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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.