Friday, August 30, 2013
California is Burning
"Every story happens in a particular place at a particular time," a writing teacher of mine once said. Place has always loomed large for me. I long for places I've lost and yearn for places I haven't yet seen. California was just blot of color in my grade school geography book--one more thing I had to memorize until I heard the Mamas and the Papas, The Beach Boys, and Jan and Dean. That music and those silly romance/surfer movies transported me to an imagined beach blanket of adolescent perfection.
I was 22 years old when I finally got here. The palm trees were real--not cardboard prom decorations, the ocean was surprisingly salty, and people ate strange green-fleshed things called avocados.
I've travelled the entire length and breadth of California. Driving, camping, backpacking, touring, sailing, eating, drinking. Coastal redwoods, Yosemite, Sequoia National Forrest, Mineral King, Mojave Desert, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Palm Springs, Visalia, Stockton, Fresno, Bakersfield, San Diego, Monterrey, Big Sur, Napa Valley, Sonoma Valley, Mendocino, Cambria, Anza Borrego, Montana del Oro, Anacapa, Catalina, Calistoga, Lake Tahoe, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Shasta, Big Bear, Death Valley, Ojai, Oxnard, Ventura.
Each day when my feet hit the sand for my morning walk, I renew my sense of amazement at what a stunningly beautiful state I live in. But while it's a balmy 75 here in Margaritaville, there is beauty burning farther inland. Fire season is a given in Southern California. But climate change is making it worse here and in many dry western states. There's this from a piece in Mother Jones: "Thomas Tidwell, the head of the United States Forest Service, told a Senate committee on energy and natural resources recently that the fire season now lasts two months longer and destroys twice as much land as it did four decades ago. Fires now, he said, burn the same amount of land faster."
My mother is always cold here where the coastal breezes blow. "It's never summer here," she grumbles to everyone. If she gets her wish and breaks the family record by living to age 99, we may have to send her long underwear back to relatives in Iowa as the climate gets hotter. But then again, if a mile of coastline disappears as the seas rise, we'll be living on a boat. It might be drafty.
Visualize rain clouds, everyone, and send them to the fires burning around Yosemite National Park. And while we're at it, let's visualize tall corn, waving wheat, healthy livestock in green pastures, plentiful fish in pristine waters all over this land which is your land which is my land. Let's visualize stories and places that speak to us. Let's visualize politicians and people with some wisdom about climate change.
photo credit: Ansel Adams photo from the Yosemite National Park website