Aftermath: Thomas Fire/Mudslides

Fellow Carpinteria – Santa Barbara locals, I’m just wondering … How are you feeling? I mean after the fire and the mudslides, how’s your soul? It’s an impertinent question, I know, but it’s been not quite 3 weeks and the recovery has been a process on our roads, communications, not to mention the recovery of the lost.

I’ve read that even those of us who were not directly impacted by the loss of a home, a friend, or a loved one, are assuredly suffering from secondary PTSD. Even several miles away we’re not isolated, we’re grieving too.

And the fact that 2 young and very young people are still missing makes it harder not to.

Personally, I still feel a range of emotion from sadness to frustration to anger, then gratitude and appreciation. I’m grateful to God that my family and my area are OK. I’m grateful for the helpers, the police and fire, the rescuers from so many entities, the people who worked and are working so hard to save trapped people and animals, to clear the roads, rebuild power and communications, and prepare the watersheds for the next rain.

Rain will come and that makes me nervous. How ready are we now, really? The authorities just say to be afraid. We remain at risk throughout the rainy season. They’ve learned nothing from the disaster about communicating a realistic “gradient of risk,” showing that some areas are more dangerous than others. Such assessments are  inconvenient, difficult, but imperative.

I was relieved when the freeway reopened because it was a step toward normalcy. But now people are driving from the south toward Santa Barbara and slowing down in Montecito, to see what’s impossible to see from the freeway anyway. Traffic is backing up for 8 miles because of these jerks. That makes me mad. WTF are you looking for?

As for the 23 lost, from all walks of life, all ages, I am reminded of something Robert Pirsig wrote:
“We keep passing unseen through little moments of other people’s lives.”

What about you?



My neighbors and I have received a postcard from the electric company. I don’t know how many of us received it, but it may be several thousand people. The eastern half of the Carpinteria Valley, which lies on a shelf of land on the California coast, under the coastal hills, near Santa Barbara.

They are going to shut off our electricity tonight just at the start of prime time TV, and it will be off for 10 hours.

I’m told they did the center of town 2 nights ago, but I don’t know for sure. 

Why? “Upgrading aging infrastructure or completing other repairs to make needed improvements.”

Sounds vague to me. Boilerplate language. But I think I can translate.

In order to increase corporate profits, we cut staff and deferred maintenance to a point that things have really gone to shit. We’re worried. Before the whole city goes dark for days or weeks on end, we’re taking drastic action regardless of the inconvenience. 

How do you think I did?

I have family close by, but part of me wants to cowboy up and ride it out here in camp.I have plenty of battery-powered electric lights; enough to dimly light my condo for several hours. It might be OK to shake off the video habits for a night, sit quietly and read a book. I have an iPod with tons of music, stories, poetry, if my eyes get tired.

But it’s hot. We’re having a heat wave, and I’ve been sleeping with a fan blowing on my bed. So I don’t know.

Christmas in Santa Barbara

I know that a couple of my readers are in the midwest and the eastern part of the country. So I wanted to share this: At mid afternoon today, the ambient temperature on my parents’ back yard deck – on the southern, sunniest side of the house – was 87 degrees. Humidity about 45 percent.

Neener neener neener.

Perhaps a visit to Santa Barbara at the holidays would be nice for you.

You are most welcome! Though I have to admit, all this sunshine does not make for a traditionally picturesque Christmas.


But I imagine having to dig your car out of a drift doesn’t set you to singing carols either.

much rejoicing

Well it’s been a grateful week in Carpinteria, my small home town on the California coast.

My last post was on Tuesday, June 8, election day here in California. Posted as I sat waiting for the first returns, as I recall. And if you’ve been following this blog at all, you know that I was adamantly opposed to a certain Measure J. By this, an oil company from Denver tried to bypass the City government and get the voters to permit expanded oil exploration here. I mean right here, within the city limits, near my home and close to hundreds of other homes as well.

The centerpiece of the company’s plan – known as the Paredon Project – was to be a massive drilling rig, 140 to 175 feet tall. It would be on our ocean bluffs, adjacent to a residential tract, the bluffs nature preserve, and the seal rookery. We’re talking about a federally protected wildlife sanctuary, folks.

the drill rig

Happily, Measure J went down in a thunderous landslide of Oh Hell No. 70% of the voters didn’t fall for it at all. 

Election Blowout 4

And there was much rejoicing. There was a very large exhale of relief.

It’s a long and tawdry story, most of which I would rather see you spared. Suffice to say the magnificent defeat of Measure J comes not just as a welcome result, but a rightful vindication. The vast majority of us stuck together. We remembered the natural beauty that makes Carpinteria the place where we want to live in the first place. Our little town is not for sale.

We still have a stable local government. No shots were fired. Democracy abides.

As for the folks who voted the other way … well, we still love you. Take a walk on the bluffs sometime. Remember that all who wander are not lost, and all that glitters is not gold.

Signal Fires

The rain is mingling with light from the streetlamp
and light from my window
and soaking
into the long animal grass.

I know you cannot see these lights.
I have put ten miles between us
and the creeks, trees and hills.
An entire world of separation.

What will become of me?
The night is useless,
cold, and you are somewhere in the dark,
in Santa Barbara, dreaming.

The moon was rising out of Ojai
when I left you and drove home.
All the birds
in El Estero were asleep.

The moon is shining on the Channel now,
and maybe shining on Fort Ross,
the Russian cupolas and crosses
flashing signals from the cliffs.

A far and lonely place
where the road
makes love to gravity, clinging high
above the rocks and pounding surf.

My heart is dizzy like that road tonight.
Narrow, slick and dangerous.
I think of you
then watch the sky until my breath returns.

I walk the dog over the tracks
and down to the bluffs, into a shroud
of eucalyptus trees that watch
the sea in anguish as it rises and falls.

The sea does not care about me.
I love you but the sea does not care.
I need you but the sea is just rising and falling,
so I will light a fire on the edge, and wait.

Inspired by Carpinteria, the coast of
California, a little dog, and a girl.

Creative Commons License
Signal Fires by J. Kyle Kimberlin is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.


This great rally throughout downtown Carpinteria last Friday…

was covered on and in the Santa Barbara Independent.

I’ll be downtown with my sign this afternoon, and if you’re local I hope to see you.

Since the election is tomorrow, there won’t be many more posts on this topic. I hope. I may take some photos today and post them, but I don’t have much more to say. Except Vote No on Measure J.

Don’t just agree No on Measure J, and forget to vote.

Don’t let complacency creep in, because it’s not over ’til it’s over. And as obvious as it may seem that we shouldn’t vote our own City government out of power – and hand the whole process over to an oil company – if we won’t beat this power grab – we could have a mess to clean up.

Yep, that was a seagull.