Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Saturday, August 20, 2011

A Different Perspective

The Prospector and I drove over to our neighbors house today. This is the neighbor that called us and warned us when the fire was coming up the hill.
"D" is our hero. He doesn't think so... but he is.
If he hadn't called us we might not have gotten out in time.
 Today, he was giving the Prospector some pieces of plywood that he had laying around his place. He gave them to us to use on the potting shed.
In return we brought him eggs and tomatoes.
He told me to come over, too, so I could take some pictures of our house from his property and to see the fire damage from a different point of view.
These are the photos I took this afternoon and it is a consensus of opinion that we are very lucky that the house is still standing.
(You can click on any of these photos to see them in a larger size.)

This was not a huge fire... less than ten acres. It burned in a triangular area, starting down on the river road and narrowing as it came up the hill.
The darker area in the middle of the photo (above) was all Manzanita trees. It seemed to have burned more in there than anywhere else.
I have written "our road" in the middle of the photo to show you were the fire skipped over the road and came straight up to the house. You can also see , in the bottom right hand corner, where the river road is. This is where the fire started. The road is a well traveled country road that goes down to the Mokelumne River.
Because of "D"s trees you cannot see the length of the river road and the distance that it was burned. It's quite a long distance.
All of these photos are looking northwest toward town. I marked the roads and the house so you could get an idea where everything is. Our dirt road wraps around and comes up behind the house.
We have all been jumpy this week. Our other neighbor has been weed eating all day. There has been no information about the "arsonist".
"D" is concerned about his house and the steepness of the surrounding hillside. It's more wooded than ours with taller pines and oaks. Even though he has a fairly good defensible space around his house he is worried that a fire would do what is called "crowning" in the oaks and pines. This is where trees are so densely packed that the fire can spread from tree to tree in a phenomenon known as crown fire or crowning. Crown fires are intense and fast-moving and aided by a steep terrain.
Ours was a crawling or surface fire, fueled by low-lying vegetation such as leaf and timber litter. It also moved fast because of the steep terrain. "D"s is even steeper than ours.
He is still pretty shaken up from watching our fire. He couldn't believe how fast the fire moved up to our house.
There had not been a fire in the canyon since the 1940's. 
We hope... never again.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Apology to the Goat Boys

A week after the fire that could have taken everything that we love, I made an attempt to apologize to the goats. I've felt so awful about the fact that we left them here and even though everything turned out well... it could have been a disaster.
I believe that life should be lived vertically and in the moment but my beginners mind is still feeling guilt for leaving the goats that day and I have wanted to discuss this feel with them.
When I went out to the goat house this morning they rushed in thinking I was going to feed them but I told them that I wanted to tell them something.
This was the response...
Murphy looked at me and said, " No food? Then what is it you want ?"
"I've come to apologize." I said.
"Why Farmlady?"
"Because we did a terrible thing. We left you when the fire was here and I've felt so awful that I couldn't even talk about it before now."
I got a lump in my throat. My eyes got watery. "I just need to talk about it."
"It's not necessary Farmlady." They walked outside and away from me.
I went around to the fence...
"Murphy, please come over here."
"OK Farmlady. I'm coming." He walked with a halting movement that I interpreted as reserved and resentful.
He took his time...
He stopped for a minute, switched a fly away and then walked over to me. The others followed Murph' and  finally they all came over to the fence and the red feeder.
Murphy spoke first.
"Are you going to feed us again. The Prospector already fed us this morning but we won't mind if you want to feed us too."
"I wasn't planning on giving you food, Murph'. I wanted to say something about why we left you last week, when the fire was so close."
Murph' looked up and me and said "OK."
"Well, I'm trying not to make excuses but the fire was very close. We needed to evacuate and it needed to be done fast. In those moments when these decisions were made, we thought that there would not be enough time to try and load all four of you into the back of the truck. We thought you would panic and we didn't have the right equipment to make this happen fast and efficiently. I'm so sorry we left you here. It breaks my heart to think what might have happen to you."
Murph' gave me that "magic goat" look and said, " But it didn't happen. The fire didn't come and what might have happen didn't. You are damaging the present by letting something that didn't happen, or could have happen, make you sad today."
I looked at Murph' and Freckles, who was standing there moving his head up and down in agreement.
Murph' continued...
"Farmlady, you don't have to apologize to anyone. The circumstances of that day were just what they were. No amount of feeling bad will change what happen and what you did in response was what you needed to do. We are fine."
I looked into those amber eyes.
There was no animosity.... no what if. No anger.
There was  only NOW.
"Do you have any food for us?", Murphy asked again.
Bart walked over when he heard the word 'food'.
Brownie kept his distance and then started walking toward us.
I went into the goat house and took a half flake of hay from the corner of the shed. I brought it out and stuck it through the fence into the feeder. They started eating.  Brownie dived in even when Bart pushed him away.
I rubbed each head and each beautiful ear.
"I'm so glad that you are OK."

"I'm trying to live in the moment but the flames of the fire come back to haunt me. The "what ifs" worm their way into my thoughts. I watch for plumes of smoke on the road below and constantly look out the windows checking for fire.
I can't answer questions about why we didn't do something to save the goats. Why we didn't open the gates. Why we left them. I can only say what we did in that moment of stark fear. There were no choices that we could make at the time.
My heart is still sad even though everything turned out all right.
So, I listened to Murphy... the small voice in my head that carries the commentary that constantly speaks to me... that makes up stories... that gives words to all the creatures in my life. This never goes away.
I could hear the small noises of satisfaction and the munching of the hay in their mouths. Murphy pulled a bunch of hay to the ground and ate from it. None of the others bothered him.
He is the wise, magical goat that speaks with astute understanding of the inept human beings in his life.

And this human being knows that her life without these animals would not be what is it... a joy.
I still apologize to them. I still think about the "what ifs". I still think that the circumstances could have been so different and horrible but.... I can't stay in that place anymore. I need to move on.

My shadow will be gone from this place someday...
So I'm going to live every moment. without regret or anger, breathing in and breathing out, so that the "journey" itself  is more important than where I'm going.


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Like a snake that you don't see...

The fear lingers.
Like the snake that left this print across the dusty switchback on our road during the late afternoon, the memories of the fire are fresh and ever present in our minds. Reminders are everywhere.

When taking my walk, after dinner, I saw this snake print and I knew that it was a huge snake that had traveled across the road. Other prints were found... a turkey, a fox and some deer prints but none with such slithering presence.
This was a huge snake.
This was one that has survived many seasons on this mountain... survived the fire on Wednesday and has become one of the myths.
Unseen... only leaving it's trail, as it moves about.
I walked slowly alongside the snake print looking at the width and the strength of the creature, imagining what it  must look like.
I watched each of my steps as I moved toward the grassy area where old boards and fence wire lay in the weeds.
I decided not to follow the print any further than the edge of the dusty road where the weeds didn't show the print anymore. Of course, I have no idea which direction it was going. I hoped it was moving away from the house and down toward the creek...away from the burned area and down to the green and unburned areas of our property. I had hope that it would find sanctuary somewhere far away in an abandoned mine shaft or vacant fox den.
I walked on down the middle of the road to the burned area that crossed our road.
I have done this every night since the fire.
I look at the burnt Manzanita and the scorched ground and wonder if , like the fire inspector said, the people who started this fire would probably come back to see the damage.
Do you think that they felt anything? If they knew a house was up here? If they had any remorse?
Was it really done on purpose or was just a careless toss of a cigarette?
Did they really do this "on purpose" ?...
What would the Manzanita and the Oaks say to them..
What would the burnt Toyon say...
Will these destroyers of nature drive by in the Fall and admire the beautiful red berries?
Will they even know what this plant is?
Probably not..

This is were the fire started...
This is the river road that goes down to the Mokelumne River.
The Prospector and I drove down there to see the damage a few days ago.
We fixed some fences and put up some new signs and admired the cattails growing in the watery area near the spring.
 What a contrast the Cattails were to the black hill behind them.
I walked down the road and found some fire fighting left overs... not much really, just some rubber bands, some kind of head band and a glove. Surprisingly little for all the fire vehicles that were all over this area.
Then I just walked back and forth, looking for a reason.
I didn't fine one.