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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.
August 3: Day 6
This is the image you want to see in the sky these days.
The fire has grown to 66,000 acres and is 12% contained which means it is still out of control.
Each day begins clear again but as soon as the wind picks up the dragon is on the run.
The southern end of the fire just keeps re-igniting. The tail of this dragon just will not lay down.
Today is scary. At 3:55p.m. the wind is all over the place today.
The dragon continues to lumber north chewing through the dry chaparral and dry timber. By the afternoon it has jumped Hwy 20.
August 4, Day 7
The Rocky fire is 67,000 acres and 20% contained. The fire is as large as the city of San Francisco.
Today started like any other day The satellite fire map indicted we were down to only one hot spot. Yeah!
But then I got a call from a neighbor who said we were on Mandatory evacuation. And I just brought the goats back home last night!
I have no images. There was no one to take pictures of me running around with a chain saw cutting down the vegetation close to the house and around the upper trailer. By the end of the day I was too exhausted to shower. I fed the animals and fell on the bed asleep.
If this place goes at least I gave it my best shot.
August 5th: Day 8
Still cutting brush on PsiKeep. My summer was measured by this length of brush cut and stacked for the county chipping crew to chip it up for me. Right now is seems like a big liability with all this dry brush stacked along the upper drive.
But at the end of the day the county chipping crew arrived.
A big weight off my shoulders. It felt like such a relief to be watching someone else handling all the brush. I stood in the living room with a cold glass of hard cider as I watched all my summer efforts turn to saw dust.
After the crew has left I looked out over the area below the upper trailer and see nothing but saw dust on the ground where that 100 foot pile of tinder had been stacked.
Tonight I slept well but the fire is still burning and 43 residents from this fire have burned to the ground.
August 2: Day 5
The fire has spread to 54,000 acres and is 5% contained which means it is still totally out of control. The latest report from Cal Fire says that the estimated containment is August 10.
Today the wind is blowing out of the south-west and to the north-east. This is good for me but the fire advancing toward Hwy 20 and Hwy 16. All the residents in the north-east end of the county are in great trouble. I also think of the horrendous suffering that must be taking place for all the wildlife trapped in this fire.
I pray to the Goddess for mercy for all living things in front of the fire and for the homes of the people who are in its path.
Things are getting tedious out here. I am constantly on the alert. I had to unpack the car because I have to bring hay to the goats twice a day. The boxes are stacked around the house in case I have to quickly load them back into the car.
I have to ask myself why am I staying here with the imminent threat of fire. Around me most everyone has left. They return only to feed their animals. I find this totally abhorrent. If it is too dangerous to stay why leave your animals? What do you think is going to happen if the fire reaches them? So I stay because it is more comfortable here than at a hotel. I stay because I have no place to put the animals. The goats are taken care of. They have been evacuated. But the 8 chickens, 2 cats and 2 dogs and one old San Clemente buck will fill my car. I stay because this is home and I want to protect it as long as I can. I know that if the fire is coming I will have to get out of here. With all these trees I cannot hope to save this place at the end. But I will stay as long as I safely can.
Meanwhile little is getting done. Most of the day is spent driving out to feed the goats where they are evacuated. The car is holding together but I have to fill it with coolant before I leave each time or it will overheat. Sometimes I can catch a little sleep but mostly I am on the edge ready to make the call to abandon this place.
PG&E has come by and sprayed all the power poles with red fire-retardant.
The fire department put up a sign that says Road Closed To Thru Traffic. Of course this road does not go thru so they must have borrowed the sign from some other road. I was stopped once by one of the firemen at the road sign. I had to show him my electric bill with the street address on it. After that they recognized me enough to wave me through.
The first image in this post was taken from the driveway this evening on August 2, 2015. See you all tomorrow.
August 1: Day 4
This morning on the 4th day I heard a strange pattering. I thought there was something wrong with the printer. I was fumbling around with the cables when I realized, IT WAS RAINING.
For a few extraordinary moments the rain washed the ashes off of the porch then disappeared like moth into the morning. Out in the wasteland the dragon slumbered on embers in the burnt out canyons waiting for the wind to raise it back to life. Meanwhile it looked like a good day and I thought maybe I can bring home some goats.
I went to feed the herd and get some supplies. It took me most of the day. As I was unloading the car I noticed two firemen from Cal Fire parked in the middle of the road out in the valley. Were they stationed to keep people from driving back into the evacuation zone? But they were parked the wrong way. Later I saw that they were gone and I could only surmise that they had gotten lost.
By the time I went to feed the goats in the evening things had shifted for the worst.
In the dark sky plumes were rising from spot fires. By night fall the dragon was simpering in the wasteland. All was strangely silent. The aerial defense had retreated for the night and the glow from the distant fire was the only sign of the horrors enveloping out there.
July 29, 2015. I looked up from my writing to see a mushroom cloud through the trees outside my window. This was beginning of the Rock fire.
I walked up the drive and saw that there were two fires burning in the north. One was a spot fire that must have developed quickly because it was almost the size of the original fire by the time I took this image.
By nightfall another dragon was born.
Before dark I began to set up evacuation plans. I used Facebook to try to find someone who would take the goats. While I was waiting for a response I began prepping the place as best I could. I dropped the tarps and swept out the rain gutters and the roofs of the main house and the outbuildings, climbing around in the dark while the dragon rolled and churned through the wilderness in the north.
Using a lamp strapped to my head I caught one cat and got her into a cage. I made room in the back of my broken down Subaru for two cat cages and a cage for the chickens. I began packing and loading the car with hard drives, the alter, the latest project, irreplaceable items, a pair of boots, notes and printed versions of the book. The things one takes when looting your life in the face of a fire.
By the time I got several responses for places to put the goats I was exhausted. I was beyond exhausted. My heart was pounding in my chest and my knees were turning into jello and the first flames were spilling over the crest of the ridge.
On the road above I could hear the neighbors driving out with their horse trailers. The night was strangely quite. I felt like I was one of the left behind. Spot fires were burning on the ridge in the north.
I have to thank the couple who came to my rescue, although it did not end well. They managed to back their 20 foot horse trailer down the drive. We worked until 5:00 a.m. getting all the San Clemente goats into that trailer.
I managed to get an hour of sleep before the sun came up.
Morning brought a clear sky on Day 2.
The person who took the goats could not keep them so I spent the day finding another place for them to stay. By the time I got home it was armageddon all over again. The dragon was loose on the world.
The fire fighters put up a brave fight with the aerial bombing of fire-retardant. By dark all was quiet.
Sunrise Day 3.
The day was so clear I thought I could see if I could find someone with a truck to bring the goats home. But by the time I finished feeding the evacuated goats out where they were staying the smoke had returned.
I am back at PsiKeep writing this blog. The road is closed. The fire is running to the north by northwest. I am going to stop now to see if I can get out to feed the goats at the end of the day. I will probably load the car again with all the stuff I have chosen to evacuate and take the animals with me. If I can get back in I will to try to stay here as long as I safely can.