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Days of gray and days of darkness
days of shuttered smoke.
the skies are sceaming ash.
Fire is in the mountains and the
valleys are roaring like a
a thousand freight trains tear my soul
Cinders fall as twisted scales
from the dragon shaking free.
Run for the shelter
run for the river
the Dragon ‘s on the loose.
© copyright Christalene Loren 2018. All rights reserved.
The River/Ranch or Mendocino Complex Fire started around noon on July 27, 2018. As of today the fire has consumed 255,482 acres and is 48% contained. It has been declared as the largest fire in the history of California. The fire has destroyed 119 residences and 110 other building. Most of the cities west and north of Clearlake had been evacuated.
Channel 6 KPIX video of the Fire.
Just to get an idea on the size of this fire
Today Lakeport and the surrounding cities on the north shore are slowly being repopulated. while most of the fire is burning out of control in the Mendocino National Forest and east of the Indian Valley reservoir.
The fire is north of PsiKeep
The mornings at PsiLKeep begin with a blood sun rising and is quickly obliterated by the smoke.
Many days I do not see the sunrise. Just smoke turning the day a lighter gray. The hills other side of the valley just two miles away are smoked in. It is like looking out into the abyss. Of course all of this is minor compared to most of the population in the west and north ends of the county where the fires raged.
The smoke and the heat has been pretty debilitating It has become difficult to keep up with the daily maintenance of the ranch. I just go out and feed and medicate the animals and retreat to the computer to keep up on the latest fire information.
On August 7, 2018 the afternoon wind blew most of the smoke from the fire to the north and to the east. The sun dipped below the smoke and there was a brief moment of sunlight on the hills across the valley.
Everything is hungry this time of year. Both the fire and deer have got to eat. Each year when the poison oak has turned, I start setting out the sweepings from the hay shed. The deer come down to eat and drink from the water containers under the oak trees. This doe look pretty well fed.
This summer began in smoke and fury as two big wild fires raged nearby. The Pawnee fire was burning in the north. And a couple of days later the County fire erupted in the south east. It raged through 90,288 acres of beautiful wilderness east of the shores of Lake Berryessa.
While the Pawnee fire burned 15,185 acres and 22 structures were destroyed, I was not close enough to think of evacuating but I had my eye on the computer maps, wind charts and audio feed from the fire fighters just to make sure.
The days are clear now, hot and dry. Everyone is holding their breath waiting for the next big fire, and hoping it will pass us by this year.
Since 2015 progress slowed at PsiKeep. The reality that all could go up in flames at any time put a damper on turning this wilderness into an art center. My emphasis shifted from development to defense. And last year I was sick most of the summer with a lingering bronchitis which got kind of serious during the winter. I am better now and with that the dream has returned. There will always be the shadow of the fire and the reality that it could swallow everything.
There are no dog days of summer when you live under the foot of the dragon.
So on this hot, July night I sit with a quart of Dryers’ Double Fudge Brownie already ¾ eaten and begin this blog entry. Of all the addictions I have dodged, only to be done in by ice cream. I can’t help myself. The cold, sweet chocolate in my mouth with that never-ending bliss…yum.
An Army of Cats
This summer has been an army of three new rescue cats and cat boxes and cat litter and cleanup and cages. And another cage with new chicks in the kitchen growing up and getting use to the dog and the cats and dander and dust. I finally got the chicks, who grew into pullets, moved into a coop in the barn and the last cat, Cosmos got released today. It looks like all the cats have gotten use to each other and their new home. It is time to begin the war on the mice and rodents.
Two of the rescue cats which were unadoptable because they were not cuddly cats were very close to each other. They had lived together in a cage at the cat rescue station for about 8 months hissing and snarling at anyone who came by. I adopted the little pale tortie female and then decided to get her companion the large black male. The little tortie I named Ajuna was in a cage in my living room for about 10 days during the County Fire. Since I only had one cage I released her when the threat of the fire was over. I could see her here and there for about a week. I made sure she had food and water on the porch.
I brought home, her companion, the black cat, Cosmos, and kept him in the living room for about a week. It did not take long for little Ajuna to find Cosmos in the cage. Cosmos would make guttural cat calls to her and she would come inside and lay by his cage.
After the fourth day of this I decided to release him.
I figured she would show him the ropes around the place. I have seen Cosmos a couple of times since he was released and Ajuna comes in to feed under the butcher block table and continues to sleep on my chair. I will see what happens to Cosmos in the next few days.
The third cat is a little black female named Kylie. I know I am going to have problems recognizing these two black cats in the days to come. But more on Kylie in a later posting.
Field Hospital at PsiKeep
This summer I seem to be running a field hospital for all the injured animals on the ranch.
Shetland, one of my two breeding bucks developed a wound on his horn about 8 inches out from the skull. He was in a pen with a yearling buck and the two goats didn’t seem to have any serious issues. One day I saw some blood on his horn. At first I thought he injured the younger buck, but I could not find any wound. A couple of days later I noticed blood on his horn again. I took him out of the pen and put him in a stall in the barn. I could see the wound and it was being aggravated by the buck rubbing his horn on the wire fencing. So I kept him confined in the stall. But the wound would not heal. I finally had to call the vet to come out. Wounds that bleed on a horn can be serious since the vessels connect with the sinuses and the brain. The vet gave me Uniprim and told me to keep it wrapped until she could talk with a furrier about how to get the keratin sheeting to grow back over the wound.
Next patient. One day I noticed that the Soay ram who broke two legs while he was a lamb was not running with the herd. I found him out in the lower pasture and it looked like he was limping but he was moving too fast for me to catch him. Three days later I was able to corner him in the sheep shed and drag him up to the barn. He is definitely not putting any weight on the right hind leg. I confined him to another stall and I have been treating him with Uniprim and aspirin. He is eating and moving around slowly. Lots of turning of his head which looks like the residual effects of the listeriosis he had as a lamb. As the days progressed he seemed to get stronger. I began feeding him vitamin B12 and E.
Then yesterday evening I got careless with the gate and to my surprise he escaped. Last night I left the gate to the orchard open so he could get in during the night. This morning I found him in the lower pasture but he was not with the herd. I worried all day about how I was going to recapture him. And this evening I made an attempt. I herded him back up into the orchard and closed the gate. He was limping but moving pretty fast and pushing with both his hind legs. Although I could see he was favoring the left over the other. I decided to let him alone for now and just make sure that he got enough food and water.
Next patient. One of my does developed mastitis which I am trying to cure with the last dregs of my penicillin supply. Just so you know there is a shortage of Penicillin and I can’t get any more until September. See the issue about Penicillin at the following link. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/05/world-suffering-penicillin-shortage-170517075902840.html
It has beena week of injecting her with 3 cc of Penicillin per day. Today I got her teat to soften enough so that I could milk out some of the fluid/ puss. But I am having troubles getting the local antibiotic up into her teat. Dry-Clox which is a long-term antibiotic designed for this sort of issue has also been unavailable. I got another product from the vet which contains Dry-Clox but it came with syringes with a short nose so I am unable to get the medicine high up into the udder.
All in all, the distribution of meds and special care is taking up a good part of my day. But I did make time to work on the cement Dolmen.
I began this piece a couple of years ago. It was going to be the keystone to my Launch Pad sculpture which is sitting incomplete out in the forest. I just could never get the funds together to buy the crystal for the Dolmen. So I decided to give it to my sister since she has help me so much with surviving out here. But without the crystal I just could not get behind the piece for a couple of years. This spring I began a sketch for how I wanted to modify it to my liking.
It has been a week since I completed the first side of the Dolmen in cement I will have to let is set for several more weeks before I get a crew to help me turn it over. Working in cement in this hot, dry and windy weather has been a chore. The cement begins hardening so fast that I have had to mix small batches in order to work in the details.
Angry Poetry on the America
I have also been putting my anger and frustration into writing poems about the state of America since the Trump election and do not mean to say the election of Donald Trump. We have been overthrown. Period. This is a terrifying time for this country. Below is a recent poem I wrote titled “The Battle Will Be Won” because we have to win. We have to triumph against the rise of fascism in America.
The Battle Will Be Won
The battle will not be fought with blows of violence
The battle will not be fought with words and phrases to deceive the mind.
The battle will be won by strong of heart.
The battle will be won by determination and the indomitable will of creative energy,
by loneliness turned into conviction
by courage forged in the darkest hour.
It will be won by using the forces of suppression against itself
by opposing hatred with the power of laughter
by opposing brutality with the power of love
by opposing death with the power of life.
It will be won by an eye-sharp focus on the final end of despair.
The battle will be won by being small and agile
by being everywhere and nowhere
by boycott and sit-in and protest march
through imprisonment and defiance
and by all the people who come before and after to draw a line in the sand
to say to those who choose to walk in darkness and destruction
This battle will be won
It will be won.
At last I close with the following image. Sometimes a glory is a glory and sometimes it is just dust from the road.
Out from the long shed we step into sunlight. Too bright for a life of darkness
and the small lights swinging high above the steel crates where we were born.
We grunt and startle at the feel of earth under our hoofs
But before we can remember plowing earth with our broken teeth
we are herded with shocker sticks up a long wooden ramp into a steel walled truck.
The walls are punctured with holes barely large enough to see the sunlight.
And there I find a faint trace of the scent of pigs I once knew.
We are packed so tight that we can hardly breathe
Some of us are foaming at the mouth as the floor begins to rumble under our hoofs
Our bodies slide and plow against each other with crushing weight at each bump and turn.
Hot air is filled with billowing exhaust burning our throats. So thirsty now.
At last the rumbling stops. And we are standing in our own feces.
Some of us have slipped and fallen on top of the broken bodies
of those who can no longer withstand the sweltering heat.
We wait and wait our stillness broken by an occasional choking groan
at the smell of our own terror roiling across our flanks.
Then the door swings open and the men with shocker sticks
shout and prod us out of the truck and up a long ramp to a steel door.
Now we hear the screams of those who have walked up the ramp before us.
No way to turn back down in the press of bodies coming up the ramp
We try to climb the walls slippery with urine
ignoring the pain of the shocker sticks and the shouting men
as each one of us disappears through that terrifying door.
Until I am alone before the door, the door that yawns open
and I am thrust into that steel mouth.
Something hard grabs me by the throat and holds me by the head
The last thing I see is the hammer slamming down
My knees buckle; the floor opens under me
I am sliding down a long chute slippery with blood.
A hook grabs the tendon in my hind leg
I am hoisted into the air
My muscles thrashing
as the knife finds my throat
and life slips away forever.
What can I say? It has been a long time coming home to this blog. Discovering Facebook did not help. It was easier to drop a comment than compose an essay. And I did get more responses. But the real truth is that the fires devastated me in invisible ways so that I really did not know how much I had changed. My losses from the fires was minimal; compared to people who lost everything. I did lose Voice, my little black dog. But what I really lost was confidence in this place, its magic and power to survive.
Yet PsiKeep has endured. And there were some blessings. Last spring the little Soay ewe finally had a lamb that survived. It is a ram and this year he is full-grown.
A very large Blue pine grew a limb the size of a tree above the trailer and cabin containing many of my paintings. I tried to get a tree person to some out and cut down the tree but everyone was too busy up on Cobb Mountain cutting down the timber from the Valley Fire. I was helpless. I knew if that limb came down it would crush both the cabin and the trailer. Much to my dismay I could see that the limb was separating from the main trunk of the tree. And one windy night it finally came down. But somehow it rotated 90º and slid down the trunk of the tree missing both the trailer and the cabin.
I was sick most of the summer of 2017. I had planned to use the time to work on cementing the Dragon Head Entrance Way or finish sculpting the Angle Crouching sculpture but I just could not get the energy to do anything after I fed the animals in the morning. I was afraid that I was just getting too old for all of this but it turned out I had pneumonia again. I spent a day in the hospital getting antibiotics intravenously and drove myself home. I did not have too much time to recover because the rains came early this year and I had to get the barns ready for the goats. I seemed to have more energy after I recovered so I was able to stay up for two nights working to complete the applique tapestry titled The First Thirty Days in time for the 2nd Woman’s March.
I had completed the tapestry in the summer of 2017. But I still had to design and finish the backside which contains my sigil. The tapestry had gotten pretty heavy with all the layers of felt and naga and fabric. I was concerned about the stress and weight pulling the felt backing apart. I decide to use leather as the material to suspend the piece. And I also wanted to distribute the weight along the leather so I came up with the following design.
I guess time will tell if the leather was a good solution to the problem of the distribution of the weight of the tapestry. It was an interesting piece of leather but what a bitch it was to sew. I had to punch through with the needle to make each stitch. I stayed up for two night’s straight to complete the back side. In the end my friend, Lorna came by the last day to help sew and build the frame to carry the tapestry in the parade.
I was so exhausted during the parade that I was hallucinating. I saw what I thought were two dogs lying in an empty parking lot as we marched by. It turned out they were concrete parking curbs. Of course it did not help that they were painted brown. After the parade we were dismantling the frame and packing the tapestry into the car when I noticed in the window of the pawn shop we were parked and what I thought was Halloween pumpkin surrounded by skeletons and ghosts. I told Lorna I wanted to check it out. It turned out to be a leaf blower with an orange motor and white housing.
When I finally got home I collapsed. I think the tapestry is still rolled up and lying on the chest in the living room but you can see the full details of Trump’s First Thirty Days at the Tenabrae Cafe.
It was a hard spring at PsiKeep. I held off working on the blog while I was putting together poems and photo essays on the fires of last summer. But things continued to press on with miracles and disasters wrapped together in the web of life.
Sad Sheep Story
Both Soay ewes had stillborn lambs.
I lost the first ewe before I could figure out what happened. Neither ewe could not expel the placenta after birth.
I was able to save the second ewe with a lot of painstaking effort to slowly and carefully get her to drop her placenta over a period of several days. But the little ram… I do not know what to do with him. It seems with all the careful effort keeping him in the stall while the first fracture mended, he broke another leg.
Sculptures in Progress
First there was “Warrior Angle Crouching” in the beginning work-in-progress stage.
There was naked Justice getting repaired for the MAC show in Middletown.
There was hooded Justice waiting out the late rains.
And finally there was re-dressed “Justice Corrupted” ready to be trucked to the show.
I did marched for Bernie for President at the Lower Lake Memorial parade. We even got the dragon in the show.
The Ravens at PsiKeep
Yesterday as I was putting this post together I heard a commotion from the ravens outside. Every year they build their nest in the ponderosa tree above my front door. By their raucous screaming I knew what had happened. It did not take me long to find their single offspring on the ground at the bottom of the tree. I gently picked up the little guy. This was his big day, his first flight out of the nest. I set him on the banister so he could get a good start but he jumped down on to the porch instead.
So I carried him down to the orchard and set him in one of the fruit trees. Later I saw him making a low flight into the forest. I hope he made it. Although, this morning, I have not seen him up in the tall trees with the parents.
Last of all there are days of cutting brush under the ghost of last year’s catastrophic fires. More on the result of those fires is yet come in the form of art and poetry. Because what else can you do but produce creative energy in the face of all that destruction.
I am posting this September 12, 2015 dash-cam recording of two Lake County deputies. The 54 minute video is significant for several reasons. The first reason is it shows the magnitude of the fire along the seven mile stretch between Hartman Road near Hidden Valley Lake in the north and Butts Canyon, outside of Middletown in the south on Lake County Hwy 29. The second reason is the bravery of these two deputies. However you feel about the police these days, these two deputies found themselves in a situation they were totally unprepared for but they stayed with their job to check the abandoned vehicles and rescue evacuees along the highway. For this they must be commended.
At 36:15, in the middle of this heart of darkness, the deputies come across an individual working for the state of California Office of the Governor attempting to do an assessment of the damages. He is promising that firefighting units are coming up from San Diego. What he is doing assessing the damages in the middle of a maelstrom is beyond me.
While watching this video I realized that this was the last time I would see the trees and vegetation along this portion of Hwy 29.
A Soliloquy for Lake County
After all the fires we have been though from the Rocky Fire to the Grade…
To pack or not to pack
that is the question
Whether ‘tis nobler in stature
to relinquish one’s home and holdings
or to take arms against a sea of embers
And by opposing,
dump a crap load of fire-retardant
to end them.
I had found this blanket in the trash at the Red cross Center and used it for the dogs to sleep on in the car for the five days we all evacuated. I had just washed it and hung it on the banister to dry when I heard a tanker flying overhead. I walked around the corner of the house and I could see the beginnings of another fire burning.
This fire is just down the road from PsiKeep. It is burning north by west. I am not concerned at the moment because the wind is blowing away from me. But in the afternoon the wind does shift in the opposite direction.
I worry about the people and animals in the hill to the north and west of me.
I am located a short distance outside the advisory evacuation area. But it is deja vu all over again. I had just cleaned my house. Again. I was unpacking the items I had evacuated from the last fire, again, when this fire began.
It looks like this one is under control for the time being.
Cal Fire just reported that the forward progress of the fire has been stopped and they have opened the road to residents only.
From my study, where I am composing this post, the roar of the air tankers has diminished and I can no longer see the smoke through the trees.
The San Clemente goats are calm. All seems well. I am waiting to see what develops when the wind shifts.
The hills are burning in the valley of Jericho
the bones of the deer are mixed with ash
a carpet of silver haunting the hilltops
wind blows across barren lava flows
exposing a cycle of ancient ruin
which has come round at last
And a seed of the first blade of grass
waiting for the rain to come.
The dragon is still churning through the smoldering wasteland in the east.
25,118 acres have burned and today it is 98% contained.
One dog is in the ground and the other is hiding in the shadows under my desk. The boxes with my precious, irreplaceable things are stacked unpacked on the porch. I should feel very thankful that I still have a porch to come back to. I think of the people who lost their homes counted and uncounted in the final tally. But in the end I am exhausted. I am in denial about the loss of Voice and I am not taking it very well.
But oblivious to my sorrow, paradise is raging all around me. The euphorbias in the Garden of Unearthly Delights are blooming. Some have actually never bloomed before.
The apples are hanging like clusters of grapes on the branches of the apple trees.
The raven pair are feeding on the crab apples in the orchard and the local herd of deer have come down to nibble at the chicken food again . All is well at PsiKeep but the caretaker.
August 6 Day 9
Note: Please note that this entry of the past three days was under construction when the Jerusalem Fire broke out. I have entered them now to keep the events in this story in chronological order.
The satellite fire map indicates hot spots in the south The fire has moved to the south which is now closer to me if the winds blow back toward the north.
I have no startling images to share. I am too close to the belly of the beast and the fire is too spread out. There is nothing but smoke in the sky in the south east.
The fire is now as large as San Francisco.
Jon Stewart is leaving the Daily Show and all day NPR has been playing interviews of Jon Stewart. It is an end of another era.
I am keeping a close eye on the south where I am unable to see anything. The hot spots are still too far away. I think I will go down and open up an abysses on one of the goats. I am too exhausted to cut back more brush. Most of it has been cut away but this place has a lot of trees. There is not much more I can do but be vigilant and ready to move out if need be.
August 7 Day 10
I gave the older buck, Jonas, another bath and scrubbed away more dead skin and hair. He is looking a lot better. The new hair is growing back. And the wounds where the other bucks had attacked him are almost healed.
I have been giving him zinc and coconut oil in his feed and I am waiting for the supplements to arrive by UPS. But they will not come out here until Monday due to the fire. The little buckling with the abysses is also improving. The wound is drying up and have been giving him 2 cc of penicillin a day.
The day ended in that darkness that comes without the power.
I was watering the goats when the water stopped flowing. First I looked for kinks in the hose. None. I ran around looking to see if I left a hose bib on. There were no hose bibs draining out the water. Panic. Is my well pumping dry? The gauge says zero. No flow; no pressure Then I noticed that the light in the shop was out. I went inside and sure enough I had no power. As it turned out there was another fire in Sigler Canyon and a transformer blew up. One rumor had it that the transformer was hit with retardant. That night I read by headlamp until the power came on around 10:00p.m. I shut down the place hit the bed.
August 8 Day 11
I spent the day cleaning the house and unpacking the stuff I had grabbed to evacuate. Most of the space in the car had been taken up with a cage for the chickens, two carry cages for the cats and room of for the dogs. I had filled the rest of the space with things I thought were important. The hard drives and the computers made a lot of sense. The bag with the boots was probably practical as was the cash. The icons on the altar were for comfort. But the raven feathers? What was I thinking? Maybe they were to tie me to the earth. Soul food.
I use to have this all down. In Topanga I evacuated a number of times. I knew exactly what to grab after the animals were packed in the car. It was always the latest art project and irreplaceable things. But this time the car was too small and I am in between art projects. So I was stumped. This experience has taught me that I need to better organize my possessions and get focused on an art project.
At the end of the day I checked the satellite map again and noticed same seven little circles of hot spots in the south. Seven yellow dots may make a big difference on how this day plays out.