It’s October 28, 2019, at 3:49 am, and, although a carpet of snow is covering the ground outside, I’m unreasonably, unexpectedly thinking about wildfires this morning.
If you’re the praying type, please pray for California, and more specifically, for the Napa Valley region, which is dealing, at present, with a few fires.
One of them, the 54,000 acre Kincade Fire, has, just in the last 24 hours, been ratcheted back from 10% containment to 5%, expanding in all directions due to hot, dry, and terrifically windy conditions (like 88 miles an hour recorded on Mt. St. Helena).
Speaking of which, the current mandatory evacuation zone, as of 3 hours ago, is close to the town of Saint Helena, where our friends Erin and Jess live, and has already encompassed the town of Sebastopol, where, incredibly, just over a week ago, it was drizzling rain as Erin, Jess, my wife Nan, and I stopped for a leisurely lunch at Ramen Gaijin (recall my mouth-watering photos?)
Now, fire is a hot topic, and, as I’m neither a scientist nor a politician, I’ll avoid injecting my two cents into the cause of the American West’s recent bout of out-of-control fires and the remedy, except to say that there are different degrees of fire and we’ll continue to see hotter, more devastating ones the longer we neglect the elephant in the forest – that the issue has much more to do with fuel load/forest mismanagement than the main environmental stream of consciousness would care to admit.
Imagine you have five acres of land in a heavily forested area. You keep excess fuel to a minimum, cutting dying and downed trees into firewood. You regularly remove needles and dry ground cover. You maintain fire breaks and keep trees from growing too close to your house.
For decades, however, your next door neighbor allows his nearly identical 5 acres to go “au naturale”. By this point, it consists throughout of a thick mat of dry needles and a tangle of overgrown trees, living and dead. In fact, his home is enveloped in trees – his roof’s gutter is clogged with needles from the branches shed by some of them that grow right against the house.
A lightning storm rolls in, and two nearly identical bolts hit your land and his.
Anyone want to hazard a guess which property will most likely reduced to a cracked, dry lakebed of a smoldering ruin and which one will have a much better chance to come out smelling like roses? Even if a fire burns on the latter property, it will have more difficulty expanding quickly, and probably will only singe the lower trunk of the trees, assuming the extreme intensity of their neighbor’s out-of-control fire doesn’t overrun their property as well.
Please send any of your comments in vehement disagreement to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wow. A few fairly political posts centered on the American West as well as the politically moronic within one week. What’s going on? Despite a near total lack of wildfires at present, something smells rotten in the state of Colorado.
That’s what wife called me to say, near the end of my work day, a few years ago: the house smelled funnier than usual (speaking of au naturale, we had four boys living at home at the time and frequently had to keep the doors to their rooms closed due to the lack of regular showering and room cleaning and such) and she was even more concerned than usual.
When asked if it was like rotten eggs – a sign that there might be a natural gas leak – she said she wasn’t 100% sure, but that it smelled “hot”. I told her to get everyone out of the house, and I booked it home. Thankfully, home for me was a two-block bike ride, and, after okaying the abrupt exit with my supervisor, I was rounding the corner and pulling up to the house in mere moments. With everyone else safe outside, I warily entered the house.
Anyway, after being found innocent, if careless, he received a gentle but firm warning from a firefighter. The mattress, he told my wife and me out of his earshot, could have gone up in flames at any moment.
In the artistic realm, there are those who cross their t’s and dot their i’s and those who don’t. Those who, when viewing their own sloppy work – and here I should make a distinction between work left intentionally loose/unfinished/drippy and those whose work has a childlike quality because they’ve never learned an ounce of craft – say “it’s fine” as opposed to those who say to themselves, “there’s no way that’s leaving my work space/studio looking like that.”
Back when I supervised the sculpture shop for the Art Department at the Colorado College, I’d regularly make the rounds and see what was being produced in all the studio art classes. Once, I viewed the work of a painting student, which was abstract and loose and “drippy” – typically a bullseye in my aesthetic wheelhouse.
But then I taught the same student how to make their own stretcher and stretch their own canvas, a prerequisite of the painting classes, and noted that their craftsmanship, or more to the point lack thereof, matched the way they painted. I was much less impressed with their painting after that.
But show me someone who can make tight 90 degree corners and bevel their stretcher’s edges and stretch a canvas without a wrinkle or soft corners who then scrawls on it like Cy Twombly or like Atilla, our rental killa, and, despite the lack of traditional, academic painting skill, I’m usually all over it. I’m smitten.
something’s always either on fire, or it’s smoldering and just about to be.
That entropy – the concept that the natural course of things is to tend from order to disorder – is a fact of life.
But it also taught me that
try as I might, and no matter how well I spot fires or adept I am at putting them out, somewhere, somehow, I’ll be blindsided.
A local college desired a large wall display. A production company the school was working with hired me to build it. Prior to doing so, someone from the company walked me through the college, and showed me two classrooms, labeled “Classroom A” and “Classroom B”. Classroom A was where I was supposed to install the display, and as I diligently made written note of this, I was informed that it was preferred that I install the completed project after hours, since the room was used for classes during the day.
I walked over to the nameplate for Classroom A, entered the room, and switched on the lights. I hadn’t remembered viewing both rooms at first, but now I vaguely recalled seeing this one as well. It was a bit larger than the other room, so putting my long wall display in this one made more sense, and, after double and triple checking my notes and the nameplates, I settled on the thought that, since I remembered viewing both rooms, and had written down that the display needed to go in classroom A, I had simply “misremembered” the other, smaller room as Classroom A. It was late and there was no one at the school or the client’s office I could call to verify, so we went ahead and installed the display in what I was now sure was the correct location.