Monday, August 10, 2009

Smokin' Hot

Those are the mountains away south and west of here. Currently, if you look across the flat valley to the south and west, you would not see them -- there's too much smoke in the air.

Fire season is upon California, and thanks to a little freaky weather a week or so ago, an unseasonable thunderstorm blew through the mountains north of here and set the resinous trees ablaze. The winds track south, pouring the smoke into the Central Valley, which, under the weight of the normal high pressure system, has no way of getting rid of the smoke until another weather front pushes through from the west.

Weather report: "100+ degrees with smoke. Northwesterly breezes expected, with windspeeds of walking to crawling on knees and one hand. Low of 66 degrees in the next 24 hours, as experienced by a ground squirrel in a 40 foot deep burrow under an insulated cement-floored equipment building which itself is surrounded by tall cottonwood trees. The rest of you are going to sweat all night."

If it was just 100 degrees, I'd sit out front under the trees with the mister running. However, I tried that Sunday and the smoke got me coughing around 2am until dawn. Not an especially good idea for me today, with the smoke worse.

Nevertheless, this morning I opened my garage studio to the morning air, and it was cool and pleasant. It was grand to wave hello to walkers as they passed by, providing sweet breaks while I worked. Sometimes I just stop and lean against one of the cars in the driveway and look up at the eucalyptus branches, or watch the crows as they prowl about the neighborhood roofs.

There are fires, and they are normal, if inconvenient at their best and dangerous at their worst. The smoky scent of the air reminds me that it is a World out there, one that cares nothing for asphalt or lawns, but does what it must to provide clearing of brush so that young trees can get their start this winter.

In the photo above, you see dried ground and a sere landscape. Look again -- that browned field has been harvested of hay for farm animals; those dried hills are covered with wild oats baking in the sun to make the deer fat, and to plant themselves for the forage of greenstuff by both deer and wintering geese. Eat grain, ground squirrels! The hawks and coyotes and rattlesnakes need juicy fare at their tables.

Even while I'm sneezing, I love this place.

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