Saturday, August 16, 2008

Storm Warning: Bishop Duncan and Philly and Other Stuff On My Mind

Mark Harris has done a super job covering the situation in Pittsburgh which TEC Bishop Duncan has brought about. Well worth the reading, and follow the links which explain a great deal of the history and point to groups/clergy opposing his moves. Mark summarizes a number of things which could happen in the next 2+ months.

When I was reading it, I thought immediately of Bonnie Raitt's gorgeous song, Storm Warning from her powerful Longing in Their Hearts album. Even if you don't feel like reading about Philly, this should touch your heart. Duncan doesn't have it goin' on, but Bonnie sure does.

On other fronts, I have been pondering the coming winter with, admittedly, some trepidation. Last October 21, we had terrible fires here resulting in our evacuation for 14 days during which time many in the community (animals in tow) lived in a local grocery store parking lot.

It was a very emotional momentous time.

Filled with emotion, I finally broke down and sobbed when I saw on the news that friends D & J, and S & B had lost their homes, the footage showing J standing amid the ashes with tiny trinkets of their life otherwise carried away by the wind. The first photo shows D & J embracing, just to the left of the plume, amidst the ashes of their home. The second photo is S & B's home--only the bronze horse statue remaining.

These homes, in fact all of the lost homes, are still not rebuilt, while many in San Diego, thankfully, have already moved back in to their rebuilt homes. Here it is different because of the striking--and difficult--terrain. J & D finally received their building permit--the first issued--on July 15.

My hillside home of 26 years, standing under a canopy of oak trees--one tree at least a thousand years of age according to my degreed arborist friend--was thankfully spared. It was a very emotional time and the fact that I now have tears rolling down my cheeks says that I am not over it. For those of you who have gone through fires, floods, hurricanes and other things like this, you understand. For those of you that haven't, trust me it's life changing.

Returning, I sobbed all the way home. To see some of the blackened landscape and the skeletal remains of once dense oak forests was absolutely devastating for me. My mind couldn't even address the horrible loss of wildlife which had no place to go in the face of the wind-whipped flames that traveled miles in just hours. These are lands I cherish and know well, in some cases lands I worked for years to see preserved versus developed.

They have never caught the arsonist.

Winter, my favorite season here, now bring a whole new problem--debris flows. There is literally nothing but luck holding hillsides, some near vertical, together. Last year, the luck ran out for several people whose homes were so damaged they were red tagged, and like those who lost their homes to fires, they are still gone as well.

But what brought this all back to me was the early loss of acorns from the California live oaks this year. Normally, acorns start falling in numbers in mid-late September. This year, they began falling in early August. The last time this happened (I remember it well... I lost a bet based on it in 1997!), we had a hugely large rainfall. It was an "El Nino" year. So I am hoping that the relationship is, in fact, nada. If we get rains like '97 this winter, hundreds of people will lose their homes and many whose homes will remain standing will not be able to get in or out.

It also means, for me, loading, boarding, reloading and boarding the rescue animals--no easy task with the number here should I be evacuated again. I doubt, though, I would ever leave again. I would send the animals out to safety, but I would stay behind. I do keep over a thousand pounds of food here for them at all times, and several hundred gallons of water. But in 1969, people had to be helicoptered out of here as ALL the roads were impassable for months on end, and many homes were eight feet deep in mud. That was a 3-hour 50-year storm amid months of unending rain, the ground was saturated.

Now the conditions are so different and experts say these conditions will be persistent for at least 5 years, depending on the summer fire/winter precipitation cycles each year. It's scary and depressing. I think I need to go and have a good cry followed by a scotch and water. Who would have thought that acorns could have produced such a flow of emotion.

I checked the long term forecasts (which are usually wrong) and let's hope they are right this time. The oaks are telling me something, though. I just don't know what it is.

Photos: Orange County Register