Photographs: The Southern California Fires

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The smoke is getting worse here in Irvine.  We’re so happy that the Santa Ana’s have stopped, but without wind (or, getting the wind coming off the ocean now), the smoke is staying thick in the valleys and across the city.  It was like driving in a light fog this moring.  I hear that in many places, the fire was so hot that the houses literally caught on fire from the inside out.  Spontaneously combusting from within.

And no one is talking (yet) about what will happen in these areas when the rains eventually come.  Fires and landslides go hand-in-hand around here.

I received these pictures in an email this morning….I’m sorry but the photographer (s) weren’t mentioned – they were sent in an chain-style email, asking for Prayer for the Firefighters, and all of the communities that are affected.

Here’s a link where you can see a video of the Valley Oaks MHP in Fallbrook.  Our company owns a home there and we will probably be the ones that will be going in to clean up the park – and hopefully – get these people into new homes.  Fallbrook is our ‘avocado’ region and according to the last figures I heard, +40% of the crops have been destroyed.  Here’s the link to the video: http://www.nctimes.com/movie/valleyoak1007/viewer.html

We just got an email that our park in Warner Springs (San Diego County) is on Mandatory evacuation.  Our employees who live there (the onsite managers) were just text messaged to GET OUT!

I’ll let the pictures say the rest.

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The Perfect Storm

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That’s what they’re calling it, these infernos from Hell that are consuming tens of thousands of acres all over Southern California.  “The Perfect Storm” has completely destroyed over a thousand homes and businesses, and sent almost one million people running for their lives. It has irrevocably changed the face of many communities – and much of Southern California itself.

And it’s only Wednesday.

This is my territory, my ‘hood – Southern California. I’ve grown up here and created precious memories all along the various fire fronts.    I have memories of my days spent as a young woman on the beach and in the hills of Malibu.  I lived for awhile in San Diego and spent one long weekend at a resort in Rancho Bernardo.  In the last couple of years there were many trips to Lake Arrowhead to lounge, cruise the lake and enjoy shopping  and music with people I cared about.  Then there’s the fresh apple pie I’ve had in Julian, and the night spent in Fallbrook – avocado country!  I’ve made love in the hills of Big Bear and Ventura, and gone to the Ren Fair in Devore.  These are my stomping grounds.  And my Californian sisters and brothers in them.

I paced around the Tree House yesterday, keeping one eye on the news and the other looking out my windows at a changed landscape of my own.  It’s Nothing compared to what others have experienced.  I lost some Mexican pottery to the 60 mph winds, and everything is covered in a fine sprinkling of soot.  Then there are the piles and piles of windtorn branches and debris everywhere.  Across the way I can see at least three old trees that were snapped in half by the fingers of some invisible giant – Trees that have been rooted and growing here for probably 30 – 40 years.  And just like that! they were torn from the soil like matchsticks.

On my way in to work this morning, driving South into Irvine and nearer to the Santiago fires, the air became acrid the further I drove, and the Sun burned a blood red sky.  It’s hot and dry, but thankfully, the winds have stopped.  Only thing is, now the smoke lies like a choaking, gray fog blanketing everything in sight.  Kicking up ashes on my way to the door, I was grateful to fill my lungs with the clean air inside the building.  Even at this, my eyes sting and feel swollen, my nose is congested, and going out into the 90plus smokey heat to get to my car? It’s enough to keep me inside and at my desk for lunch.

I read the stories.  Watch the news.  Listen to the conversations around the office.  All of us have been effected in one way or another.  We’ve got employees that were evacuated in San Diego.  One of the parks in Fallbrook has almost completely burnt to the ground.

And all I can think about is…What must it feel like….

To be watching the news from an evacuation center, and see your home only yards from  consuming flames ten stories high?

To have only the space inside of your car for packing all of the ‘important’ items you’ve collected in 40, 50…70 years of life – knowing full well that the next time you return to your home, nothing will remain?

To have your son, husband, or father standing at the front lines of the Fire, inhaling smoke, blinking back cinders and fighting the damnable winds trying to get control of the Uncontrollable?  And knowing he’s trying to save the property of perfect strangers, his own life at risk of being be swept away in fire tornado?

What must it feel like to look around you and know that all of your worldly possessions just went up in smoke?

My heart breaks as I watch the news….families displaced and ‘homeless’ now.  The faces of the elderly particularly move me.  The elderly that may not have had insurance to cover their losses, who haven’t the physical or mental stamina to rebuild, restore, and recover.  Thankfully, our commuities here in California are coming together.  We’re seeing the very best of people come out, with very little of the nasty stuff our brothers and sisters in New Orleans experienced with Katrina. Maybe we were better prepared, having learned some painful lessons through their ordeal.  Maybe the people running the cities are different, somehow, or the people themselves are different.  I don’t know.  All I do know is this:

It reminds me of how important it is to build my life on something that lasts…something that cannot be consumed by fire, washed away in floods, or torn to hell by a tornado.  My life – like a house – must continue to be built upon a sure foundation of faith, love and hope, strong vital relationships, and a lifestyle that has rejected the superficial in order to dig deep into the Everlasting.

It also reminds me that I better get renters insurance.

Today is the Perfect Day to do that.

A Prayer For Fall – Lynn Andrews

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Great Spirit, I honor you all the waking days of my life.

Oh great wise ones who guide us on our sacred journey,

You know when to reveal the mysteries of truth,

Just as the clouds part and allow us

To see the snowcapped mountains that were obscured from view.

I am learning that truth burns like a fire,

And when I am filled with psychic debris that I have collected

In my experiences through my lifetime,

Truth, at the wrong moment, can burn me beyond recognition.

Thank you, Great Spirit, for helping me understand that my journey

Is a careful one

 and that I must place each foot carefully on the path,

Walking with judgment and discernment.

It is inappropriate to run wildly and carelessly on this sacred journey.

Even with this knowledge, I am grateful for my spontaneity,and my wildness of spirit.

I understand the difference between the wildness of my own soul

And carelessness and thoughtlessness on my path to evolution.

As I look out at my sacred landscape,

I see great boulders that look like eagles,

And clouds that look like wolves, passing above me in the sky.

The great thunderhead clouds reflect kachina dolls

Dancing in the spirit world across the sacred plains.

The mountains rise majestically above the clouds,

 and the rivers flow

Like luminous fibers of silver through the life force of my universe.

I hold hands with my sisters and my brothers,

committed to harmony and peace,

And an understanding of the human condition.

Truth has many names, but all truth is the same.

Those who say that they know the truth, know nothing.

And those who say they know nothing, know the truth.

Thank you, Great Spirit, for this magnificent schoolhouse we call earth.

Thank you, Great Spirit, for the winged ones and the four-leggedsand the two-leggeds.

Thank you for the plants and the trees and the stones that were here before us

That teach us so many things.

I give you my trust, Great Spirit, as you have given me my life.

Thank you for your blessings. Ho!

 

Risky Business

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When someone you love says something cruel, abuses the love you have for them, and cuts you out of their life, it can feel as if your heart shatters into a million pieces.

In one sense, love is always a crap shoot.  Every time we extend love to another, we risk.  We risk rejection.  We risk betrayal.  We risk Euphoria :)  However, there is one guarantee that comes with Love: It always exists somewhere in our lives.  We just may be looking in the wrong place for it.

One of my favorite Bible passages says this.  It’s 1 Corinthians 13, from the Message:

If I speak with human eloquence and angelic ecstasy but don’t love, I’m nothing but the creaking of a rusty gate. If I speak God’s Word with power, revealing all It’s mysteries and making everything plain as day, and if I have faith that says to a mountain, “Jump,” and it jumps, but I don’t love, I’m nothing.  If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

   Love never gives up.
   Love cares more for others than for self.
   Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
   Love doesn’t strut,
   Doesn’t have a swelled head,
   Doesn’t force itself on others,
   Isn’t always “me first,”
   Doesn’t fly off the handle,
   Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others,
   Doesn’t revel when others grovel,
   Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
   Puts up with anything,
   Trusts God always,
   Always looks for the best,
   Never looks back,
   But keeps going to the end. 
  Love never dies.

Now, I know the Bible isn’t really popular with alot of people.  It’s been tampered with on so many levels, it’s almost impossible to know fact from fiction.  However, I still appreciate the wisdom that I find in it – just as I do with the wisdom I find in other texts.  Even beloved fairy tales like “The Little Mermaid”…

“We have not immortal souls, we shall never live again; but, like the green sea-weed, when once it has been cut off, we can never flourish more. Human beings, on the contrary, have a soul which lives forever, lives after the body has been turned to dust. It rises up through the clear, pure air beyond the glittering stars. As we rise out of the water, and behold all the land of the earth, so do they rise to unknown and glorious regions which we shall never see.”

Love never gives up…never looks back…and never ends.  How powerful that thought is to me today, as I consider this person that I love so much, and who has walked away from my life yet once again.  This is not the first time she’s left in a heated, dramatic huff.  The first time was when she was 15 years old.  The second, when she was 18.  And now, at 20, she’s doing it again.  Interestingly enough, she left about this time 2 years ago:  The month of October.  I’m sure there’s a key there for me, but I haven’t gotten to it yet.  One key I do have is this:  It’s not about ‘me’, no matter what she says.  Having a daughter with the sorts of emotional dis-ease that mine has, has been my greatest Teacher in lessons on Unconditional Love.  For that I am grateful, but I didn’t ‘attract’ her behavior.  And I certainly didn’t cause it – any more than I caused my father’s lung disease or my cousins cancer.

But I do have to deal with it, the best I know how.  And for me, that means loving her from a distance.  Keeping healthy boundaries and an open heart.  Forgiving her is now second nature.  But more importantly, I will not give up on her because I see her with the Eyes of Love.  The eyes that look for the best in her, and that don’t look back.

Dancing With The Light

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“When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor.

It’s to enjoy each step along the way.” – Wayne Dyer

 

When I go out in the mornings, the last part of my walk has me heading due East.  The walking trail is sprinkled with trees lining one side, and hilly residential backyards and empty lots on the other.  At certain hours in the day, those same trees provide shade over half the trail and provides some shelter from the hot California sun.  The sun is taking longer to come up now, and I know my early morning walks are soon to be packed away for the Winter.  But I love to observe the changing of  shadows and light that comes slowly over time. Spring transitions into Summer…Summer into Fall.  And now, Fall is ready to yield into Winter.

One morning not long ago, as I came around a particular bend on my way home, I was absolutely blinded by the 8:00 a.m. sun.  At that particular time and angle, it was hitting me full force in the face.  I kept walking, eyes almost completely closed and gazing downwards through my lashes.  I could only see about one to two steps in front of me at most, but since I’ve walked the trail so often, I just kept walking – feeling my way more than seeing it.  The path is familiar, and I could see just enough to know that I was heading in the right direction and wouldn’t go two-wheeling off into the rough dirt.  I ‘knew’ the trail was there, so I felt confident and at peace – even though my vision was almost completely obstructed.

As I walked, I began thinking about the interesting dynamic of having so much Light in front of me vs. having it behind me – like when I walk in the evenings.  What a difference that makes!  With the light behind me, the walk is easier, cooler and I can see clearly – at least, for a time.  A small shadow is cast in front of me, and as I walk, that shadow goes along….lengthening in front of me as the sun lowers in the sky.  The shadows around me begin to grow as well, closing in on me.  What initially began as an easy walk becomes a more speculative walk into shadowy darkness, as the sun sets behind me and I lose the light completely.

When I walk full face into the sun, however, the shadows are all behind me.  On this particular morning, I was enchanted with the fact that if I held my eyes almost closed, I could still just see the where I was going to step next.  And it so perfectly symbolized this spiritual journey that I’m walking.

I have a definite idea about where I want to go, and how I want to end up.  I also know that there are multitudes of paths that get ‘there’, and sometimes I speculate on which path to take that will continue to take me in the direction of the Light.  At times, all I know to do is to put one foot in front of the other, and keep moving.  Keep moving and believing that the next step will be revealed to me.  And the next.  And the next.   And that I won’t end up falling into a ditch or tangled up in the bushes. 

This particular morning, When the Light is very bright, my sight was so minimized that I was left depending on my other senses more.  I could feel when the power and the strength of The Sun was hitting me square on, so I could make minor adjustments to keep moving directly towards it.  Even with eyes closed, I knew which way to go because there was light breaking through my lids.   I could ‘see’ without seeing that I was going the right way.  It guided me with a light from within, behind my eyes. 

There were no shadows there.  It wasn’t the ‘dark’ blinding me, it was the Light. It’s brightness was prohibiting me from seeing more than just step or so at a time.  It was a walk of faith, born from desire to keep moving and to stay out of the shadows.  I felt some familiarity with the path, and yet I surrendered my need to see exactly every step I’m going to take.  I knew to keep walking towards the East.  Towards the Light.  Because that is where Home is waiting for me.

And I always get there – to exactly where I want to be – taking just one step at a time, enjoying the scenery along the way.