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.
The night of August 12, 2015
After burying Voice we returned to the Schmidt farm but there was more disaster to come. Winter, aka Little Hitler (she has a little black mustache and is a holy terror with the other animals at the Keep) had escaped her cage and was missing!
It seem that while I was trying to save my animals from the fire I was doing more damage by rescuing them. I had a bunch of escape artists on my hands.
August 13, 2015
I spent the morning feeding the animals and calling for the cat. I was hoping she was hiding somewhere among the berry vines and the out-buildings on the farm. But the only meowing was Brenda’s two cats still safely confined in their cage.
I helped Corky shuck some corn and washed dishes for Sharon. Although I think she really wanted to use the dishwasher.
Later Brenda I talked about our plan for the day. Originally I wanted to go back to see if I could still rescue my other cat, Tarnish. But after Winter escaped I was having second thoughts.
We decided to return to the valley. Brenda wanted to water her plants with her generator and I wanted to feed my other cat, Tarnish, and paint a target on my roof for the fire fighters.
At the mouth of the road going into the valley we stopped to study the fire map.
Brenda dropped me off at PsiKeep. I climbed the roof with cans of spray paint. In the valley below me I watched a lone fire truck driving out into the heart of the storm.
With the cans of spray paint I painted a target on my roof and I painted the words: NO FEAR. DROP WATER HERE!”
This was something I have been wanting to do for a long time. There was always one reason or another to put it off. I either did not have enough money to buy the paint or it was too hot or I wanted to wait until I got a compass big enough to make a perfect circle on the roof. What excuses. This fire force me to action. So what if I did not make a perfect circle. The important thing was that the helicopters are able to see it.
While I was waiting for Brenda to pick me up I had a chance to watch the fire from the rooftop. What a beautiful and monstrous thing it was. I could see subtle rainbows of ash against the dark smoke roiling up from the next leap into fresh fuel. The sky was exploding from raw orchre to burnt umber.
Another view of the fire from inside my living room window.
On the way out we saw the first signs thanking the firefighters.
August 17, 2015
We are home now. As we were packing to go home. Winter came out of hiding in the berry vines next to the cage she had escaped from. She had been there all along in spite of my calling her for several days. Just like a cat!
The dragon, awful in its splendor and destruction has laid down to rest on that thin sliver of space between heat and ignition waiting for the next chance to rise. Meanwhile the hills and canyons are covered with ash for miles to see. There is nothing but emptiness and the sun rising on the new day telling me I have to get in gear and wash that window.
And look, all is well again. UPS finally delivered my packages of supplements for the goats.
The night of August 9, 2015
That night we put Jonas and the little kid in one of the trailers and I walked back down the driveway to collect the remaining goats while friends and neighbors slowly backed the stock trailer down the drive behind me. The goats were frantic but they recognized me and I was able to lead them into the enclosed yard on the cement slab. I tethered the bucks and one by one we loaded them into the stock trailer. We made a chute out of the cattle panels in the driveway and herded the does and kids into the trailer.
The goats were taken to the Schmitz farm in the next town. After the animals had been unloaded and fed and watered I drove to the Red Cross Center set up at the high school where I work as a substitute. The chickens, the cat and both dogs were put into large cages and fed and watered.
The Red Cross Center was almost deserted and I was treated like royalty by the team, which had little to do especially at 12:00a.m. I was fed chocolate cake and sandwiches and I was starving.
Later as I lay on a cot in that vast dark gym with the smell of the freshly waxed floor I prayed and hoped that the fire did not spread into the valley below PsiKeep and that everyone’s home out there was safe.
August 10, 2015
The Red Cross was very accommodating but the rooster was crowing and my white German Shepherd was barking at everyone who entered the Red Cross center. So I thought it best that we move on. I was able to connect with Brenda and James who helped me with the goats the night before and we were invited to stay out the evacuation at the Schmidt farm in Lower Lake.
The dogs and I are living out of the back of the car for the next five days.
We set up a pen for the dogs and put my chickens into a coop out back. I fed and watered the goats and put the cat into a larger cage under the trees.
The first morning I helped Corky Schnidt butcher some chickens.
Later that morning Brenda and I set off to evacuate her chickens and remaining belongings she wanted to remove from her place.
We spent the day getting animal feed and supplies for the three of us so we would not be a burden on Sharon and Corky Schmidt.
When we returned later that afternoon we discovered that Voice, my little black dog had broken out of the pen and was last seen running down the street.
We drove off looking for her. We back-tracked down 29 to Spruce Grove where Day’s Plumbing use to be. We drove out Morgan Valley Road about two and half miles where I finally said “I don’t think she could have gone this far. She is over ten years old and does not get around a lot at PsiKeep.” But that was my mistake. We should have gone further. If we had only gone further up the road.
Two days later on August 12 we got our first lead from the Animal Emergency Center at Spruce Grove Road. The woman said that a report had come in about a dog fitting the description was sighted on Morgan Valley Road and Reif Road, out where the fire was still burning and the road was closed to through traffic. Brenda and I drove out there through miles of blistered hills black and burned out desolation as far as the eye could see.
When we reached the fire crew they told us they had seen the dog but someone had hit her and dragged the body to the shoulder of the road about two miles back.
We found her body about four miles out of Lower Lake. She must have traveled that far before getting hit. She was alone, terrified and struck down probably in the dark when a driver could not see a black dog traveling along the road.
We brought her back to PsiKeep that day and buried her in a hasty grave by the bones of her old buddy Jaffa who died four years before. I will come back when this is over and do the marker right. Now it is just a chain link kennel panel lying on the ground to keep the animals from digging her back up.
To be Continued…
August 9th, 2015
A day of Yurga begins like any other day but on the day come the ending and the re-beginning of the world.
The Rocky fire had burned 69,636 acres and was 70% contained.
It was a clear day out here. I decided to work on some of the rune circles I am building to put on the side of the house and the out buildings.
I could hear the helicopters flying overhead and heady equipment still coming down the road above me. I did not think very much about that. Funny how we can get use to almost everything including the sounds of a distant battle being waged.
But the call I got from my neighbor changed everything. He called to say there was a fire down in the canyon below the drop off at the east end of the valley. I went out on the porch to look and saw a tiny wisp of smoke in the east.
Within ten minutes the smoke had turned into this.
And within less than an hour into this.
This was a monster roiling out of the canyon.
Once again I started packing. I called the chickens into the kennel with some food and caught them one by one, stuffing them into the cage in the back of the car. I caught Little Hitler, the cat and got her into a carryall. I grabbed the same stuff: sketches, the book project, hard drives and computers, the altar icons. I even re-packed the raven feathers.
I kept calling for help to transport the goats. But no one was responding. The fire was sweeping up the slope of the hills at the east end of the valley about two miles away. At dusk they came to tell me to get out. I told the sheriff I was packed and ready to go but waiting for help with the goats. It was getting dark and no one was coming.
Finally I grabbed Jonas, the older buck, and tethered him to the side mirror of the car. I managed to grab one of the kids and threw her on top of the dogs in the car. I turned the other goats free and set off up the driveway. Some of the goats ran after me for a short way but then turned back. Slowly I made my way up the driveway leading Jonas while the kid and dogs were scrambling across my belongings in the back of the car.
Suddenly I could see Jonas was not following behind. I stopped the car afraid he was collapsing. But what I discovered was worse. He had caught his horn in the wheel well. I got out and tried to get the tip of his horn free. But the curve of his horn was just the right shape and size of that space for the wheel.
At last I was able to work the tip of his horn free and we set off once again with the fire raging at our backs.
I got to the top of the drive way just as help arrived.
To be continued…
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.