Tuesday, October 17, 2017


   The Sierras are their domain and they roam as they wish.
    This is a young bear and not fully grown. He or she was rooting for a mid morning snack about 10 foot off the trail.

   We encroach into their wilderness with our cleverness.
   Still nature is the dominant component of the equation.

    Normally good spirited and cheerful, Californians have been understandably heavy hearted the last two weeks.
     The horror and fiery devastation has been cut into our psyche. We all have friends in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino and points north or south. We've read the heartbreaking accounts of loss of life and destruction of homes, businesses and life dreams. The loss seems incalculable and personal.
     I was particularly taken by what Thomas Fuller, the San Francisco Bureau chief of the New York Times wrote. 
Thomas Fuller, the San Francisco bureau chief for The New York Times, describes his experience covering the fires in Northern California.
I keep a satellite phone in the trunk of my car, the same one I used to cover disasters and insurgencies in places like Myanmar and Nepal. But I never thought I would need it in Napa Valley, not for a wildfire anyway. 
During a week spent covering the fires in Northern California, I fell back on my training as a foreign correspondent: finding the satellite on the smoky horizon, locking in the phone’s antenna and dictating paragraphs to patient editors. 
But this was not a foreign land. It was my own country, and the conveniences that we take for granted had collapsed. Traffic lights went black and commerce shut down. 
Streets that were normally filled with tourists in the charming towns of wine country were deserted except for crews of exhausted firefighters, sheriff’s deputies and a few reporters. In the evacuation zones, rows of destroyed houses made it feel like a country at war, emptied of its civilian population. 
Small fires seemed to pop up everywhere. As I raced down narrow country roads to meet deadlines, I caught glimpses of smoldering embers on tree stumps a few feet away. I felt vulnerable while driving through tunnels of vegetation — it would be easy to be surrounded by fire and trapped. 
Everything smelled of smoke: my clothes, my car, my bag, my fingers. 
I feel enormously grateful to the dozens of people who took the time to articulate their grieving, some while standing in the rubble of their homes. The fires stripped away their privacy. Their kitchens, their exercise equipment, their hobbies — their lives — were in cinders at our feet. 
I think back to meeting Lisa Layman, her azure eyes staring at the ashes of her home at Coffey Park in Santa Rosa. She was recovering from cancer and recently had a kidney removed. The night before, she had escaped with her Bible and a scrapbook of her son’s early years. That is all she had
It is a reporter’s job to bring empathy to disasters like this. But I wondered how I could ever comprehend the magnitude of her loss.
  There were all too many times when my assignments 
put me at locations of devastation-tornados, floods, fires, explosions, hazardous waste derailing or leaks when I asked myself the same question. This week millions of Californians are mulling such.

   I'm not a fan of "piling on" when someone is down, but the #metoo response in the wake of Harvey Weinstein being taken down is healthy. 
    Though sadly delayed, by years, the news finally exposed Weinstein's loutish behavior. His fall from power and influence is stunning and appropriate. We are still waiting for justice for those women who donald trump sexually assaulted. We can hope another fall is in order.

    See you down the trail


  1. I've been paying close attention to the fires in northern California. It is just heartbreaking to see the destruction in Coffey Park as well as other places in that beautiful country.

    And pay attention to the warnings and be careful around those bears. They can be most impolite.

  2. My childhood friend was evacuated from Santa Rosa and I've yet to hear that she's okay. Climate change is real, and has made the land drier and more prone to these fires. And when was the last time you heard of a hurricane striking Ireland. We ignore science at our own risk.

  3. My life long friend, Mary Wilson is back home in St. Helena after collecting and now babysitting dogs for friends in other parts of Napa County.