[display_podcast]Hey KZST—drop Delilah and hire Ted Williams!(Video courtesy Columbus Dispatch)
Who Knew? There are 46 registered Tea Party members in the Bay Area and they're hosting Fiorina tomorrow at the MV Community Center. No media allowed. CA Nurses are protesting. Here are some deets:
Nurses, environmentalists, and other workers will protest a no-media-allowed event Senate candidate Carly Fiorina is holding Friday, Sept. 10 in Marin that they say symbolizes how the ex-CEO is “too extreme for California” and out of touch with the needs of California families. Fiorina is speaking to a private strategy meeting called by Bay Area Tea Party leaders. Supporters of the protest include the California Nurses Association and the North Bay Central Labor Council.
What: Protest Carly “Too Extreme for California” Fiorina
When: Friday, Sept. 10, 11:45 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Where: Mill Valley Community Center, 180 Camino Alto, Mill Valley, Calif.
Nurses at the event will also continue their efforts to present Fiorina with a certificate lauding her award by Portfolio Magazine as one of the 20 Worst CEOs in American History.
whither the wine tasting
Go north on Highway One through the little town of Jenner. At the end of town, pull over in to one of the turnouts to take in the awesome sight of the Russian River's entrance into the ocean, Goat Rock to the south, seals, gulls, pelicans, surfers at the river mouth. Continue north as the road follows the coast, looping down through two small gulches, then rising up again onto a straightaway. To your right are the newly protected Jenner Headlands.
Just after the entrance to Muniz Ranch, you will see a steep ridge rising ahead. This is our destination, the first ridge in from the coast, rising rapidly to 1,600 feet, marking the end of the mountain building more than a 100 million years ago when the spreading ocean floor was subducted under the continental edge. Here the San Andreas Fault comes ashore again, paralleling Highway One. As the road snakes up the ridge with hairpin turns, blind curves, steep drop-offs, and few guardrails, take in the breath-taking and sometimes terrifying views of ocean and cliffs, coastal grasslands and brush rising into oak, redwood, fir, bay laurel, buckeye, madrone and maple. Keep your eye out for the wildlife that live here: hawks, vultures, owls, rabbits, foxes, raccoons, deer, coyotes, bobcats, and mountain lions.
About 4.4 miles north of Jenner, the Meyers Grade turnoff is on the right. Notice the advisory against trucks and trailers. You are now at 600 feet. While the road winding and rising before you may seem mild compared to the dramatic stretch of seacoast you have just navigated, beware. In the 2.6 miles to our destination, the land rises on an 18 percent grade. Engines overheat on the way up, brakes on the way down. It is an unforgiving road, with many blind curves, no shoulders, and often blanketed in a dense, zero visibility fog.
You have seen no commercial establishments since Jenner—just the coast, parkland and ranchland. The road is fenced for grazing cattle and horses but sometimes fences break. Watch out for leaping deer. As the climb gets steeper, passengers can look back at the sweeping view behind them. On a clear day you can see Bodega Head and beyond that, Point Reyes. Not so long ago, this road was a trail. For thousands of years, this was the land of the Kashaya who called themselves "The Keepers of the Land."At 2.6 miles from Highway One you will see on the right the gate to 15001 Meyers Grade, the site of Fort Ross Vineyards' planned retail tasting room and events facility. The 6,000 square-foot tasting room would be open year round without an appointment. The owners have also asked for 18 special events with 200 people. Despite strong community opposition, the Board of Zoning Adjustments approved the permit, reducing events to 10 with 100 people. The owner can apply in one year to have this restriction lifted.An ad hoc group of residents is appealing that decision before the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, Sept. 21, at 2:10pm. This ridge-top is a non-commercial, rural, residential, water scarce area, designated a scenic resource. It is a high risk fire zone, with dangerous, barely maintained roads and already stretched thin emergency services. The costs to the local community and environment must be weighed against the supposed benefits of increased tax revenues and one-and-a-half tasting room jobs. Is this an appropriate place for the sale and serving of alcoholic beverages, sometimes to large groups of visitors?
More than two and a half million visitors a year come to the Sonoma Coast to directly experience the power and beauty of nature, hiking, camping, fishing, surfing and cycling in this magnificent, unique and fragile ecosystem. Wine tasting open to the public and large events emphasizing alcohol consumption, where they are not now permitted, would be an unprecedented and dangerous intrusion and belong in established commercial areas on major, well maintained, roads, such as Highway One and Highway 116.Written comments can be submitted to: Permit and Resource Management Department , 2550 Ventura Ave., Santa Rosa, CA 95403. Contact Cynthia Demidovich at 707.565.1754 or via email to firstname.lastname@example.org.Susan Kennedy is a poet who has lived in West Sonoma County since 1982.
The Russian River Community Trust Fund of Community Foundation Sonoma County is accepting applications from nonprofit organizations for projects serving communities along the western end of the Russian River, from Forestville west to the ocean.
The Trust will award grants for capital projects, equipment purchases or projects of a one-time nature. The maximum grant will be $5,000. Grant applications are due by July 15, 2010. To discuss a possible grant, please call Robert Judd at the Community Foundation: (707) 579-4073.
The Non-GMO Project is a non-profit collaboration of food producers, retailers and agricultural suppliers united in the belief that consumers deserve to make informed choices about products with genetically modified ingredients.“The Non-GMO seal emphasizes our commitment to being stewards of sustainability,” says Albert Straus, President of Straus Family Creamery. “Our consumers rely on us to provide a clear alternative to industrially produced dairy products.”
According to the Non-GMO Project (www.nongmoproject.org), GMOs have been in widespread use for nearly a decade, with steadily increasing risk of contamination to seeds, crops, ingredients and products. There is currently no standardized set of best practices in use to identify and stop contamination.
On April 27, 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case of Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms – the first time the issue of genetically engineered (GE) crops has reached the nation’s highest court. The court’s decision will have broad implications for U.S. producers, consumers and the organic food industry. Straus Family Creamery has joined the case as a friend of the court to support the cause.
In 2006, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. They were subsequently sued by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) in federal court on the grounds that the approval was premature without a proper analysis of the potential effects the crop may have on the ecosystem. The court ruled in favor of the CFS and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA had fully analyzed the impacts of the plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in a rigorous analysis known as an environmental impact statement (EIS). Monsanto has repeatedly appealed this decision, and CFS has successfully defended it. Monsanto’s most recent appeal will be heard in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Straus has been an outspoken advocate to protect the integrity of the organic standards by ensuring that GMOs stay out of organic food. “The release of genetically engineered alfalfa will be devastating to the organic dairy industry,” says Straus. Historically, in many cases, contamination of organic crops by genetically engineered ones has caused widespread collapse of organic or non-GE markets in the United States and abroad. “The organic dairy industry is growing and right now small organic family farms are able to sustain themselves,” notes Straus. “The continued viability of this industry depends on the availability of certified organic alfalfa hay.”
Straus Family Creamery consistently provides the highest quality, best-tasting, organic milk, yogurt, butter, and ice cream, all made with minimal processing and wholesome ingredients. Straus Family Creamery bases its business decisions on environmental and ecological considerations, which support the philosophy of sustainable, organic family farming, for the health and well being of the company, its producers, employees and the community.
Every man got a right to decide his own destiny,
And in this judgment there is no partiality.
To divide and rule could only tear us apart;
In everyman chest, there beats a heart.
-"Zimbabwe", Bob Marley & the Wailers, 1979
Everyman fi have a gal
and every gal grab a man
man to man, gal to gal, that's wrong
-"Rampin' Shop", Vybz Kartel featuring Spice, 2009
Moving on in a meaningful way us just what LGBT leaders tried at the historic meeting with Buju Banton back on October 12th in Larkspur's Courtyard Hotel. Hopes were high for the meeting called by San Francisco City Supervisor Bevan Dufty, what with the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that same week and President Obama's equally noteworthy speech on gay rights. But alas, after a 45-minute dialogue - in which he again said he does no longer performs the song- no resolution was reached and the protest outside the Rockit Room was to go on as planned. He did at one point say, "I don't advocate violence, Rastafari is not about that."
That night, a blast of pepper spray near the stage (which activist groups deny orchestrating) quelled any hopes for progress. "As I said in one of my songs 'there is no end to the war between me and faggot'," Banton told a Jamaican talk show the next day. "After I met with them, they pepper-sprayed the concert. So what are you trying to tell me? I owe dem nothing, they don't owe I nothing."
In response to the meeting attendees' request that Banton hold a town meeting in Kingston on the importance of respecting gays, he confirmed his stance: "Them come with demands, which I and I a go flop dem right now," he said, "because give thanks to my culture and upbringing I coulda never endorse them things. I can't sell myself out, neither would I do that in a thousand years."
Perhaps no one in the world knows more about the "golden age of reggae" of the ‘60s and ‘70s than Roger Steffens, founding editor of "The Beat" magazine and chairman of the Reggae Grammy Committee since it started in 1984. Chances are you've read his liner notes, seen him as a talking head on TV, or have heard of his "Life of Bob Marley" exhibit, which has graced countless museums internationally over the past 25 years. The gargantuan collection of his memorabilia (which he's collected since 1973) fills six rooms of his Los Angeles home, which has become an essential SoCal stop for reggae fans and artists alike. Recent visitors include fan Leonardo DiCaprio and musicians Ini Kimoze & Inner Circle. Like many, the Vietnam veteran got into reggae as a disillusioned rock fan."In the ‘70s, after the lawyers and the accountants had taken over the business, I was looking for something that had the great harmonies of doo-wop, but also had the spiritual & political awareness of the best of the 60s," remembers 67-year-old Steffens, an early rock n' roll fan who was raised on Alan Freed. After spending the end of the ‘60s as a soldier in Vietnam, Steffens lived in Berkeley where a Rolling Stone article piqued his curiosity about an exciting new island sound." I went down to Pellucidar Books on Shattuck Avenue and I bought a used Catch a Fire," he recalls. "The next night, I went to the little Northside Theatre and saw The Harder They Come, and bought the soundtrack at Rasputin's on the way home. From those two days, my life changed forever."
Having visited Jamaica regularly since 1976, Steffens is well aware of the island's long-standing opinion of gays. "It has always been a very homophobic society, party through the influence of the fundamentalist churches, even the church of England," he says. "And it's only been in the past 20 years that it's become more blatant, what with the rise of the dancehall music."
As chairman of the Reggae Grammy Committee, Steffens has led the effort to have two categories, one for dancehall and one for roots reggae, which he insists rings truer to the more utopian hey day. "We make a great distinction between the roots artists and the dancehall artists; they're really two separate forms of music; the rhythms are different," he says. "I've been trying for years to break the category up into two, but there's just not enough sales to warrant it in America. The terrible thing from a musical point of view is that everyone in reggae music gets tarred with this homophobic brush."
Despite Jamaica's national motto "Out of Many, One People", it's clear that "Murder Music" reflects the current state of Jamaica, which remains plagued by extreme poverty, the spread of AIDS, and homicide. As recently as 2005, the island nation had the highest murder rate in the world (and still averages one murder every six hours).
On the issue at hand, in late July 2008, a poll was conducted that asked "Whether or not you agree with their ‘lifestyle', do you think homosexuals are entitled to the same basic rights and privileges as other people in Jamaica?" Of the respondents, only 26% said "yes," with 70% saying "no", and 4% undecided. Another survey revealed 96% of Jamaicans were opposed to any move to legalize homosexual relations.
(No wonder that Banton looked as diplomatically stone-faced as Bill Clinton in North Korea in all the meeting photos. In all fairness, he's likely in just as much danger if he sympathizes.)"The challenge is that the violence [gays and lesbians] face is one that is culturally and socially sanctioned and expected," says Jason MacFarlane of to J-FLAG, Jamaica's LGBT rights organization. In addition to widespread reports of the police condoning the violence against gays and taking part in it themselves, Prime Minister Bruce Golding himself was quotes as saying "homosexuals would find no solace in any cabinet" he formed.
MacFarlane sees this as evidence that the homophobia in Jamaica is not merely a result of being uneducated. "Even the "well schooled" display their own level of homophobia openly or are pressured to because it is expected," he says, "and this creates further discrimination for the LGBT members of society."
Even more amazing is Prime Minister Golding's use of TOK's aforementioned "Chi Chi Man" during his 2001 campaign against incumbent P.J. Patterson, the victim of a whispering campaign to spread rumors of his sexuality. Some critics even referred to him as "P.J. Battyson" instead of his actual name. Although Portia Simpson-Miller was first female prime minister after he stepped down, the deeply macho country has a long way to go."This is an island-wide phenomenon and has gotten worse in terms of the number of instances of and extent of harm that is perpetrated on this minority group," says MacFarlane. "Thankfully the music has gotten less violent over the years, but we have seen the use of slang to show their disapproval of gays and lesbians."
That same year that J-Flag founder Brian Williamson was murdered, JGN publisher and editor Larry Chang had to seek political asylum in the U.S. The next year, a friend of Williamson's, AIDS education activist Lenford "Steve" Harvey was not so lucky. He was dragged from his house by armed men who repeatedly asked "Are you battyman?" before being shot to death on the eve of World AIDS Day.
Regarding the meeting in Larkspur, MacFarlane echoes Andrea Shorter's sense of clarity. "J-FLAG is under no illusion that Mr. Myrie [Buju Banton's real name is Mark Anthony Myrie] or other DJs of his ilk will ever be minded to produce music that preaches the dignity of all life, including that of gays and lesbians," he says. "The fact that he sat and met with some members of the GLBT community in SF is worthy of note. The fact that nothing came out of it, not even an agreement to say let us continue the dialogue, says a whole lot more.""No agreement can be reached between Mr. Myrie and the gay community until he desists from publicly performing ‘Boom Bye-Bye' and repudiates the call for the murder of gay and lesbian Jamaicans," MacFarlane goes on to say. "Anything less is mere farce and a public relations stunt to garner support for his music."
Gary Pratt of Sonoma, 19, is a huge fan of Buju Banton and Sizzla. The Reggae Rising regular was devoted enough to watch the Fairfax show from the street since he was underage. Pratt doesn't agree with the violent views toward gays, but points to appreciation of art. "You don't have to agree with everything they're singing, it's just music and they say their thoughts through music," he says. "My friends pretty much feel the same way. No one takes their stances on things to heart too much. They're from a completely different culture from us."
This justification comes up again and again, but where does it end? The KKK, Neo Nazis, people who perform the clitorectomy, purveyors of child sex slaves, they all come from a "different culture". So do our parents. So do our children. Why all this pussyfooting and financial empowerment when it comes to English-speaking musicians a few hundred miles east of Miami who actively perpetuate a deadly environment for gays? We throw the book of public opinion at other religious zealots, from Islamic terrorists to those who perform honor killings and kill abortion doctors. Is the Roman Polanski syndrome at play with these musicians? Would Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visits still be protested if he sang how the holocaust never happened in a kick-ass dancehall jam?
A better guess is the "white guilt" phenomenon. After all, Jamaica was introduced to Christianity through European colonialism. This occurrence surely came into play back when Eminem was protested for homophobic lyrics while African-American rappers were ignored."If somebody stood up on stage with a white sheet on his head and saying the same thing, we would be up in arms," says Shorter, who thinks the theory could hold water. "Sometimes there's an inclination to excuse ignorance and hatred of other minority groups because they haven't had a fair shake themselves, but Mr. Banton is a world-traveled man. You're a man of the world at this point, so you can't have it both ways."
Tatchell has been accused of racism for years because of his efforts against "Murder Music", even though he's trying to help save other black Jamaicans. "Would these venues host a concert by a neo-Nazi singer who called for the murder of black and Jewish people?" asks Tatchell, who's also been labeled "the next Tipper Gore"."This is not a free speech issue; incitement to murder is a criminal offence in Jamaica and the U.S., and free speech does not include the right to incite the killing of other human beings," he reminds. "The criterion for opposing incitements to homophobic murder should, in my opinion, be the same as for incitements to racist murder - zero tolerance for both."
Most reggae fans I've encountered seemingly ignore their direct consumer/supplier relationship with reggae artists. What does voting against Prop 8 mean when a given person also financially supports the perpetuation of such discrimination?"Certainly the power is in the hands of the consumer," says Jason MacFarlane of J-Flag. "The challenge is when the consumer is unaware of the lyrics being sung and the impact they have had and continue to have on a society."
History has proven that in a democratic society, our only power lies in our voice and our consumer dollar. And in every struggle for equality, from slave emancipation and women's suffrage to civil rights and disabled rights, there have been those seemingly unaffected throngs whose compliance with "the way it is" eventually becomes complicity.
Whether or not you admit it, the gay rights movement is the civil rights struggle of our time. The President knows it, and 10-year-old future-lawyer Will Phillips knows it. Reggae fans and all citizens need to decide which side of history they - and their money - want to be on.
Haile Selassie, Jah Rastafari to his followers, said it best himself: "Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted; the indifference of those who should have known better; the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most; that has made it possible for evil to triumph."––David Sason
*To find out how you can help LGBT people in Jamaica, please visit www.jflag.org.To learn more about Roger Steffens and "The Life of Bob Marley" exhibit, visit www.reggaesupersite.com.For music and upcoming tour dates for Pato Banton, please visit www.patobanton.com.
This is fairly shocking and unprecedented news from the county library system. Here's a paste-in of the press release:The Sonoma County Library Plans 10-Day Closure
All 13 libraries in the Sonoma County Library system will be closed from 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve through Sunday, January 3, 2010, to help make up for a budget shortfall. The Library’s website and all online services also will be shut down during this time period. Details of the closure and instructions for cardholders about returning and renewing library materials will be available online and at the libraries by mid-November.
The Library, which gets 90 percent of its income from property taxes, needs to cut its operating budget by $1.7 million this fiscal year to make up for a shortfall in tax revenues. The Library Commission voted to close the libraries for 10 days in an effort to avoid layoffs.“We know that people love their libraries and are dependent on the services we offer and that closing the libraries over the holidays will be a hardship,” said Library Director Sandy Cooper. “But we decided it would be better to close for 10 days rather than lay off staff or eliminate programs.”
The tragedy of Jeremiah's Chass' murder by two Sonoma County sheriff deputies comes to an uneasy close with the news today that the Chass family has settled out of court with the county of Sonoma for $1.75 million. A good portion of that will go to fund their youngest son's college costs; a good portion of course to attorney Pat Emery; none of it will bring 16-year-old Jeremiah back to life.
On March 12, 2007, Jeremiah's parents knew that their 127-pound son, the product of a black father and white mother, was having an episode of mental decompensation. They had tried to find mental health help for him the night before to no avail. That Monday morning, they tried the old-fashioned method of getting their son some help. They called the fire department. Which routed it to the police department. Which routed the call to the sheriff's department. Which officers shot their son 11 times, beat him around the head, neck and buttocks, killed him, and then handcuffed him, put electronic paddles to his heart and attempted to restart his breathing by inserting a tube down his throat. They then stripped him nude and transported him to the hospital, dead dead dead. His autopsy and my thoughts prompted by it are here.
In their recounting of the timeline, not posted online but re-parsed in the print edition, the Press Democrat got the facts just kinda wrong. Again. What is more than irritating but downright chilling are the community comments accompanying the online edition, most of the rabid posters casting the Chass family as money-grubbers who lost their boy but gained some bucks. My gorge rises. When I last spoke to attorney Emery, he promised that a full court case would reveal a shocking breadth of incompetence by Sonoma County Sheriff Department officers. He warned that the bad facts as we know them are nothing compared to the bad facts as we don't know them. The $1.75 mill came from insurance monies set up to protect the county government; this money is no skin to Sheriff/Coroner Bill Cogbill or to county supervisors. What is skin to them is a full revelation of what what went down on the morning of March 12, 2007, and how badly our officers failed to protect and to serve.
As for the Chass family, it's easy to understand why they may have made the regrettable decision to avoid a jury trial. Yvette Chass, Jeremiah's mother, has assiduously avoided all media glare since her son's murder; Mark Chass has only regretfully appeared. With nine people subsequently killed by Sonoma County officers since Jeremiah's death, a full trial would be sure to shine under a bright squall of attention and outrage. They're still just trying to heal and provide a normal, quiet existence for their grade school son.
But attention and outrage are what we as citizens should continue to foster. We can't save Jeremiah Chass nor heal the Chass family, but we can act out in public to let the authorities know that his death and the death of nine subsequent people, is unacceptable—yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Catherine from Graton forwards this message from a friend recounting how he and his wife fled from, survived and found a miracle in last week's Tea Fire.Blessings of the BodhisattvasFinding meaning in the Santa Barbara wildfires
By Gary Hill
It was about 5pm on Thursday, just getting dark, and Helena reminded me that the full moon rise the previous night had been spectacular. Tonight we should make sure to see it from our front balcony looking out over the ocean and the chain of mountains running North east along the coast of Santa Barbara.
A siren sounds up in the hills but close by. Helena says it feels like fire. Warm sun-downer winds gusting hard against the patio doors pop one open with a bang. Startled, our dog Loki barks. Helena goes to see the moon rise and calls urgently. We look out at a bright orange plume of fire, 20 feet high, up on the ridgeline two miles to the northeast. The wind is blowing down the canyon, the flames flick and jump into the air.
Helena springs into action. “We need to evacuate, now! Where is the list of what we need to take?” I try to calm and assure her. The fire is moving away from us. There has been no order to evacuate, but to pacify her, I stoically start into action. Pack the computers, the photos and the camera. Calls start to fly in. Helena’s friend network is in full cry. I am annoyed and tell her, “If you are going to pack, pack. Take the portrait of your mother. Put it in the camper.” I check to see if the camper starts. Helena is grabbing the silver, the contents of the safe, her grandmother’s plates. Loki is anxious. Helena is frantic. I put my work in the brief case but don’t close it. I expect to do more work after things calm down.
Helena’s energy propels us forward. The camper is packed haphazardly with random keepsakes. I grab a duffel and toss in the most precious of our Buddhist art and a Tibetan rug. At the last minute, I stop in front of the jade quan yin just purchased to honor the birth of our first grandchild. Should I take her to keep her safe or leave her to protect the house? I am leaving lots of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and quan yin’s behind, sitting on altars and standing guard in doorways, patios and gardens. I grab the jade. There is really no reason to leave. The fire is to the east of us but now is a long line stretching like an arrow toward the south. Its light dwarfs the brilliant moon above it. I feel no sense of hurry and no sense that what we are leaving behind will be lost. I throw my bike in the station wagon and Helena and I set off in tandem for our friends the Pollocks; we hosted them for three days when they evacuated from fire in July.
At the first main street, we hit a gridlock of people coming down. I curse my poor route choice as I sit in the camper for an hour listening to talk radio. Some girl calls in saying she is at Westmont College and there are buildings on fire. That is a mile and a ridge away. We arrive at the Pollocks at about 6:30pm. The TV is on. The fire is on the other side of the canyon and I want to go back, get the Porsche out and grab a change of underwear. Helena becomes hysterical. “You are not going back!” I tell her if no one will drive me, I will ride my bike back.
Finally she says, “If you are going, I am going with you. We set out for the 15 minute drive back to the house. Helena is seething. Barely able to speak. “This is insane. We are going to run out of gas. We are going to be caught in traffic.” I keep telling her, “We are not in any danger here, there is no fire in sight. Breathe.” We wind up Mission Ridge. The streets are deserted. No fire in sight. As we crest the top of Mission Ridge, Helena says, “I guess I am going to have to say I am sorry.”
We pull around the corner to Conjeo Road, a quarter mile from our house down in the canyon. We are met by fire trucks. The house just ahead is fully in flames. Helena screams, “Turn around!” Conjeo is right in front of us. It is dark, but dropping down into the canyon toward the fire when it has already jumped to the top behind us is insane. We turn around. I am certain our house is lost and angry with myself at not having gone back earlier and taken out more stuff.
Back at the Pollocks, the TV shows video of the fire now spreading over hundreds of acres with one of its brightest spots the ridge line just above our house. We see helicopter video of a large house totally engulfed in flames, only its dark skeleton showing through the glowing red. It looks like ours, but I can’t be sure.
A sleepless night. Remembering all the things I didn’t take. What I could have done with an hour and a mind-set of “take it or lose it to the fire.” Then switching to the future tense: What to do. I do not even have a change of underwear. Helena rubs my back. Tells me everything that is important is right here. Loki snarffles at the foot of the bed and I try to be present with my breath. Wait for first light.
There are morning calls from the kids. They have been up all night following the fire on the Internet. A hundred-plus homes have been lost and Conjeo Road was the center of the destruction. Our house is certainly gone. Daughter Ashley gamely says we can all have Thanksgiving at her apartment.
Then a call from our friend Norm who lives a mile from our house on the “safe” side of the ridge. Despite the evacuation orders, he has stayed and has been up all night protecting his house. It is 6am and he is now over at ours with his nephew. The good news is that it is unscathed but surrounded by smoldering fire on all four sides. They are wetting down the embers with garden hoses. Norm tells me a back way around the barricades. The house is dead center in the middle of the mandatory evacuation zone and the CHP is stopping all traffic.
Helena and I drive off to the house with a bike in the back in case the car is stopped. Helena is doing her best to control hysteria. “This is crazy.” We are idiots for driving back into the fire zone. We are not allowed here. She almost loses it as we pass a series of fire trucks fighting a structure fire on a windy back road—I tell her to breathe. No one tells us to stop. We are around the barricades and into the burn zone. There are no open flames. Only smoldering heaps of rubble which were houses. Burned to total ash, only the chimney remaining. The houses across the street are gone. The houses on the hill above us are gone. The fire has burned to our property line on all four sides and stopped. White ash like a surveyor’s chalk line traces the boundaries. The gardens, the chickens, the fruit trees—all unscathed. Sitting like a green jewel in the center of grey and black devastation, it looks like a magic carpet has been put over our house to protect it. I spend the day with Norm hosing down hot spots. Helena packs the antiques and paintings and some underwear and goes back to the Pollocks. I promise not to spend the night.
At dusk, five fire trucks arrive, crews from over 100 miles away. They are shutting off the gas at burned out houses and will be stationed there for the night. I keep my promise to Helena and leave. I talk with the captain to make sure he is aware of the hot spots in the neighbor’s yard near our house. He shakes his head. “Pretty lucky to have a two-story house make it through this,” he says.“Yeah,” I say, but I had a lot of help. He no doubt is thinking of manpower.
I am thinking of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.