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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.
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.