused by theft. The guy -- a young man with a family -- did not lose his home to fire, but lost its contents to thieves who took advantage of his absence and stole everything: tools, toys -- everything.

How do people lose ethics? Did they never have them in the first place? What corrupts a person, causes them to compound a terrible event into an even more incomprehensible act?

Tony's colleague did not realize that others had also been looted, so he perhaps can find some company with his misery, and perhaps they all can work towards a solution, towards regaining some of the stolen merchandise.

I'm 60 years old. And I don't think I'm particularly naive. But this just blows me away -- sort of like the guy I wrote about a few days ago baffles me with his nastiness and mean spirit -- only these thieves are even lower than that on the ethics and decency scale. They kicked people when they were down, walked away and left them gasping. And didn't look back. That is the true tragedy in this.

When you just don't feel like doing anything you should be doing


Lion Cam.
(it's a zoo in Norway...)

Well, shoot....
The site's down right now -- has been this afternoon -- but I'm checking. It's momma lion and four lion cubs, barely able to toddle around, and just too cute --

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Aw, crap

Mercury is once again in retrograde, which means that communication is likely to be difficult on many fronts, and mistakes are likely in anything written.

And today is one of those days when the energy is just off. At least mine is, and my daughters are having their own issues today as well. Princess #1 is trying to cope with some depression stuff, and at 7 a.m. was not doing well -- I hope she is by now. That's not a good way to begin the day, however, for either of us.

And Princess #3 is likely to have her baby tonight, a few days earlier than expected, because of some health issues. It should work out -- her significant other was in San Francisco at least rather than much farther away, and is headed back at this writing, so he should be there in ample time, and the docs have delayed the process (it's by C-section) accordingly. She was trying to cope as well.

And of course I have deadlines, so am stewing over meeting those. And we have our own little health repairs scattered over the next few months, so there is a sense of needing to tidy up loose ends.

I feel a little out of sorts -- not crabby, not frantic, just not balanced. A little concerned for the well-being of my daughters, and also aware that there is absolutely not one thing I can do to make things better for them, other than being here to listen when they call. Which I'm very glad that they do.

I don't like feeling out of balance, unsettled and a little emotional...I think weather has not helped either: it's been windy for two days, and everyone including the cats gets a little edgy with it. The deer are simply not around -- I think they hide in the low places when it's like this.

Tomorrow will be different, at least, and hopefully some of today's problems will be resolved in a good way. The universe is still at odds until June 19, but maybe I'll cope with it better.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Deja vu (all over again)*

Another meeting this weekend was cause for serious deja-vu, and more bewilderment about ethics, moral codes, and people's behavior. While not a general meeting, this was a neighborhood board meeting, one of several throughout the year which I and others have been attending just to keep an eye on how business is being conducted.

The deja-vu came when the players mentioned here pretty much reprised their behavior of last fall. The six of us who came as interested parties were threatened with the sheriff -- the host and leader said that he had the right to throw any of us who disrupted the meeting off his property. At least two of us were ridiculed, insulted, and subjected to character assassination, including private business that had no place being aired at that meeting or any other.

I simply do not understand how a person can be so filled with anger and hatred that nothing but venom comes out of his mouth. I have never heard this person say anything positive about anything, and he obviously takes pleasure out of pushing other people's buttons, especially personal ones, and watching them react, and in being just as ugly and mean and nasty as you can imagine a person could be.

It's clearly a power thing -- he throws out a personal attack, and watches as that person reacts -- usually in anger and frustration and embarrassment. And he smiles. I watched him do it.

What could have twisted this man so deeply that he takes such pleasure out of causing others pain and humiliation? According to those who have lived here as long as he has, he has always been this way (and he's no spring chicken).

After last fall's meeting, I said that I was done wasting major time on minor people, and by golly, I have pretty much done that. I did not allow this man and his horrible comments to affect the rest of my day, nor to ruin my sleep. Except for a few moments when my honey was expressing his opinion and things got tense and my tummy sort of turned over, I have been pretty sanguine about it.

As writer Kim Antieau said today, you can change light bulbs, but you can't change people.

I have reflected a bit on his nature and on how bleak such a life must be to live. I know that the good thing to do is to say a prayer for him. But I simply do not understand at all how there can be a moral code by which such people live -- how do they even live with themselves? How could you find anything good or decent or loving in the world when you are so filled with anger and hatred, and behave in such an immoral way?

You either have morals or you don't. I think they're learned at a very early age, and I believe there are people who have none, who live only by a "do unto others before they do unto you" code. What a bleak existence.

The ultimate insult to these people is to be ignored and dismissed. And that's how I've begun to handle it. If I don't fuel their passion through my own response, they get no pleasure (although what masters of manipulation! They will stop at nothing to evoke a response, any response, and it is so difficult not to respond when your words are being twisted, you are being slandered, and your character is defamed so publicly, and of course you want badly to deny the lies.)

Next meeting is September. We'll see how I do.

*from Yogi Berra, who also coined such twists of the language as these. Scary that some of them actually make sense.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Making downtime

I seldom stop doing stuff, even when I'm supposedly "relaxing" -- I fold clothes while I'm watching TV, or go through the stacks of magazines that accumulate by my bedside table or in baskets all over the house, or read the newspapers more thoroughly.

I'll watch Oprah or a movie while I'm cooking or cleaning the kitchen up, or ironing (something I don't often do, but with linen season upon us, the stuff just does better if it's ironed, even briefly).

My mother didn't sit still either, at least until painful osteoporosis forced her into a sedentary life. She sewed or ironed or read while she watched TV or clipped coupons, or something. So it's not odd that I do much the same.

And it's not even something I really MIND doing, usually -- it just needs doing, and for some of these chores, TV makes them more enjoyable.

But sit and read a book? Wow. Only if I'm sick, and then I'm usually really sick and sleeping, not reading. (Note: I read every day. I read the newspapers (two of 'em), I read magazines over lunch, and I have a huge stack of books beside the bed. I always -- ALWAYS -- read after I crawl into bed and before I turn out the light: it helps me transition into sleep, let go of the day and most stressors. Sometimes I can even stay awake long enough to read several chapters.)

But vacation is when I get to read as much as I want, or give myself permission to watch TV without doing something else. Last summer, when we went to Tennessee, I put a significant dent in the last Harry Potter book while we were visiting my brother, and plane trips -- irritating as they can be -- are hours when I get to read without the remotest hint of guilt.

We had a little taste of downtime this weekend when we visited a friend in Davis and went to see Phantom of the Opera in Sacramento. We wandered around Davis, visited the Arboretum, sat outside and enjoyed an al fresco lunch and then brunch today, and talked about nothing deep.

And Phantom was simply glorious, just as I remembered it being the first time I saw it on stage long ago in Nashville, Tenn. We reveled in the music -- played the CDs all the way to Davis -- and it's been playing again in my head all day today.

The weekend was wonderful. Restful, although not related to sleep -- which we did, and well, thankyouverymuch, but just in the down time. Being away from the little things that call to me all the time at home -- do a load of laundry, check the garden, wipe down the sink, clean the kitty fountain, organize the desk -- you know. Being away from the lure of e-mail and Web browsers, from notes that need to get written into articles.

Honest-to-god down time.

We've got a longer escape planned for later, and it shouldn't require doing anything other than watching ocean waves and reading the Jodi Picoult novel I've been saving for such an occasion. I can't wait.

Meanwhile, there's a laundry basket full of clothes that need to be folded. Let me check what's on the DVR...