This latest round of fires began in the early hours Sunday. I wrote this that morning before the flames would spread over the mountains east and west. As I write, we are notified yet another red flag warning may be issued tomorrow.
We are all on alert. Yes, this is climate change, California style. It has its own version everywhere. We have to make climate protection top priority or we may be faced with large sectors of unliveable earth.
Sunday, September 28: The wind is from the north, the direction of the fire that started about 4:00 AM this morning. I woke, anxious, crowns of the Valley Oaks roaring, then silent, like waves coming from afar and crashing on the shore of our ranch. I crept through the house, checked the windows to make sure they were closed, then the air quality, which was 60 at the time. No nexle alerts, and I returned to bed.
I see that the first nexle alert came at 4:40 am. Evacuations for all of Crystal Springs Road and North Fork Crystal Springs Road. By 5:40 am, the alerts were coming fast. They quit adding the time, they were so close together. By the time I finally woke at 6 am, the fires were well underway.
The wind has frightened me since childhood. My earliest memory of wind was of its howling around the house in winter, rattling our old, large, glass windows. I teased my younger sister that it was a ghost. My concern grew years later when we lived in a redwood forest by the Russian River. Occasionally, a fir would drop a branch through someone’s roof. It happened to a rental that my husband owned. The tenants called saying there was a tree in their kitchen and, sure enough, a fir branch stood vertical in the center of the room, having pierced the roof and ended its journey on the floor, standing there like a Christmas tree.
It was then I began seriously fearing living in a forest, well aware of what the wind could do. Only years later when I studied with a spiritual teacher did I find some relief. She told me the winds are ancient knowledge returning to the earth. After this, I was able to feel the wind in another way. My heart opened as I listened in that state of wordless wonder, listening only… listening only. This worked for a while. The wind spoke of many things: of rising warm air and sinking cool, it spoke of the needs of plants to move pollen, and of spirit.
Wind, the movement of that element we do not see, is so much more volatile than water and liquids, than earth. The only thing more volatile than wind is fire. So it was in 2017 that my fear of wind was re-ignited. We were preparing for a trip the next day when the red flag warnings went out that evening. Just as we were preparing for bed, we saw a plume of dark smoke rise above the eastern ridge of the Napa Valley, brute orange in its core. That orange quickly spread across the ridge as if a volcano had belched molten gold completely across the mountains.
It would be only an hour or so before the glow was in the north and then the west. Fires had begun all around us, almost spontaneously, and the wind, hot and fast, was rushing it throughout the landscape. It was like a demon’s breath, eerie, unseasonably hot, harsh. I remember that today, with the wind from the north and now the east. This is the fourth year of autumn fire. We have become used to go- bags by the door, to evacuation plans for the goats and llama, to watching the phone for nexle alerts all night. We’re used to filling water buckets so that the goats will have water in case PG&E turns off the electricity, and our water pump, pre-emptively.
Again, I work to calm my heart, to listen. Wind –hot, dry, dangerous. What ancient knowledge is coming now?