Our Forest, Our Cycles

Oak Titmouse

It is Day 12 of the California Wine Country fires, and I am one of the 15,000 people who remain under mandatory evacuation. Not only do burned trees continue to fall posing danger, but the electrical poles are gone. (See fire facts, at the end.)

 

Two weeks ago I lived in a forest, and that forest was my life, and the people and wild animals, trees, and plants there continue to call to me, even as I sleep elsewhere. So today I show you some of the wildlife from better times, with the fervent hope that they have found refuge somewhere, somehow.

Jackrabbit

Varied Thrush, California

The good news is that our house is still standing. Many of our neighbors lost their homes, and one neighbor lost his life. Gale-force winds combined with very dry earth conditions were the cause.

 

Our weather patterns in Northern California are different than many places. We do not have rain all summer, and this is how it has been as long as I have lived here (30+ years). We mow the grass once, sometimes twice, and then by July it stops growing.

 

The rains come in winter, slow down around March, then by around April or May they stop, and do not start again until the following November or December.

 

Some years it doesn’t rain in winter, those are the drought years. We had 4-6 years of drought until this past winter when it rained record amounts. The abundance of rain produced more vegetation, and it was glorious. We had more wildflowers than we’d seen in years, and the wildlife were more plentiful too, benefitting from the wealth of more plants, bugs, and moisture.

Indian Warrior

Shooting Stars

But when the summer came, like in all years, the grasses dried up. This year, as a result of the lively spring, we had more grasses than previous years.

 

You live long enough in one place, you see the weather patterns shift, you watch the cycles. I find this to be one of the pure joys of life on earth…the cycles.

Western skink (juvenile), California

Mountain Quail, California (male)

Gardeners notice the subtleties in their plantings, farmers adjust to the cycles daily, and wildlife lovers watch the variables in species.

 

In our forest we had more bugs this spring, which brought in more birds, and they were prolifically nesting. This brought in more hawks and mammals, all hunting. The spring frog-mating season was twice as long.

Adult Pacific Tree Frog

Northern Alligator Lizard, California

Striped Racer, Calif.

By September the berry trees were producing for a promising winter of red berries, and the numerous species of oaks were loaded with acorns. October was rife with busy woodpeckers and gray squirrels burying acorns.

 

But then we had a parching week-long heat wave. The deciduous trees didn’t lose their leaves gradually, instead the leaves burned up from the daily 100+ degree (F) temperatures.

 

After that the winds came in, huge trees blew over, brought down live electrical wires, and other mayhem ensued, with disastrous results.

Gold Wire and Ladybug

We’ll see what the winter brings. I am delighted to be here, living, to watch. And the good news is:  the earth heals, and so do her inhabitants.

 

Photo credit: Athena Alexander

My humble thanks to each and every one of you who wrote kind and loving messages this past week. You brought sunshine during this difficult time.

 

Fire Facts:

There have been 250 wildfires in the Wine Country since October 8, burning 245,000 acres. Eleven thousand firefighters battled the fires, 100,000 people were evacuated, 42 people lost their lives (per Cal Fire). Most fires have now been 80% or more contained.

 

 

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99 thoughts on “Our Forest, Our Cycles

    • Thanks so much, David, I always find your hugs a comfort. We’re doing well in a water-surrounded insurance-reimbursed Airbnb on SF Bay, and looking forward to that forest return.

    • Ingrid, you are one of my gurus for constant on-the-road travels. Travel is a great way to stay fluid, as you have pointed out to me more times than you probably realize. We have moved around to various places this last week and a half, and made the best of each situation. Thanks so much for your friendship.

  1. Thank you for updating dear Jet.The situation is dramatic,but you are lucky in your misforture,in a way.Stay safe,I’m crying for people who lost their lives,for the devastation of flora and fauna,and the lost properties of so many people … Beautiful your post,my friend 🙂

    • Dear Doda, it has been a great joy to “see” you this week and last, and to receive your kind messages. There are many troubled people in the Bay Area right now, and lost flora and fauna, too. Thank you for reaching out to all of us…we need it, and appreciate it.

  2. Here’s hoping that you, your friends, and your neighbours can return home soon, and that the recovery can start. The natural world is resilient, and there’s comfort in that.

    • So right you are, pc, the natural world is incredibly resilient, and we are part of that too. After devastation, if we are lucky to be alive, resilience is everything. My deepest thanks for your kind words this past week, and from Mrs. pc too.

  3. Glad that you are well & safe, and that you still have your home! As you say, the earth heals, as do we. Sometimes that process takes time, so pace yourselves, & be compassionate with each other during this time.

  4. I’m reading your post and photos with tears….
    Thank you so much for letting us know you are safe and your house is still standing.
    My thoughts are with you, dear Jet.

      • I value our blogging friendship, dear Jet. Your love for nature has taught me to appreciate nature more and it’s the key to pull the blog community together. I can’t imagine what you are going through… I appreciate your comment. Take care.

  5. Jet it was with great relief we received your email and now your post. So terribly sorry to hear of your neighbor passing away. For those of us who have not experienced anything like this I’m not sure we have words adequate. Please know we continue to keep you and Athena close in our hearts as do so many others. Our arms and doors are always open to you both. We hope this week brings more answers to the condition of your home.

    • Thanks very much, Sue, for your kindness and open arms. I’ve thought many times this week about the Syrian refugees, and people like you and your community who offer kindness and stability to those folks. Your reaching out is much appreciated.

  6. Thanks for the update Jet. It must be a huge relief that your home is safe, though a real shame for many of your neighbours. I hope everything soon returns to normal so that you can continue to enjoy that beautiful countryside once more. Mx

  7. Thank you for sharing the beautiful photos and the story! I’ve been wondering how things were going. I could tell how much your forest home has meant to you reading your posts and looking at the photos. I didn’t know about the weather cycle there. It sounds like an interesting ecosystem. You have many animal friends there that I haven’t seen. I think most of them fled at the first scent of smoke. They have that survival instinct. The native plants with deep roots will bounce back when it rains. The trees will take longer. It is sad people lost their lives. It sounds like it all happened really fast. Best of wishes for a successful homecoming and a winter with rain!

    • I enjoyed your comment, Sarah, and your familiarity with the nature of nature. I like to think our forest creatures found a safe way out, and look forward to welcoming them back upon our return. Thank you so much.

  8. A lovely post, dear Jet. Often we don’t know how precious something is to us until we lose it. But you knew all along, didn’t you. And you celebrated it — through your life, your priorities, your relationships, your home, your travels and your blog. We are grateful for your example. Much love to you and Athena. Have a restful weekend.

    • Thanks, dear Nan. Yes, I have known all along how special our forest was, and in spite of the many human inconveniences like no underground cables or fiber optics, or many more things, we have found great joy and richness from the forest. I am so glad we always treasured it, every day, and I really feel its absence as a refugee in a giant urban complex. But I am lucky we will be returning soon, and we and the forest will all heal together.

  9. Have been wondering how your mountain was going – thank you so much for the update Jet. As wonderful as it must be to know your house is still standing, I can only begin to imagine the sadness you are feeling for the loss of a neighbor and their homes. Sending prayers and rain to your part of the world. xx

    • Thank you for this very kind and thoughtful comment, Joanne, and for your prayers and thoughts. Throughout all of this our neighbors have been staying in touch on a Next Door social network, and this is also where we have received the most pertinent up-to-date information about the status of our mountain. My thanks to you….

    • Dear Bertie, I could write a million stories about the strong spirit and kindness that we have seen and experienced, you are so right. Thank you for your kind words and thoughts.

  10. Jet, my heart has been broken over the results of these terrible fires. I’m thankful to hear that your house was spared. What a blessing!! I can’t even imagine the devastation from the floods and fires this last half year and what it will take just to begin to recover. I often think about what could happen in Wyoming if there were a fire, as there’s so much down, dry timber that can’t be gotten out. We did have to evacuate one summer but thank the Lord, the fire only burned one small cabin and that not too near us.Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos and the hope that must always sustain us.

    janet

    • It is amazing how enduring hope and healing is, Janet. This is how we build from the set-backs, as I am sure you have experienced in one or another way before too. I thank you for your kind words and thoughts, and send you a grateful smile.

    • Hi Walt, thanks so much for your kind replies here today and last week too. Fortunately we grabbed our computer with the photos on it, and I could share them here, I’m glad you have enjoyed them. I know how familiar you are with nature and the outdoors, and isn’t it amazing how resilient it is?

  11. I’m very glad to hear from you Jet, I’ve been thinking about you both since your last post. It must be an extremely traumatic time and yet you give us such positive, uplifting words. I hope you continue to stay safe and that you’ll soon be able to return home.

    • Thanks so much, Andrea, for your concern and kind words throughout these past two weeks. Your words are always a salve to me, I really appreciate them. It has been traumatic, yes, moving around, not knowing, craving privacy and normalcy, worrying. But those things are rather draining, so I just try to stay more focused on a beautiful sunrise, a sweet gesture I witness, people riding their bikes or picking out Halloween costumes. You know how it is to be a writer…we watch and learn, and what I have most learned is the deep value of kindness.

  12. A beautiful post giving appreciation to the wonders of nature that surround you, Jet. I am sure you miss it seeing it daily. So glad you and your house were spared this tragedy. And yes, nature will go on and so will we, blessings!

    • Yes, I really do miss the forest and wonder more with each day what is happening up there on our mountain. Two weeks of rotted food in our full freezer and refrigerator, yikes. I know my refrigerator food isn’t resilient, but the forest and its creatures are, and we will all go on and heal together. Many thanks for your blessings.

  13. Mother Nature is a powerful and resilient woman, as are you. And she will heal and thrive, and you with her. Sending love and hope.

  14. Jet,
    The undaunted attitude that you and Athena have displayed throughout this incredible ordeal has been an inspiration for all of your friends and family, and I am proud to be included in the latter.
    Best wishes upon returning home, whenever that happens, and transitioning to the new beginnings that undoubtedly will follow this time of change, for not only the human occupants of your mountain, but the flora and fauna as well.
    A hearty “Thank You” to my firefighter brothers for their hard work and dedication against insurmountable circumstances that they encountered during this fire.
    I look forward to our next family event, there will be so much to discuss after the hugs are completed!

    • …and I always enjoy your giant strong hugs, T. Life is so rich, the earth is so resilient, and the people we have around us have been generous and thoughtful and compassionate. I am grateful to you, our family and friends for the caring and sharing….

    • Thanks so very much, dear Bill. We have seen a few photos of the mountain from some of the firefighter friends on our mountain, and yes, it is devastating. I cannot imagine what it will be like when we finally get to go up, but I know it will be okay. Thanks so much for your warmth and support.

  15. So glad you and Athena are safe – and your house surviving must be a major bonus. We live in a world of ever increasing extremes, much of it of our own making. Love the photos and info as always. The Varied Thrush is stunning and I love the Shooting Stars 🙂

    • The varied thrush migrate here every winter, and they are a very special bird. Their song is a two-toned whistle and if you heard it, it would stop you in your tracks like it does for me. And I love the shooting stars too. We get them every spring but they are only about ankle-high and the grass grows above them quickly in some years. Thank you, as always Alastair, for your visit.

  16. Stay safe! My heart goes out to those who lost their loved ones and their property. I cry for all the tiny-legged and no-legged creatures who couldn’t make it out of the fire. This week I am changing flights in San Francisco and already feeling sad for what I might see from the airplane window.

    • Hi Inese, I like knowing that you will be cruising overhead some time this week. Today I am watching the sun rise and there is a huge bank of fog coming in over the Bay. I hope your journey is safe and pleasant. Thanks so much for your visit and comment, always appreciated.

    • There is nothing like living in a forest to remind one of the cycles; this was a whopper lesson, to be sure. I’m with you, Cathy, looking forward to the days ahead of revitalization and growth. Thank you very much.

  17. I was relieved to hear that you and Athena are safe (that, after all, is what really counts). Good to hear that your house was spared, but it will take adjusting to so many changes. Sending hugs and wishing for your continued safety.

    • Being alive is the first and foremost goal. lol. And you’re right, Gunta, it will take adjusting on a daily basis, it already has; but we are the lucky ones, living and breathing. Thank you so much, for your kind words and support for years now, I have so enjoyed it.

  18. I’ve wondered how you and Athena have been holding up and it’s good to hear that your home has survived the fires. I hope you are able to return home soon and that the wonderful wildlife you have shared with us were somehow able to find a safe area. Take care of yourself and stay safe.

  19. Our thoughts are with you all at this challenging and difficult time. Your photos of the creatures that live in your forest are remarkable and a timely reminder of the broader population of animals that get impacted by climate and other disasters.

    Our son lives in Northern California and so this tragic fire and evacuations have personal resonance but of course these disasters are increasing the world over and so many people and wildlife are being impacted every day.

    Hope you are able to return home soon and can start to put your life back together.. You certainly have a very positive attitude which is no doubt helpful. Should you decide to travel or get a change of scenery, we have an extra bedroom in Sri Lanka and would be more than happy to host you for a visit.

    xoxo
    Peta & Ben

  20. So glad to know that both of you are safe. Hope you will be able to return to the house soon. I’m also crossing my fingers that the fire and the evacuation won’t affect your Thailand trip.

    • Hi Keng, kind of you to write, and that you remembered our upcoming trip. We saw the house yesterday and sustained quite a bit of damage, will not be able to move back in until electricity, water, and septic are rebuilt; also lost out-buildings, equipment and tools, and precious items too. Our forest is a huge disaster site. We are in a state of flux from one hour to the next, don’t know about January trip. Thank you for your concern and friendship. Happy trails to you and David.

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