A Weary California Burns

We are all weary and exhausted, but we are doing okay.

California’s wildfires are making international news, so I wanted to let you know that we’re safe. Sadly, dozens of friends have been forced to evacuate their homes. Others are packed and ready to go at a moment’s notice. We’re all on edge waiting for the second wave of dry lightning storms later today.

Smoke and ash from the fires are creating unhealthy conditions throughout Santa Clara Valley.

If you look at the map below, you’ll see that San Jose is sandwiched between thousands of acres of wildfires burning on both sides of the Valley.

According to the Los Angeles Times, The recent weather events are the result of three distinct meteorological phenomena combining in a way rarely seen in California:

1) The heatwave broiling the West — longer and harsher than is typical for August — was the first to arrive. It is a high-pressure system rotating clockwise over California, Nevada, and Arizona that steered hot, dry desert air over the Golden State, breaking heat records across the Central Valley.

2) Then Tropical Storm Elida off the coast of Mexico began feeding the heatwave moisture, which created instability in the atmosphere. This moisture is why so many of the wildfires burning in California recently have created towering pyrocumulus clouds, said UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain.

3) A thunderstorm some 1,100 miles south of the Bay Area in Sonora, Mexico, sent an invisible rippling wave of uplifting pressure north through the atmosphere, where it mixed with the heat and moisture to produce hundreds of lightning strikes across hundreds of miles of the Bay Area on Saturday and Sunday. That created dozens of fires, while farther inland a tornado formed.

This is what the beautiful skies looked like over my neighborhood the morning after the storm.

Three days later, the skies were an eerie brown, casting a yellow tinge in the garden below.

In January, I thought that recovery from brutal foot surgery would be the hardest part of my year. I took my first painful steps in March, and within a week, Santa Clara County was the first in this country to issue a three-week order to shelter in place. We were afraid to leave the house. A once-mundane trip to the grocery store had us firmly in fear’s grip. Would a trip down the aisle for milk mean exposing ourselves to COVID-19? To paraphrase Stephen Colbert, “April was the longest ten years of my life.”

Things gradually eased, but many of us feared we were opening up too early.

In late May, a long-simmering fury over police brutality, and racial injustice, spurred by the killing of George Flloyd, lead to widespread protests and continued civil unrest.

Civil unrest: Black Lives Matter protest police brutality in San Jose

We hope to vote the current “criminal-in-chief” out of office come November, but even that is fraught with tension and fear.

Today, California burns. Ash falls in my garden, as heavy smoke permeates the air. We’re trying to stay indoors as air quality spikes to unhealthy levels.

We are all weary and exhausted, wishing this nightmare would end.

I am grateful for our relatively good health and for the safety of our home. At the same time, I’m carrying the weight of the world.

I hope you are safe and warm and loved.

53 thoughts on “A Weary California Burns

  1. Hesitated to like this. Consider it more an expression of support. Sounds oh so horrible what you are going through. Wishing you and your friends all the best. Please do keep us posted, if you have the time and energy.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your support, Laurie. I agree that a lot of the default buttons are woefully inadequate. I’ve missed our blogging world, but I’m also finding it hard to read or write these days. I immerse myself with volunteer work to the point of exhaustion and escape into a hot bath and engaging TV to forget about life for a few hours. We’re currently working our way through Call the Midwife.

      I’m going to try and visit your blog this evening to see what you’ve been up to. Sending love and light your way. Alys

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Oh Alys, my heart feels heavy. 2020 has been such a brutal year, and each day seems to bring some new horror. Our year started with the raging bushfires along the east coast of Australia, and we thought that was the worst we had to face. I understand how weary you must feel, after six months or more of virus fear, and now this very visible enemy. The virus ravages humans, while the fires impacts on wildlife and plants. That’s a bad combination.
    We are resilient, and you are especially. However, please take care of yourself, as well as everyone else. Find time to do things which bring you comfort, or even joy, if you can find that. You are in my thoughts. ~hugs~

    Liked by 2 people

    • Anne, I remember the horror of those brush fires and the terrible loss to your beautiful country. Seeing the koalas injured was heartbreaking. I follow The Irwin’s on Instagram. They do amazing work, but that kind of loss is unimaginable. I’m finding refuge by immersing myself in volunteer work. We’re serving the women of Lifted Spirits outside and behind the gate so that we all avoid the risk of contracting COVID. It’s stressful but meaningful work. Thank you for your kindness and friendship, and for your comforting words as well. I’ve missed our blogging community here. You are always a bright light. Hugs back your way. Alys

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sending heartfelt wishes for relief from the current nightmare you are experiencing, Alys. This year has seen so many challenges, one more thing pushes to the breaking point. Do what you can to stay safe and healthy. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wouldn’t that be something? Imagine this year with someone else running the country. Seeing the Obamas speak last week made me long for that kind of intelligent and compassionate leadership. Stay safe. xo

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  4. Oh, Alys! Thank you so much for taking the time to write to let us know that today you and your family are okay. You have been in my heart constantly during this wildfire emergency. Each day, the news reports fill our hearts with concern for the people of California… and the fires just keep growing. Hold your family close and take extra good care of yourself, my friend. If at all possible, perhaps you could add a sentence or two to update us further in the next few days.
    Love you, sweet friend! Be safe! 💗

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It is indeed a lot this year has brought us! We have friends staying in the girl’s room that were evacuated from the Santa Cruz hills. The fire is currently 2 1/2 miles from their homes. Yesterday, I helped her move her 14 chickens to a friends place in Gilroy. We are studying maps and trying to stay abreast of how the fire is growing, crossing our fingers their house doesn’t burn. I feel helpless, but glad to help friends any way I can.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Darlene, how fortuitous that you have space for your friends now that the girls are off to college. I will hold good thoughts for them and others who fear they’ve lost their home. I’m glad you were able to evacuate the chickens to safer ground. Poor things.

      Like

  6. What a horrible, still accelerating towards a complete meltdown of a year. I liked your post but I have to admit that I thought twice about it. Please consider the “like” a hug. We are now approaching the “beyond belief” part of the worst year of my life. We are getting the smoke from your fires along with our own here in Colorado, and it is just horrible. I just checked the weather report for California and the bad just keeps on coming; things will continue to worsen for Colorado too. I watched the Democratic convention last week and just fought tears through a lot of it. How wonderful to hear articulate, responsible people talk like adults. Hugs to you and stay safe.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Australians know how you feel, and it’s hell on wheels. I’m so sorry you’re all having to go through such tough times. It’s outside our own fire season, and some of our boys are on their way to help your firefighters. I’m keeping you and all my friends on the West Coast and Colorado in my thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Kate, I read that firefighters from Australia and Canada are heading our way. I know that Australian crews will be specially equipped to fight this kind of fire. The terrible irony is that we too are outside our fire season. The worst is generally in our early autumn months of September and October, when the winds whip up, with lots of dry grasses to fuel the fires. Last year’s deadly Paradise fire started in early November, and the deadly Santa Rosa fires the year before began in October. The state is worried about super spreaders among the firefighters given the close contact and temporary living conditions. I’ve got to find a way to engage my mind today so I can keep from going mad with it all. I’m glad you are safe in your part of the world. I’m sorry to hear about the uptick in COVID cases. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Just when you think things can’t get any worse, they do. The stories of fires in your part of the World and in Australia seem to get worse every year. It must be so frightening for all of you and, as everybody else has said, I’ll be thinking of you and hoping you all keep safe and well.

    As for ‘Call The Midwife’ – nothing like a bit of close up childbirth to take your mind off things. I always watched it alone as husband and daughters couldn’t stand all the huffing and puffing but it was the social history of Britain in the 50s and 60s that really hooked me especially as it was set in London which is where my parents were born – as was I – and it brought to life some of the stories my Mum and Dad had about living in London at that time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your good thoughts and well wishes, Lynn!

      The fires have definitely gotten worse. Here is an excerpt from The Guardian:

      “Disentangling the weather from the climate change is a perennial problem. “The specific set of circumstances that come together to create any specific fire are complex,” said Chris Field, director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. “But there’s no doubt that the risk of catastrophic wildfires is increasing dramatically because of climate change.”

      Over the past few months, we’ve grown accustomed to talking about the underlying health conditions that make some people more vulnerable to Covid-19. In the case of fires, climate change is the underlying condition – subtly eating away at California’s landscape and making the state vulnerable to natural disaster.

      “The latent potential for more extreme, more destructive fires is increasing year after year with every warmer year,” Swain said. In a paper published this month, Swain and his colleagues found that the frequency of autumn days with extreme, fire-fueling weather in California has more than doubled since the early 1980s. “The problem isn’t that wildfires are happening, it’s that the outcomes are worse when they do occur,” he explained.

      Wildfires are natural and necessary in California, where the landscape has adapted to and evolved with fires. But in recent years, wildfires have been burning through more acreage, for longer stretches of time, devastating homes and neighborhoods — a sign that climate change has thrown off a natural balance of destruction and regrowth.”

      Things also seem worse in Australia, though I’ve not explored as closely the reasons behind them.

      I fully agree with your analysis of Call The Midwife. Mike is just as engrossed, so we’ve enjoyed it together. We’re up to the part with the Pill coming available, and the horrible Thimolihide birth defects. I really enjoy the friendships among the women, the support and love and care of the community, and a glimpse into that time. I’m glad you enjoyed it as well.

      Liked by 2 people

  9. Dearie me, it is one huge catastrophe in your part of the world right now. Let’s at least hope there will be one significant improvement come November. (Was listening to a die-hard supporter on the radio yesterday – I can’t believe he can be anything but a minority!)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I feel so sorry for you Alys. Many people shrug off political issues, and environmental ones are not so important to them either, but I know these affect you deeply. I sympathise and wish your weather systems at least would take a turn for the better. I hope the fires subside and the air quality improves really soon. Take care. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your kind words, Cathy, and for understanding the grief and loss. The human cost is great, but the quiet losses of old growth redwoods, beloved parks, and all the wildlife that couldn’t make it out weigh heavily on my heart. Politics and the environment are intertwined in this country. For the last four years, our president has tried to undermine all the progress we’ve made to reduce drilling for oil, clean water acts, emmisions standards, all of it. We ALL live on this planet. I just don’t get it. I’ll never get it. xo

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thoughts and prayers are with you Alys, and everyone down there. We have friends in a motor home that got out before 80 was closed in both directions. The farm where they were staying, and their friend and his animals are also in danger.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Lavinia. I am sorry to hear that your friend’s farm and the animals are in danger. What heartbreak. I’m glad they were able to get out safely. We have many friends in wait and see mode. I can’t imagine the stress. I hope you are keeping safe and doing well. Alys

      Liked by 1 person

  12. I feel your anguish, Alys. I’ve been watching the fires as I watch all the news. No sound. It’s devastating enough that way. I look at air quality everyday and think about all the poor animals out there breathing that stuff. I didn’t open our windows last night as the air quality was down to moderate. We’ve had some unhealthful days, but nothing like you are getting in CA. We have the perfect storm brewing for major catastrophe. Politics, weather and social issues with a pandemic thrown in for good measure. There has been rioting in Portland for over a month now and I’m not sure it will end unless there is a change in administration. I’m hopeful at the prospect that we can still turn this all around. My heart aches with yours. Sending giant squishy hugs, M

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am sending a hug back your way, MH. I’ve been closely following the protests, as well as the rioting in Portland. People are so angry, so fed-up, and mostly scared. I’m sorry to hear that your air quality is equally bad. I hear Colorado is also in the same boat with record-breaking wildfires. The weather has improved this week, with lower temps and some moisture. Both will help the firefighters toward containment. I have several friends still waiting to hear about their homes since evacuating in Felton, Boulder Creek, Santa Cruz…it’s unbelievable.

      xo

      Liked by 2 people

  13. Thanks for letting me know about this post. I’ve been thinking of you and all those suffering from the fire and smoke. What a year you have had … yes, it’s been a hard year for everyone, but adding surgery and smoke / fire … it’s just too much! Sending love!

    Like

  14. No one will be sad to see this year far in the rearview mirror. I’m really fearful for the fire situation in California. Seems never ending. Summer used to be a season everyone could look forward to. Now, it fraught with anxiety. These waves of heat, firs, Covid and for America, the looming election is like the perfect storm. I don’t really know what the answer is to getting through all of it with healthy resilience. Personally, I find my craft room is a place I can immerse myself and melt away the worst days. I also think catching up in person with friends in San Jose could help your spiritual cup fill up a bit. I spent some time with a friend in the garden last week (no hugs, socially distanced) and it did my heart a world of good. We’ve all been isolating for months and even when you enjoy ‘alone time’, it can be hard at times.The simple act of spending the day reading a good book can be comforting too I think. Try not to let ‘the weight of the world’ fall on your shoulders Alys. I know you are an endless giver and enjoy being of service to everyone. Givers need to fill themselves up too if they want to have anything to give. You might not remember, but I bought a really fab watercolouring book in Vancouver and I’ve been having fun trying to learn. Is there anything you’ve been wanting to learn but haven’t had time or made time? Take time for you! Fill up your cup. Let’s Facetime! xoxoxo much love K

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are a good friend, Ms. Boomdee. Thank you for this excellent advice. I stopped in at Creative Escapes this afternoon after my time at Lifted Spirits. I bought a stencil, some gorgeous paper, and some tape.

      I’m so glad you’re teaching yourself watercolouring! I pulled out my watercolors a month ago, but I mostly just made a mess of things. I think I’m someone that learns best with in-person instruction. I love the soft, watery effects of watercolors and hope to learn more one day.

      I would love to Facetime.

      Tomorrow I have Pilates at 10 and then I’m having a distance lunch with Jasmin in our back yard. It will be good to catch up. XO

      Like

  15. Alys, when you wrote here about the orange glow in your garden, it reminded me that when the Australian bush fires were raging and that one afternoon I looked out my front window and an orange glow was all over the place – 2000km away we are in New Zealand but the winds bought that orange glow to most places in NZ for a couple of days.

    Keep safe
    Catherine in Auckland

    Liked by 1 person

  16. It really has been hard to write or be creative this year. We seem to need so much energy just to exist each day. I am glad to hear you are hanging in there in the midst of so much fire and fury. I may be far away in physical terms but I am feel your distress most keenly.

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  17. Popping in here from Dawn’s blog petalspaperandsimplethymes. I hope you are well and the fires are coming under control. I remember the year this happened close to me in West Texas and ash blew in the warehouse where I worked (since retired) and covered our cars in the parking lots. The stories were awful and scary and in California this seems to happen every year now. I can’t imagine anything more terrifying. And we are certainly not immune here amid the awful triple digit temperatures and drought conditions.
    Be well and be safe.

    Like

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