Fire and Rain

Yesterday I reflected on the anniversary of the Thomas Fire and shared a photo of our hills burning. I took this photo today, of rain falling on them.

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What shall we say, shall we call it by a name,
As well to count the angels dancing on a pin.
Water bright as the sky from which it came,
And the name is on the earth that takes it in.
We will not speak but stand inside the rain,
And listen to the thunder shouting I am! I am! I am! I am.

– The Grateful Dead

Grateful

One year ago tonight, at this hour, the electricity was out in my home near Santa Barbara, California. In fact, it was out for many thousands of people from Camarillo to Goleta. That’s a distance of about 50 miles of mostly populated area – coastal cities and towns. There was a fire burning near Santa Paula and the worst power outage I’d ever experienced.

That night I wrote in my journal about the need to keep cell phones charged and batteries handy, mentioned the fire in Santa Paula – which I didn’t know had claimed so much in Ventura – and the power outage, and went to bed.

In the morning we knew that many homes had been lost as the fire swept across the Ventura hillsides, and a woman was dead. A hospital was destroyed and apartments, in addition to many single family homes.

The fire itself took two lives; ultimately 23 more a month later. But in my town, by the time the fire reached us here, days had passed, and thousands of firefighters had arrived in hundreds of fire trucks, with helicopters and airplanes. The winds were calm though there was almost no moisture in the air. This is from my journal:

12.13.2017. On Sunday morning December 10, the fire roared into Carpinteria from the northeast, and the north, from the hills near Divide Peak.

At 1:30 am we lost power and the glow could be seen. The lights went off many times and Dad and I didn’t sleep. An hour before dawn we watched the fire over the hills begin to take the facing side of our valley’s own hills, and spread and come down.

We watched the fire coming using apps, until we could see it descending on the town.

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On December 11, in the afternoon, I took this photo of the burning hills from the balcony of my condo. See how the smoke from the freshest flames wasn’t even burning toward us? The fire burned slowly down the hills toward the town all day,  with helicopters dropping water and planes dropping retardant, and an army of firefighters waiting for it at the bottom. We didn’t have the insane winds they had in Ventura, or Paradise, or Santa Rosa. And in the Woolsey fire just weeks ago.

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Tonight I’m grateful for the absence of wind last year, for those many professionals, and for my family, and for the courage and constancy of my little town. I’m thankful for my home with Christmas lights twinkling on the balcony irons. I think about Paradise as I look up at those hills, now turning green with this week’s rain, and I pray for them.  And for Thousand Oaks, Malibu, and so many places in that area.

All One

There shouldn’t be an argument about whether we should help them. There is no us and them. They are us and we are them. All humanity is one; to believe otherwise is the grand delusion. If you believe that there is a gap, a difference between your humanity and the humanity of others you have fallen for the first fallacy of morals and the first lie of all dictators.

 

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Coleridge’s Notebooks

“Coleridge’s notebooks, of which seventy-two have survived, contain a huge assortment of memoranda set down by the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge from 1794 until shortly before his death in 1834.[1] Coleridge’s biographer Richard Holmes summarized the range of material covered as “travels, reading, dreams, nature studies, self-confession and self-analysis, philosophical theories, friendships, sexual fantasies, lecture notes, observations of his children, literary schemes, brewing recipes, opium addiction, horrors, puns, prayers.” [Wikipedia]

I didn’t know that. I studied his poems in college but I don’t remember his notebooks being mentioned. Of course, it’s been a long time.

Guess how many I see see around me right now. Ready? 25. Mostly finished or well used, some in progress. They’re 5 x 8 inch notebooks and pocket size, and a couple are larger. And that’s just 2017-2018. There’s a shelf in the closet with more, though from 1995 to 2017, I mostly used computers to take notes and write drafts. Now, everything starts with “Draft Zero,” something written by hand, before the first draft, if there ever is a first draft.

I wish I was as broad and comprehensive as Coleridge but gimme a break: that dude as world class, and I’m small town. Still, I cover events, reading, dreams, worries and fears, self-confession, self-analysis, philosophical compost, friendships, YouTube and podcast notes, literary hope, boredom, horror, glory and occasionally a prayer.

What about you? Do you journal, keep notebooks?

I kept a notebook, a surreptitious journal in which I jotted down phrases, technical data, miscellaneous information, names, dates, places, telephone numbers, thoughts, and a collection of other data I thought was necessary or might prove helpful.
– Frank Abagnale
Keepers of private notebooks are a different breed altogether, lonely and resistant rearrangers of things, anxious malcontents, children afflicted apparently at birth with some presentiment of loss.
– Joan Didion

 

 

To Build a Lighthouse

We have no rocks, no deadly reef,
no need to warn the ships away
but this town needs a lighthouse.
Let’s build one at the base of the pier.

We have a good beach which
should have been named Eternity,
for the way it curves in and out
of Time, and because beyond

these bluffs everything ends or it doesn’t.
It goes on forever, deeper and darker,
or not. No one here can say because
none of us can swim. But seals come here

winter into spring, to show us how. Coyotes
in the hills make a cry of regret. Blue herons
at sundown say everything is going home.
So we should build the light to watch the sea.

Nothing so deep can be trusted at night.
Let’s make it tall and pearl white
like the end of Time and cast its blue
beams out over the currents of dread.

 

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Enough is Enough

I’ve just sent the following email to the White House Correspondents’ Association.

 

Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m writing to urge you to boycott presidential press conferences and shun the Press Secretary. They are disrespecting you and demeaning the truth. The right of the people to be informed is not served by your presence in a room where you are expected to convey bullshit to the world. The “president” and his staff are public employees – they work for us. Strong action is urgently needed to remind them of that fact. You should walk out and refuse to return unless and until Sanders is replaced and the lying and dictatorial bullying stop. Thank you for the work you do in service of the truth.