Fire Storm

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(Image by Chris Pugh, Photographer. https://twitter.com/chrispugh)

October 12, 2017

It’s 2:00 PM and I’m sitting in a bar in Ukiah, California listening to the Fire Bombers roar overhead. Ten miles away, a fire burns out of control, destroying homes and families. Like so many in my neighborhood right now, I’m hiding in my local watering hole with a glass of wine in my hand watching the news on the TV’s. So far, none of the news reports mention Mendocino County. We are too far beyond the San Francisco Bay Area and we all feel forgotten.

South of us, in Sonoma County, fires rage as well. Northern Santa Rosa, a city of 170,000 people, has burned. Entire neighborhoods have been flattened and thousands of people evacuated. Devastation in the Wine Country, the news reporters say. It is frightening and sad and I am sick with fear for all those people. But I understand why my neighbors in this bar are tired of hearing all the news south of us.

Mendocino County is on fire too. Why hasn’t anyone mentioned that? 

On the other end of the bar, a man is slowly getting drunk while waiting to hear if his house burned down. A woman is collecting donations to feed horses evacuated to the fairgrounds. A teacher is crying because several of her students are now homeless. Everyone is hungry for information. Which roads are closed? Is Ukiah in danger? Has anyone heard from Andy? Or Lucinda. Is her family okay? A dog was found badly burned but alive; anyone looking for a black lab?

The bartender fills pint glasses and mixes drinks. She asks if I want another glass of wine. I shake my head. It’s time to go to the market and get supplies, just in case Hwy 101 closes and there are shortages. Everyone is surprised the power is still on. We all wonder for how much longer.

For now, Ukiah is safe. The town is filling with evacuees from Redwood Valley and Potter Valley. There are firetrucks and personnel everywhere and I know they will do whatever it takes to protect our vital airport. Ash falls and smoke burns our eyes, but the fires are burning away from us. We are safe. We are safe… I say this every night as I tuck my daughter into bed at night.

Fire and Flood in the Places I Love

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image via CNN.com

Louisiana. So much water… a luxury to this drought weary California girl who spent a week there visiting the in-laws. I swam in their pool and then took long, hot, guilt free showers. It rained every day and I cheered every time. Even when the thunder and lightning chased us inside, I grinned watching buckets of rain overrun gutters and trenches.

We left the day before the flooding started. If I had known, I wouldn’t have cheered so much when it rained. Right now a large portion of the state is flooding after historic heavy rains. One more flood. One more lost home.

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photo via ABC10 news

In Lake County right now, the town of Lower Lake is burning because of the Clayton Fire. I grew up in Lake County and still love that impoverished, isolated, rural county. My heart is broken for the thousands who are hiding out in shelters, not knowing if they have a home to go back to. Last year Middletown caught fire and most of Cobb Mountain burned. Thousands were homeless. The county was just starting to recover, and now this.

The air in Louisiana smells like green grass and moss. Water drips from tree branches even when the sun shines. The ground stays damp and when I walked on my mother-in-law’s back lawn my feet got drenched in muddy water.

In California, the air tastes like matches. The ground is so thirsty, when I walk in my back yard dust rises with every step. This was a good year for rain, but it wasn’t enough to make up for 5 years of drought.

Whatever water gods there might be, send some of that Louisiana rain to Lake County.

No more luxurious showers; I bathe with my feet in my daughter’s tepid bath water while I quickly rinse off with the shower nozzle. I dream of Spanish moss and dragon flies and damp air.

Do people in Louisiana dream of hard earth and dust storms?