Sonoma & Napa

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These were the very first lawn signs I saw, obviously before Harris was named VP candidate. Please vote, and please look up how to mark your ballot clearly and well so there’s less chance it will be disqualified. People around the world are affected by our elections here, and just about the whole world with the exception of certain anti-democratic regimes whom we should not be emulating shares the hopes noted above…


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I promise this won’t be all smokey skies, but this is the current reality and sometimes one has to stop and capture even the unpleasant moments. These hills are quite close and usually distinctly visible. The good news is the sky did clear a bit again within a few hours of this photo so the sunset was reasonably clear…as seen in the shot of the early sunset taken just about five hours later. (Yes, trust me, a wind and maybe a pressure change really had cleared the sky – it’s a good touch more blue and less gray even if it doesn’t show on your screen…)


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Welcome to a new series, to which I’ll be trying to add a new post every day as much as possible. Think of it as the local fire-and-covid-and-whatever-else-may-come version of my Dhaka “if I’ve posted today, it means I’m healthy, coherent, and housed-with-internet enough to load and post something for my friends, family and any other viewers who stumble upon my little visual exploration of my surrounding environment. Since this series will cover some of my very favorite places in the whole – wide – world, you never know what you might see :-). Enjoy…and comment or send nice notes if you feel inspired.


Smoke Gets in … Everything :-(

As a kid, one great pleasure of summer was sitting by a campfire: whether at sleep-away camp or a family camping trip; whether at a National Park campfire program (yes, some actually happened by real, live campfires when Mom took us out camping in the way-back-when…) or the local county park, you could pretty much always count on toasted marshmallows and that magical feeling fire inspires among most boys when it’s under control and after dark .

That was then. This is now. Now is, to be frank, a year which reminds of me of Queen Elizabeth’s declaration that 1992 was an “Annus Horribilis.” Heck, for me 1992 went pretty well because I recall getting tears in my eyes when Ohio’s electoral map went blue and I realized for the first time in my life there’d be an inhabitant of the white house who wouldn’t just hate and judge me for how I was born. (There were fewer letters in the acronym and far less widespread acceptance of us folks on the rainbow spectrum, back then.) But 2020? Definitely annus horribilis territory.

This week’s pile-upon A-H stressor in my home region of northern California? Unusually early wildfires caused by extremely unusual thunder and lighting on Sunday and again Monday last week, which were in turn caused by unusually early and extreme high heat. Sonoma County currently has two active wildfires which have caused a new wave of evacuation orders. This was not an annual occurrence, even just six years ago when I settled here. Yet still we have folks (one of them the current occupant of that house on Pennsylvania Avenue) intent upon denying evidence and steering us ever further into global-warming catastrophe.

It does all get a bit much at times, doesn’t it? There’s been more smoke in the air and bits of ash falling through the air than I myself have experienced, but that’s because I was back east for the worst of the 2017 fires near here. For those who haven’t lived through regional wildfires like this, when you hear smoke in the air don’t think about those summer campfires with a clear column of wood-smoke rising and leaving your clothes with that distinct smell. Think a very heavy misty presence of something that certainly smells fairly smokey but, here 20 or more miles from the current fire line nearest me, not as strong or obvious as those long-ago pleasant campfire smells. It’s heavy, bad for the lungs, oppressive to the spirit, and very visible in the sky – as witness these photos whose names all tell you when they were taken, between Tuesday and yesterday.

The first wildfires near me were sparked by lighting some time on Monday, but it was Tuesday evening that I first watched the sunset out my windows and realized the heavy horizon and dark sun meant more fire smoke. Now each day I check when I wake up, whether the smoke layer seems worse or better than the day before. In the mornings the air is usually much clearer – higher moisture in the air must bind the smoke and keep it closer to the ground or something like that. Yesterday evening was a pleasantly clear surprise, and this morning seemed fine enough that I chose to bike over to Sebastopol to grab a late-morning bite with friends…but then the smoke moved in fast, the air got thicker and yuckier, and biking back wasn’t quite so pleasant. And weather forecasters say there may be more lightning in the coming hours, possibly sparking yet more fires. Annus horribilis, anyone?

I hope to start posting more regularly, perhaps even daily if I get really organized. I’ve taken lots of prettier photos of nice things one can see on and around the bike trails, streets and parks of my home region which I’ve been gladly exploring by foot, bike and even occasionally car for the … seven weeks since I got home.


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I discovered one more un-posted photo from one of my favorite little corners of my favorite local park, and since I’m feeling a trifle homesick these days, I figured I’d add it to my current nature-therapy theme to interweave with the other urban and city signs and scenes I’m sharing and seeing :-).


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