Fires of change



On Tuesday we lost the sun to smoke.

On Wednesday, ash rained down like miniature snowflakes.  And again, on Thursday.

And Friday and Saturday and on and on and on.

Some lost their homes, some, their lives.

Fighters fought fires.  Emergency calls on our phones.  Evacuation zones grew.

The names of the fires themselves, as if a person, but more like a place:  Holiday Farm, Beachie Creek, Lionshead, Obenchain, Almeda and so many more. Lists of fires.

We watched the news to learn about containment and wind direction and how we were now the most heavily polluted air on Earth.  Oregon? Us?

Double masks to go outside to tend to the livestock.  I worry over the toll air will take on my 19-year-old horse, the young horse, the flock of chickens, the deer, the birds, the insects and their tiny lungs.

Gray, every day, we seal up vents and stay inside.  We are quarantined within a quarantine; nothing is safe to breathe.

Those fleeing the fires are delegated to tents and RV’s in parking lots, the lucky get hotel rooms. Volunteers pass out food and water and clothes… if you have to be outside, I worry about your lungs too.

The sky was blood orange the day the fires erupted; six days go by before we see a passing patch of blue.

Phone calls and texts from friends and family: “How are you? Are you OK? Please come here if you need to evacuate.” Some are crying, distraught over the loss of forests and beauty and feeling the despair of thousands. We are not alone.

Fire came to Washington.  Fire came to California.  Fires have leveled towns I’ve known and loved.  Vida and Blue River are gone.  I bought stained glass in Vida from a glass artist and longed to own property on Gates Creek.  All are gone now; I imagine the glass, hundreds upon hundreds of glorious sheets now become colorful puddles of exquisite hues among the ashy remains of the workshop and a life of creativity.

All are gone… it’s hard to fathom.  And there are more… Talent, Phoenix, Detroit.

Inside, a hollow of despair, a sorrow unexpressed, shocked into silence.  One foot placed before the other, we do what must be done.

Hallway littered with bags and boxes, the horse trailer is ready for last minute packing if need be, though the fire won’t reach us, strange arsonists roam the neighborhood.  Unfathomable to the rest of us, he starts a fire in a nearby field and runs away.  It was the first, most dangerous day, the day of heat and wind and a countryside dried to a crisp from weeks of heat and sun.

I pray for rain, drawing mandalas of wet drops, watercolors soften the paper and I weave deep wishes of healing water to quench the fires and return us to a place where we can evaluate the damage.

That first step will be the start of our recovery.  We lean into it, but it’s not forthcoming.

The fires rage on.  Uncontained but for 15%, 3%, 10%… numbers too small to take comfort in, we need percentages that are heavy and healing: 75%, 80%, 100%.

The winds shift slowly.  Today we are downgrades to “Very Unhealthy” rather than “Hazardous”. For the first time in a week, we leave the house and I see people without masks.  A man in his car, windows open, smoking a cigar passes me and I stare at him, behind a N-95, inside my sealed car with the air circulating internally.  Incredulous.

I see someone walking their dog, also no mask.  The someone, yes, and the dog too.  My dogs look at me, eyes wide and wondering why I sit all day and watch TV.

It only seems like all day, the TV being on during the day is an event reserved for illness or injury.  But She IS injured… my beautiful Earth, my lovely mother nature.  She’s been burned and so I watch the news and then comedies to lighten my heart’s load.

I also can tomatoes, beans, make jams, salsa and pickle cucumbers.  The cabbage is turned into sauerkraut, the kale gets frozen.  It’s time to harvest the garden but the ash falls on our fruit and vegetables.  We run sprinklers, mini firefighters, we wash what we can.

We do what must be done.

We pray.

We cry.

We volunteer.

We donate.

We reach out.

We reach within.

We bake, we read, we watch.

We used to be able to go outside.  Now it’s been 8 days of indoor recirculated air.  I miss the wind and the freshness.  I miss my world of green and cool and supple aliveness.

And then, after indulging my loss, I remember my gratitude for all I have.  For my safety, for my home, my life.  I’m grateful for the experience.  There is much to learn in every day that passes. 

Crisis contains opportunity; surely there is a chance for personal growth through tragedy?

And yet… now, it feels too soon.  I’ll get there, eventually.  When I’m ready.

I’m not ready yet.

I’m still in mourning.

Still awaiting containment before the first step of evaluating can begin.

I project my consciousness forward into the moment where I learn that the rains have drowned out the fires.  When we can lay down our arms, drop our guard and relax in the antidote for fire: water.  I pray the water does its job but doesn’t add to the destruction though I know our winter rains will wash ash into our creeks and streams and rivers and that too will take a toll.

But we are not there yet… we are in the NOW.  Now is a moveable moment, and soon, the now will be a now after the fire. 

This too shall pass.

We’ve done what must be done.

Written 3 days ago, this is snapshot of where we were at. Last night, the rains began. So grateful.

Wait?! Summer’s over already?

Hello everyone!

I was going to title this How I Spent My Summer Vacation, but after seeing the title of my last post… well, I just had to go with the theme. Quite the span of time, from late June thru to mid Sept, and while I may have committed the blogging sin of allowing too much time!! to go between posts and losing readership… well, consider me a sinner then. The weather was beautiful and there was just too much to do outside than sit inside hunched over my laptop. As it was,  I barely got around to paying the bills and keeping our financial world afloat. What I did do, was pay homage to my love of all things Laura Ingalls Wilder by making jams, juices, canning and drying assorted veggies/fruits, pickling and other homey pioneer type chores.

We rebuilt the pump house, upgraded our water system, fenced the garden.  I fixed gutter, gate and shed as well as replacing porch boards and molding around doors and windows.  In between the myriad of chores and duties of the small farm owner, there were the half a dozen or so camping trips (with horse and without), visits with friends and family, a new puppy and the 24 chicks in my coop that are growing up to be our new layers and fryers.  All amidst the crushing drought and crazy ass wildfires of the Pacific Northwest.

We are not out of the woods yet with that, major fires in Northern California and Washington are devastating lives and homes.  We escaped a lightning strike fire just last week as fast acting neighbors and the local fire department put out the flames on a 100 foot tall Douglas Fir tree a mile from our home!  We are all looking forward to the rain these days and hoping for cool weather that won’t bring thunderstorms our way.  While careless people do start fires, the majority of fires out here are started by electrical storms.  Hot summers, drought and thunderstorms are a bad combination.

Storm clouds roll in on my camp... this was taken moments before a storm hit my tent. Scary!

Storm clouds roll in on my camp… this was taken minutes before a severe thunderstorm hit my tent. Scary!

And so, my art has taken a back seat.  The painting I started in June became a thorn in my side, so it was removed from the easel and is awaiting a time when I can look at it objectively as opposed to the sneer I give it now.  However, good news on the muse front!  Inspiration was found on a wonderful 4 day solo backpacking trip to the Pacific Crest Trail.  After painting visions of other women’s journeys, I have found my own while traversing the famous PCT.


My backpacking art kit got some use!

It’s funny, I knew I was on a mission to take photos of the trail so I could add my own image to the Wilderness of Women series, but the one I picked to paint wasn’t what I had planned.  Well, life doesn’t work according to plan sometimes.  The second I took the shot, I knew what I was going to do.


It was time to put my studio dog, Scout, into another painting.  Dogs have been a big part of my backpacking experience and she especially has been an integral part of my studio life.  It all just made sense.

Scout on the PCT

Scout on the PCT

The balance needed for my painting however, is different from the snap shots I take in the field.  Sometimes a photo is perfectly put together and I don’t have to do much manipulation, but that day, in that place, I couldn’t get the exact image.  The painting is a compilation of 4 images, strung together and overlapped into a panoramic view.  It captures my actual view while Scout and I sat at an elevation of 6850 feet and had a well earned lunch. It was a beautiful day and as I studied my position, I realized that by climbing up to this pass, I had hiked every bit of the PCT, from top to bottom on my map.  It was a very good feeling, which must have made my muse happy because as soon as there was a lull in all my food preservation activities, she gave me this: (click on image for a full view)

Lunch with Scout on the PCT

Lunch with Scout on the PCT