“To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy.”
~Henri Cartier-Bresson



Friday, August 12, 2011

Leaving my Heart to the Flames

"Sometimes letting things go is an act of far greater power than defending or hanging on."
~ Eckhart Tolle ~
I felt like the fire was on our heels but when we stopped on the ridge and looked back I only saw distant smoke.
I found my camera in my purse. Of all the things that should have been in the car and truck we had taken only these things...Purse, medications, bolt cutters, a vice wrench, two Corgis and the little point and shoot camera. We needed so much more.
We had no time to make these decisions. Our neighbor, "D" called us at about 3:45 p.m. on Wednesday. He was yelling at us, saying that a fire was coming up our hill toward our house.
We had the house closed up and the air conditioning on. We didn't smell or notice anything. We looked out of the window toward the southeast and there was a wall of flame, smoke and sparks coming toward the house.
The Prospector jumped up and told me to grab what I needed  plus the halters and leashes for the dogs. He ran outside and turned the Propane tank off while I got the dogs into the car.
 I waited outside near the goats, I told them I was sorry, said a prayer, and in anger thought "Where the hell are the fire trucks." Both our neighbor and my husband had called 911. They said that the fire had been called in.
The fire was moving up behind the house. It was then that I said goodbye to all of this. I let it all go. I didn't take any pictures. I didn't think to take clothing, or important papers. Nothing but the dogs and some medications... and the bolt cutters that we knew we needed to go through a gate on our neighbors property at the top of the hill.
The Prospector was in the truck ahead of me. We had not taken this old road up and over the ridge in a long time. At the top of the ridge I got stuck on a big rock . I tried to back away from it but I was stuck, and the car died. We transferred the dogs to the truck, left the car and drove on up to the old road.
We finally reach the gate and my husband cut a link in the chain that was locked. We passed a truck with a man in it. We explained who we were and that we had cut the locked chain on the fence. He was OK with that. We finally reached the next ranch.
We passed a  bulldozer that was heading down toward our house.  I don't know how he got there so fast. My husband stopped and talked to him for a minute, giving him directions to the house and telling him about the abandoned car.
We drove out past some highway patrolmen and  some ranchers that had their horses ready to load into trailers if the fire moved in that direction. We explained were we came from and why we came through the ranch.
Finally we arrived at the top of Highway 49, drove down to a store and bought some water and a dog dish .
A friend called and said that she would leave the gate open for us... bless her heart. She listened to my hysterical voice on the phone and told me lots of soothing things that calmed me down. Thank you Lori.
Then I called my sister.... Not that she could do anything, being three hours away, but I felt better after I talked to her.
I choose to stay with my husband and we drove back down the river road toward our house.
The sheriff stopped us  and said that we couldn't get down to our road so we waited there with him. Finally a fire supervisor came up and talked to us. He said that the fire was under control and the house was OK.... and the animals too. I could not believe that they saved the house. It was an amazing moment.
They were able to stop the fire because when it got to the open area that the goats graze on, it slowed the fire down enough for them to contain it.  He said that our "defensible space" was the only thing that saved the house.
 Shortly there after they let us drive down to our neighbor's entrance and The Prospector walked up to our entrance. I stayed with the dogs.
I watched the helicopters flying over us.

and the bomber going back and forth. The copters dropped water from the river on the contained fire and the bomber dropped fire retardant on everything.
My neighbors came home from work and took me in. They were so wonderful. They even joked about how The Prospector wouldn't have to clear anymore areas for a while. It was a corny joke, but just the comic relief that I needed.

Slowly, as evening arrived, the fire trucks and cars came down off of our road...
 and we were able to go home.

As we drove up past the fireman on the road I shouted a thousand "Thank yous" out the window...

The entrance didn't burn. Nothing looked different except for all the fire trucks and so many people.

This is such a monumental effort ....
As we drove up the road we started to see the fire damage and the folks that were still putting out the hot spots.
Again, I shouted our thank yous and they waved back.
At the turn in our road I saw that even the Pine Grove Dept. of Corrections had arrive with their trainees. These are young men that are serving time for juvenile offenses and are a big help to Cal Fire. There were all here saving OUR house.
We continued on up to the house. There was a truck in our driveway. We shook hand with more firemen and talked to them for a few minutes.

I walked through the gate into the front yard and they were right, our house was actually there. Nothing had changed. I walked over to the edge of the garden and this is what I saw...


Everything had a coating of orange fire retardant on it. 
It was strange and other worldly.

Everything above the fire retardant was not burned... everything below was black. The fireman said that the fire moved very fast but didn't burn hot, so there were a lot of unburned tops of trees. The fire burned fast up the hill, skipped across our road and came straight up to the house.  Late spring rains left moisture in the ground and trees. The defensible space (the goat pasture and the drive way.), the moisture in the ground and the fast control of the fire by the fire crews saved the house. 
 This is what it looks like below the goat run. A forest of burnt Manzanita and Oak.
This is a view from the burn area looking up toward the house.

Yesterday we spent the day cleaning fire retardant off of the vegetable plants, fences and everything we could remove it from.
The fire people were here most of the day cleaning up.

This morning we drove down to see what the fire burned and what was left.
My feet may look like they are on the ground ...
But they're not...
Yet...

More photos tomorrow.








Thursday, August 11, 2011

Our Greatest Fear Realized

Someone started a fire on the River Road below our house yesterday at about 3:30 p.m.. We had to evacuate over the dirt road to the west.
The house is still here this morning. My prayers were answered.
The animals are OK.
Will write more tomorrow.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Terrible Thing

This is an admission of guilt and a sad tale of inattention.
I sometimes leave the big halogen light on at night when The Prospector is gone. It's up in the peak of the south garage wall. In the morning after the light has been on, there are thousands of flying insects on the wall and  window.... and on the rocks below.
There are moths, Lacewings, Dobsonflies, and beetles all exhausted from the activity of the night and flying into the light.
Given the nature of these insects, especially moths, the light absence at night makes them rest or hide. For that reason, when I turn on the strong light in the darkness, they think that it is daytime and they go to that heat source. They are especially attracted to the ultraviolet light emitted by the big light because they have radioactive cells that attract them toward the luminescent energy. The white light attracts these insects even more.
So, in the morning, they were all just quietly clinging to the wall. Some were so still that I was able to touch them without them moving or flying away.
Like this Giant Lacewing. Well, it's not really giant. It's only about an inch long but it's beautiful.
This beetle is called a Ten Lined June Beetle. I saw it on the screen and walked up to the window to take a closer look.
This is a beetle that I have seen before. You don't forget because of it's beautiful white stripes  and  the fact that there are so many of them around here in the summer. It's about 1 to 1 1/2 in. long and has a distinctive face.
They were everywhere.
In the planters, on the rocks and concrete...
As I stood next to the window taking pictures of this beetle, I heard a noise. It was a soft cry, almost a mewing sound. I thought that maybe Annibel was on the other side of the window in the garage trying to tell me that it was time to let her out. It was very early in the morning. I hadn't let her out yet.
I said, "Is that you Annie?" But there was no answer. I saw no movement of the blind on the window.
I listened again and realized that the sound was outside. It was somewhere near me but I couldn't tell where it was coming from.
I backed up and looked around me. This was the most unusual sound I had ever heard. It was almost a cough and it was so muted. I took another step away from the window and looked down at the rocks below my feet.... and my heart skipped a beat as the tragic scene unfolded before me..
In my fervor to take pictures of the beetle on the screen I had not thought about the beetles that might be elsewhere and I had accidentally stepped on one of them (the one on the right). It was dead.
This poor little beetle was still and its body was broken by my giant, monstrous sandal as I had recklessly walk over it without looking.
The sound was coming from the other beetle, on the left and it was crying . I can only say that to my mind, this small creature was crying. It appeared to be breathing heavily and moving up and down. I don't know if it was crying for its mate, or warning me that it was there, or telling me that I was the worst of all beings on earth and had, because of my human carelessness and incredible stupidity, killed one of its kind.
I cannot tell you how awful I felt.
This was the cry of fear and sadness that makes this creature as real and important as any human tragedy.  There will be a great sadness inside of me for a long time.
I walked back into the house and told the dogs what had happened. They didn't seem to care,.
So, I tell you... because I had to tell someone.
***************
The next morning all the insects were gone. Only the one I had stepped on was still there, lying on the rocks. I picked it up and brought it inside.
I have it's broken body sitting on my computer. It's still beautiful. It looks like nothing happen to it... only it doesn't move and one of it's antennae is missing.
I'm so sad about this. It seems such a little thing, but I will hear that other beetle's cry forever. Don't tell me that the tiny creatures of this world don't have emotions and feelings. My carelessness caused an unintentional death.
I wasn't talking on a cell phone while driving.
I didn't step on the accelerator instead of the brake.
I didn't forget my child in a hot car or run a red light.
No, I just didn't watch where I was walking.
To some this isn't the end of the world.
To some... this isn't even a tragedy.
It was just a bug....
But, I had to tell someone.






Sunday, August 7, 2011

A Successful Sale and Fresh Donuts

The Yard Sale went so well on Friday and Saturday. Friday was the best day. We had lots of people come to see us and sold many wonderful things.
"J" had given very good directions to everyone.  The sale was in their parking area that use to serve as parking for a Bed and Breakfast that she and her husband ran years ago. They lived in the the Bay Area and would come up here every weekend and do the Bed and Breakfast, drive back on Sun night and go to work on Monday. Talk about energy.
We met them almost 20 years ago when we walked in looking for a place to sleep after a long day of panning on the river. We were tired and dirty and had no reservations.  They were working in the garden and I'm sure they didn't know what to think of us.... but they took us in.
We came back again.... with reservations.  Even my parents came up here with us one time. Such good memories. Then we moved up here and so did they..... and the story goes on.
This is the back of her property on Church St. This place is just perfect for a yard sale with its big parking area that's on a quiet back street. It's gated and roomy... with plenty of street parking..
 There is a cemetery across the street.... and down at the end of the street is the Miner's cemetery for the big Argonaut Mine Disaster in 1922.
Forty seven miners died in this tragedy. A fire broke out on one of the lower levels of the mine and 47 men were trapped. They all died. The bodies were finally found three weeks later at a depth of 4350 ft.
Many families in this small town lost loved ones in this horrible disaster.
Mining is a dangerous business. Every time I park there and see the sign, I'm reminded of this tragedy. How quickly life must have changed for these families and how hard their lives must have been, from then on, without their husbands, fathers and loved ones.....

So, 89 years later, on a much happier note, we hung our YARD SALE sign out and led folks to our big summer sale.
Thanks to "J" the sale was well advertised and very organized. I was impressed with the organization of everything. They even had donuts for us the first morning.... and very good coffee.
Just about every piece of furniture was sold.
There was also a section that was filled with donations and all the proceeds went to our local FOOD BANK.
This sale was a total success.
 Gathering the items for the sale, cleaning them, pricing and carting them to my friend's house... getting up at 5:00 a.m. to be down there at 7.00... and (because you never want to say that you are "home alone" when you're home ALONE) the Prospector was on a fishing trip all of last week so I was taking care of the farm by myself.
The feeding of the animals and the garden watering fell to me completely and needed to be done before I left for "J"s house on both days. That was harder than any of the rest of it.... and there was Lucky, my son's cat. She needed her medication and food too. I have been taking care of her while he was up fishing and camping with his Dad, (the Prospector), his brother, his uncle and my GRANDKIDS.
WAIT A MINUTE!!
I think something is wrong with this picture.
I think that I should be with them.... campfires in the evening, swimming in the lake, hiking , boating and playing with my grandkids.
Still....who would take care of the animals?
Does anyone want a house sitting job next summer? It's just 4 big goats, 8 chickens. 1 cat ( well, two including my son's cat.) two crazy corgis, a few assorted wild animals, maybe a rattlesnake or two and we might even put on a wildfire display for you. That's not funny is it?
Oh. and you have to water a very large garden  everyday.... and drive to the next town for a Starbucks.
Having the Prospector gone makes a BIG difference. When he's gone I realize how difficult it would be to maintain this farm by myself but....
I could go with him... that's a great idea. I think that I will work on this.


When I came home from the sale I ate lunch and curled up with the dogs and slept for two hours both days.
The whole thing was well worth the effort. I'm glad that I did it.
The Prospector came home this afternoon. My son drove in shortly after. He stayed and had dinner with us then packed up Lucky (his cat) and headed for Oakland. There were lots of "fish" stories and I could tell that they had a good time up there.
The Prospector fed all the animals while I cooked dinner. He did a load of his dirty camping clothes, ate dinner, sat and read a book for a while and then, by 8:30, he said he was going to bed.
I'm so glad he's home. I can put the gun away and sleep in tomorrow morning.
It was a long, tiring, very productive week but I'm glad it's over and life is back to normal.
This is a view taken from "J"s back porch, through her garden toward the parking area where the sale was. I did a post on her house at Christmas a couple of years ago when her cats were kittens. I think I will ask her if I can do a post on her garden soon. It's so beautiful.
She is filled with talent and energy. She's also a really good person. She would be embarrassed by this comment but it's true.

Now, I'm going to bed. I may stay there until Noon tomorrow....