If you know anything about California today, it’s that we’ve had a lot of incredibly devastating wildfires recently. You’re perhaps less aware that we’ve also had floods and the kinds of landslide that result when the forests which stabilize slopes during heavy rain have been destroyed by fire. I could wax lyrical about the need for an evidence-based public policy, but we all know how far that’s going to get us in the current faith-based voter climate of battleground states like the state of my birth, so let’s just do a slide show instead, ok? 😊 When I flew home from Bangladesh suddenly in February, in order to be with Mom and (I thought) help nurse her back to strength through that clinical trial, I was trying to give myself enough time here at home in CA to steady my own nerves through my usual recourse to bike trails and tennis courts, while still spending most of my time in NJ with Mom. Thus, between February and April, I was back and forth a few times.
Two years ago I first learned of the big Santa Rosa-area fires when a friend from my local UU congregation called – as I sat in a doctor’s office with Mom – to ask if they could house displaced people in my apartment, since she knew I was away. During my times at home over the intervening two years I’ve tried when possible to keep photos of the natural and human environments I encounter. I’ve watched rains come, trees recover or give up the ghost, rocks recover their envelopes of moss, and I’ve been grateful that the heavy rains haven’t (so far) caused any bad landslides that I know of in my own area.This time, while I was out east, it was more about floods that I learned: one town in my county was reachable only by boat for a couple of days, since the flooded Russian River had risen above all the roads leading to it. And any time there was a long-enough break in the rain for me to hop on the bike and head out, I grabbed camera and/or phone and headed out. Here are the results, below…and after that, some post-fire regrowth and rebuild images as well, which I’ll likely caption and explain when we get to them. Sorry this is a long post…but it’s been a while. Hope you find it interesting.
And moving on the aspect of more obvious post-fire recovery, I’ve been really amazed at how rapidly the scars on the natural landscape have become less visible. A friend said I should find a specific location to watch, so I found my little “fire-line rock” to follow. I posted a gallery last year, showing photos taken over the first twelve months, as the visible burn line on its moss vanished; I also watched the trail uphill from where this rock grows, as the meadows lost their cover of charcoal and trees either regrew or gave up and died. After this text, you will see first a video taken after one of the rainy days earlier, about 2km or 1.5 miles downhill from the fire line rock. After that I’ve copied the same gallery from last October, with the addition of some new photos taken two weeks ago, so 21 months or so after the rock sat on the burning fire line. I can’t even tell which rock it is, any more – did the winters incredibly heavy rains move the rocks or have they just all gone back to their natural dry-season similarity? Not sure…and didn’t get up there when it was wetter, precisely because it was so wet and muddy :-). After that are some other post-fire shots both close up and farther away. Right now, in dry season especially, I have to look closely to see the charring on tree trunks that have already begun to regrow…
In the photo just above we are looking west on the Canyon Trail, which was the fireline when the Nuns fire was stopped before it had a chance to merge with the Tubbs fire, in November 2017. The meadow to the left of the trail burned; to the right, it didn’t. If curious, you can look at photos taken on a hike shortly after this part of the park was reopened, and compare things then and now, in this post from that time: https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2017/11/13/walking-the-fire-line-in-annadel/
For many reasons I’ve been thinking about balance lately. Health and illness, birth and death, creation and destruction. My personal friends know I’ve had a fairly serious illness myself this past month, coupled with some fairly significant health issues affecting close family as well. And here we are nearly upon the one-year anniversary of the first outbreak of deadly wildfire which destroyed so many homes in my own community of Santa Rosa just a year ago. Recovering my own physical health at first involved avoiding much physical exercise, and now involves steadily allowing my stamina to build back. One way I’ve done that is to go hiking again in our local state park, where a second wildfire, coming from the south of Santa Rosa instead of the north of Santa Rosa, also destroyed many homes and lives at nearly the same time. Our rainy season here usually begins some time in October: last year, the first rains came later in the month. This year, we had an inch of rain last week and this allowed the moss to green up again on a stone I’ve been watching and photographing since the first time my normal trail in the park was reopened three weeks after last year’s Nunns fire was declared controlled. That stone is shown in the gallery below, with the most recent photo first and working backward. Date of the photo is indicated in format yymmdd, if you’re curious.
With a good friend I also drove up and over the hills to the north — hills from which this panorama shot just below, which looks south,was taken — there’s a major road across the mountains there along which many homes and businesses were destroyed in this week last year. There is some rebuilding happening and many lots cleared and seemingly prepped for rebuilding — just as a small tree in the second gallery, which last year was burned, is putting out a second season of new leaves now. You might need to enlarge some of the gallery photos to even see the burned parts lower down: the scars all across our landscape are already fading compared to what they were a year ago, though the vacant lots remain quite visible and the scars in the community and landscapre are certainly real. I feel fortunate to live in a community which came together in mutual support when faced with such challenge and destruction. I hope our human family more broadly will find constructive and healing ways to bridge our sometimes seemingly unbridgeable divides, on a larger scale and for a longer time. Balance, moderation, and an honest acquaintance with global realities seem quite necessary for longer-term health and survival of our planet and species, from what I’ve seen and experienced around this beautiful complicated world we all call home. Peace – health – balance.
Singing the mountains and valleys, trees and rocks, grass and flowers and even the loud wild turkeys that surround me in my adopted home here in the North Bay. As most readers and friends know, this adopted home town of Santa Rosa, where I’ve hung my hat any available moment between assignments or family-and-work trips elsewhere since 2014, was caught up in a devastating fire which then became a complex of several enormous fires in October of last year. As noted in a few previous posts, I’m trying to watch the process of decay and new growth which nature is pushing forward as the rainy season has rolled from November through now February here. We’re still far too short on rainfall for the rainy season, and must hope for many more inches in coming months if we’re to avoid further devastating fires and water restrictions later on. But for the moment, the grass has greened the hills and gentle steady rains have revived many plants whether burned, dormant, or both. Burned patches scar many of our mountains as seen from a distance, while burned trees and rocks remind us on walks and bike rides that we’re fortunate the fires ended when they did. I’ll soon be off to a new assignment, in a portion of Africa which rarely makes the global headlines, and where the opportunity and luxury of taking photos will rarely apply. So to remind myself of the beauty for which I’m so grateful every time I come home…I’m popping a whole ton of photos (yes, I know, way too many) up on here. Further down you’ll see galleries with tree-and-rock level detail of charred tree trunks still standing and bravely putting out new leaves and shoots; you’ll also see three months’ worth of photos of my fire-scarred rock in its gully and be able to compare the process of regrowth. It’s rather like watching the scar from my own small surgical procedure last December: each month, that scar seems to recede. Mine is only a small scar, unlike many of our mountainsides whose scars still astonish with their size and brownness, even in this relatively green time of the year. Enjoy the photos – click on individual pictures in each gallery and you might see why I included it once it’s a bit larger. (For example, a tree scarred at the bottom but still alive higher up.) Here’s to a year of healing wounds and finding new growth, for me and everyone reading this :-).
The cal-fire site tells me that the Nuns fire complex ultimately burned 56,556 acres. The final report date on the site is November 6, which I suppose means it was 100% contained or fully extinguished on or before that date. Earlier, I’d assume, since the superintendent of Annadel State Park allowed parts of the park to reopen for hikers, bikers and runners on the 5th if I understood the signs well.
My last post contained all the photos I’d taken in Sonoma County between returning from Haiti (late April), and the day of the post. Today, I’m posting almost entirely photos taken yesterday in my beloved nearby State Park. Annadel is a gem on the eastern edge of Santa Rosa which has been a key source of recreation and mental-health management for me here in Santa Rosa. The fire burned through about 2/3 of it, and if the wonderful fire fighters (see thank you signs from my last post) hadn’t stopped it where they did, then it would have destroyed many homes near the park, and I guess there was a very real risk this fire complex would merge with the Tubbs complex, which had already destroyed so much to the north in Santa Rosa.
With many of the trails open, I got out there again yesterday to appreciate the park and take stock of the damage. I try to find silver linings: that it WAS stopped here is a silver lining; that green shoots are already sprouting among the charred grasses is also good to see. (See the round gallery a little lower down.) The rainy season has come – it’s sprinkling as I type this – and so we must hope for enough rain to allow plants to re-grow strong…but not so much as to cause too many land slides in all the newly-vulnerable areas whose trees and grasses have been burned.
If you look closely, you will really see how rapidly the fire passed through (burned areas surrounding unburned patches), plus the stark line where they stopped the fire: trees charred on the south side, still green moss on the north side. Rocks the same way. Since I already wrote more in the last post, I’ll leave it here for now. Gratitude, shock, slow return to regular life, I guess. Peace, everyone. Most photos have titles that’ll tell you what they are or why I selected them.
Can you spot the photo in the gallery above is not taken in Anndel? It’s this entry’s tribute to our first-responders. 🙂
In a post last year, I did a selfie while taking a breakfast break lying on one of these two tables, at the junction of Marsh & Canyon trails. Canyon was the fire line through this portion of the park — the photo above, here, with straw over where fire fighters had widened the line is on Canyon trial, west of this point. To compare then and now, check this link or others labeled Annadel, or Sonoma County, or Napa & Sonoma (I need to work on my tags…) — https://somuchworldsolittletime.com/2016/08/19/dry-hillsides-live-oaks/
I was home for a short holiday in November, after a remarkably wet October. Those early generous rains brought stronger autumn color in the trees than I have yet seen in Sonoma County. The rivers were a bit more robust than usual for early November, the hills of my favorite parks a bit greener…and some of the bike paths already muddy. I delighted in the freedom to hop on my bike & find all the red-leaved trees and beautiful views I could find. I also took time to enjoy the contrast of white lichen with brown, fallen leaf. Here are some photos from those outings. I’m taking pleasure in beauty these days- the slant of a ray of light through a window, the curve of a kid’s smile as he bikes through downtown Port au Prince (yes, I saw this the other day!). It seems a good time to remember and appreciate the blessings in my life, which certainly include all my wonderful friends and readers, known and unknown, around the world. Have a lovely end of year holiday season :-).
We’re reaching the end of a lovely three-week vacation back home in the beloved Bay Area. Realizing that I’d taken tons of photos as always, but not posted any of them whether to facebook or to the blog…let alone to instagram, which friends are telling me I should try out…I decided that before I head to the airport tomorrow for the flight back to Port au Prince, I should at least start sorting some of the pics and putting them up. I’ve been out on my bike even more than usual this time, because I have no motor vehicle up here; I’ve driven around a bit with friends down in the city (SF, that is) and the peninsula; and yesterday around Sonoma County with another friend who came for a visit…but those shots will appear in future posts once I’ve sorted the good from the bad. This post is all about the superb mountain-biking park that is semi-literally out my door, turn right, and walk til the streets end and the paths begin. Any time someone wonders why I’ve continued to pay state taxes in CA during all these years when I’m more out of the country, than in…well, state parks with toilets and drinking fountains (potable water than won’t give you cholera! piped fresh to a faucet near you! don’t take it for granted!) and maintained walk and horse and bike trails…well, if my taxes are going for that rather than bombing schools in various poorer foreign lands, they’re taxes I’m happy to pay. ‘Nuf said…oh except the mountain lion sign is for my brother Steve: these, you can be afraid of. Chickens, no; mountain lions, yes. Got it? 🙂
When I moved from New York City to southern California, a long-time family friend told me I’d miss seasons. While not untrue, this was also not entirely true. The joke among southern Californians at the time was that there were seasons but they were just different from the classic northern four — in LA, one had fire season, mudslide season, etc. Now I’ve spent the past decade and more roaming among assignments mostly well within the world’s tropical bands, I’ve learned more about the seasons not of winter and summer, autumn and spring — but of wet and dry, all too often also of malaria and cholera. As a world we seem also to be learning about the less-bad and even-worse seasons to attempt crossing the Mediterranean in an overcrowded wooden boat in the urgent hope of providing for yourself, your children, your spouse some kind of safety or opportunity more than you and yours face in the horn of Africa or parts of the Arabian peninsula. And meanwhile, would-be presidential politicians in the US whose great-great grandparents left northern Europe as economic migrants wax sanctimonious and try to bar the gates behind them and limit opportunity only to those who look, think and act like them. Ah well: when the politics and pain of the world get too much for me I think about the green grass of winter, and the brown grass of summer, on the hills of California.
Herewith some examples of the same places, at different times of year. And let me add, for blog readers new and returning: I’ve made some changes in design and layout recently. One feature I’m personally addicted to is the header image on this page, which should shuffle through a bunch of different images, changing pretty much each time you come back to it. I’ve tried to pick some of the most interesting things I’ve seen since I started this little blog thing in early 2005…so please, if you see things up there that you especially like, or that you think aren’t strong or interesting enough, drop me a comment or shoot me a note. I’m enjoying fiddling with the design and layout, and always love to hear from readers, whether I’ve met you yet in person or not. Thanks!
…plus a few remnants from a series one might call ‘airports of the world.’ smw, slt has not gotten out and about with the camera much these past weeks, but I did realize there was a small cache of photos from some boat trips on the bay, and some hikes in Marin and Sonoma counties, that had not yet been posted. Since I get a bit homesick sometimes when I’m so far away, I’m putting these up so that I have an easy way to scan over them from time to time and remind myself what home looks like. Maybe some of you will enjoy it as well. All the photos have descriptive file names that show up if you hover over them or open them separately, I think. In the slide show below, you’ll see a panorama which goes from the Bay Bridge on the left (east), across the full waterfront of northern SF, to the Golden Gate Bridge & Marin Headlands on the right (west). Further down you’ll see some hiking shots from the trails in Tennessee Valley (Marin county), and Annadel State Park & Hood Mountain Regional Park (Sonoma County). In one of them you’ll see frost on the ground in the shadowy foreground: that was Christmas day last year – ah, how I long for frost on a hot afternoon here in Port au Prince! At the end are some photos of me and friends – at Wolf House in Jack London State Historic Park (Sonoma County) … and, well, me looking as lost as I felt, with some colleagues in Casablanca airport on my way home from Sierra Leone, last December. Our flight out of Freetown had been at some crazy hour like 2 am or 3 am or something, so we took the ferry over to the airport at 10pm or so, and snoozed in the waiting area and then flew for three hours to Casablanca to land at something like 8 in the morning. Oy, airports in which we have waited listlessly: might be a future series, what do you think?