When disaster strikes and it’s all over the news, the media is inescapable, pushing everything at us. The news tells us about floods, super Arctic freezes and blasting Nor’easters, tornadoes and avalanches. Naturally it’s assumed that the entire world knew about the horrendous fires that burned California last year, and in particular the Woolsey Fire, because it affected me personally, as well as thousands of other people who live in my area.
I recently returned from an East Coast trip knowing that first thing the next morning I’d have men removing the fence at the far end of our property. The fence was burned to a crisp back in November. You wouldn’t think fire would do much to wrought iron, but it does. So it had to be taken down, sand blasted, repaired, repainted and put back up again, providing a delicate and somewhat humorous boundary that doesn’t really keep wildlife out. I’ve watched coyotes and bobcats simply jump over that fence. It’s merely a form of entertainment and exercise for them. The coyotes like to eat my persimmons.
The Woolsey Fire of last November burned our property. It raged all around the entire neighborhood, taking out one house and torching the area for miles. It was a fire storm that had us evacuated for five days, living in a motel in Burbank. It was all that was on the news day and night, night and day. The Camp Fire in Northern California was going on at the same time along with various other fires all up and down the state. In essence, California was being burned from one end to the other.
While in New England last week my conversations with other people were interesting. They either had not heard of the fires at all, or thought they were still burning. A couple of teenaged girls insisted that the Sierra Nevada Mountains were still burning.
“You can’t go to Yosemite or anywhere in the Sierra Nevada. It’s all burning.”
“Ugh….no. No, that was last summer and fall. It’s now under tons of snow. There are no more fires in the Sierras.”
“Oh, no, they’re still burning. The fires are always burning in California.” This seems to be the impression of California. It’s either burning or sliding all of the time.
Social media allowed lots of people to vent their antagonism towards the rich and famous during those fires. It was the Woolsey Fire that took out a huge chunk of houses and businesses in Malibu. Twitter was filled gleeful people, happy that celebrities and the wealthy were losing their homes. That was amazing to me. Why would you be happy that someone lost their home to fire? Or to any disaster. A lot of people had their homes burn in 2018. Rich and not so rich people lost everything in fires all over California. Why is it funny, desirable or even justified if it’s a celebrity who loses their home? I never understand this kind of thinking. It’s clearly sick. Reading these types of posts really made me dislike Twitter even more than I did before. In fact, I struggle with social media in its entirety. I’m not so sure it’s a positive thing, but that’s a whole different topic.
A lot of people associate California, and in particular, Southern California, with mudslides. Yes, we have mudslides. Lots of them. But a lot of the time, mudslides are caused from previous fires that have burned the hills. Then the rains come and the naked hills slide due to the vegetation being gone and soil structure changes.
When the men removed the fence that’s supposed to keep out coyotes and bobcats, it allowed me to venture out onto the rest of the hill our home sits on. It was liberating and freeing, not having that fence in place and I realized that the entire hill is absolutely filled with wildflowers. Lupine, blue dicks, mustard and many others I’ve never seen before. The abundant rains of this past winter unlocked seeds that probably were dormant for years.
I walked out into the heavy growth of wildflowers to photograph them. It was a thrill to be standing inside a thicket of flowers, taking their portraits before the men finished welding the fence panels. I don’t know if I will ever see such a wildflower display again. Drought has a way of creeping back in when you live in California, and wildflowers don’t like drought.
Actually, in all of the years I’ve lived in California, and that’s been nearly my entire life, I have never once seen so much rain, but also so many wildflowers. They are just outside my fence, filling the hills that were blackened and charred a few months ago.
It’s like a gift after the disaster.