Tag Archives: Los Angeles

Paradise Lost


We saw the photographs and footage like everyone else. Forests in red blazes, orange skies over San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, a mustard gas like atmosphere on the ground in Los Angeles. Runaway wildfires working their way up the coast, California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington.

In the San Juan Islands, just off beautiful B.C. Canada, we were sailing along under blue skies for a time, feeling grateful. That was last week.

This week the smoke is in our hair, on our clothes, in our eyes, in every breath we take. All we can taste is smoke and it tastes like cotton/wool/flannel. No, it tastes like fleece. Smoke strips everything of color, rendering it flattened and forlorn. Smoke silences our forests.

We should have known it was coming. One evening last week we felt a course wind, “like a Santa Anna,” my husband noted. One by one the birds left the island, taking their songs with them. The only birds I see now are Resident Canadian Geese and Northwestern or American Crows. Resident Canadian Geese are born here, don’t migrate, and have lost all instinct to fly off. And crows, like cockroaches or coyotes, are scavengers, poking through paper plates and napkins left on outdoor restaurant dining tables.

Basically, birds live on the edge. Because of their highly sensitive respiratory system, caged canaries were at one time carried down into coal mines to detect any dangerous gases, such as carbon monoxide. If the canary died, miners would flee the mine. But we can’t climb out of this. Planet Earth is our home, and air quality has no borders. It’s like the ocean.

We’re all living on the edge.

A few years ago a woman I know from Houston, Texas visited Seattle. She couldn’t wait to leave, it was too green for her. “When you’ve seen one pine tree, you’ve seen them all,” was her refrain. Never mind that our forests in The Pacific Northwest are comprised of Douglas Fir, Western Hemlock, Western Red Cedar, and Sitka Spruce as well as Ponderosa Pine. They were all the same to her. And they all do their job in being one of the great “lungs” on earth—keeping places like Houston alive.

We cannot afford to lose our forests if we’re going to keep our planet pumping. Climate denialism will never replace lost lives, homes, towns, forests, wild animals, beloved pets, and birds overcome by heat and smoke. What’s in the smoke? My friend, Jeff Smith, retired RN in San Francisco tells us, “Smoke is not just particles—it is all the substances that are burning. It is gases and plastics and pesticides and toxic metals and flame retardants. These get attached to the particles and we breath them in. And we absorb them through our skin… and we ingest them.”

No one survives smoke plumes upwards of 10 miles high containing thunderstorms, lightening, and tornados. Unprecedented drought, soaring heat and strong winds fueled these flames. Meanwhile snowpacks have been shrinking in the mountains just as oceans have warmed.

Mother Nature is pissed.

As Governor of California Gavin Newson put it, “The debate is over on climate change. Just come to the state of California.” Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and British Columbia, Canada, I might add.


Filed under climate denialism

Crazy Making

Garrison Bay 2

Moving is crazy making, especially when we bring it on ourselves. Anyone who knows me or has been reading me, knows how fond I am of Seattle. But in all our excursions to the San Juan Islands, we found something. So I am leaving the city I love for a little home in the woods on a bay. In a perfect world I’d have a pied- à -terre in the city too.

Preparing a home to go on the market, on one hand, and remodeling another house with the other, I lost my stride of a weekly post in blogging. Other bloggers are running circles around me, and because I must jump back in, here it goes:

I have to try this. My romance of living on the water and writing in a hut down by the water’s edge. The wind in the pines and water over rock. The fresh smell of cedar. The smile of a rope hammock hanging between trees. The quietude of kayaks. The grilling of fish, and the taste of the ocean in each raw oyster and boiled crab. Growing our own everything, and what we don’t grow, purchasing from people who do. Adirondack chairs circling a stone fire pit. Watching the fire and watching the stars at night.

This is not going to come by staying put.

It is important to note whether one is moving-towards or moving-away. This is a moving-towards. Only a couple times in my life have I felt the need to move away. Once was from St. Thomas U.S.V.I., and had nothing to do with St. Thomas or The Virgin Islands. The other was from Los Angeles, and had everything to do with LA.

Long ago I set off on a journey with my little neighbor, Tony, into the woods behind our homes. We couldn’t have been more than five or six. I was sure it would lead to somewhere. That we’d come to some place magical like Oz, if we just persevered. Tony, however, turned around and headed home.

This girl kept going. And before long the woods did come out somewhere, but it was just another nice neighborhood in Connecticut. One that looked much like mine, but wasn’t. I was lost. So I did what Dorothy did and knocked on a front door.

It was the age of women at home, and so I was in luck. A kindly lady invited me in, seated me at her kitchen table and fed me milk and cookies. I didn’t notice, but she must have slipped out of the room to call the police and report a lost child. For it wasn’t long before an officer arrived at her house too. How cool was that? I got to come home in a cruiser! 

Look at all Tony missed by turning around.


I recently wrote my daughter:

I am sixty-two years old and live, as you know, on one of the “hills” in Seattle in a lovely little English Tudor home where a chandelier is reflected in a Venetian mirror. And I just bought a waterfront house in the islands that’s a total rehab with a trailer dumped on the lot. And all I want to do is go out there and clear brush! Am I nuts?

And she answered:

The best kind of nuts! You’ve lived in plenty of lovely neighborhoods, but you’ve never lived by the sea on a remotish-island. I am so excited for you.





Filed under moving

Why We Need Artists


Because I grew up on the East Coast, I still get a kick out of towns, hills, creeks, rivers, and roads with Western names. Raised on enough Westerns for it to be a part of my television DNA,  I don’t think a born Westerner would derive the same pleasure, as I made note on an impossibly long drive the names: Sweet Briar, Tom Cat Hill, Lost Man Creek, Rogue River, Wonder Stump Road, and dozens more. As a writer, I may use them someday.

“It sometimes takes a foreigner to come and see a place and paint it,” David Hockney once explained. We did not know then, on our drive to San Francisco, that we would be attending Hockney’s “A Bigger Exhibition” at the de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park. But that’s just what we did. And it made sense. It made sense of everything.

Having studied at the Royal Academy of Art in London, Hockney moved to Los Angeles in the 1960’s. There, the extraordinarily talented British artist immersed himself in swimming pools, mid-century architecture, palm trees, portraiture, and the Southern Californian sun-drenched light for twenty-five years. Returning to his native Yorkshire, England in 1996, “A Bigger Exhibition” covers the years since his return to England. Hockney’s 21st century art, one might say. More than ever now his subject is light, from the bleakness of winter to the excitement of its return in spring and summer, and throughout the hours in a day.

“People don’t look very hard,” notes Hockey. “I do, and I do something with it.” 300+ works make up this monumental and expansive exhibition in oil, watercolor, charcoal drawings, digital films, and  iPad paintings. A seventy-six year old man today, Hockney is running circles around us and calling our attention to the world.

Stepping out into the park, every which way I turned was a “Hockney.” The sunlight through trees, the trees bereft of leaves, and this sensation continued all the ride up the coast toward home. The Tuscan hillsides of Napa and Sonoma, the cathedral-like presence of redwood forests, the Big Sur experience with rocks, the Pacific as a sheet of mica, and gleaming white towns along its edge. We took the long coastal route back, following the contours of hills and river beds on roads that switched and turned south, then north again. The Old Coast Highway. And I saw it all through David Hockney’s eyes.

This is why we need artists in this world.


Filed under art

Everything Matters

This week the world has been shocked to witness what in chaos theory is called The Butterfly Effect, whereby “when a butterfly flaps its wings in one part of the world it can cause a hurricane in another part of the world.” Or in other words, when an amateur filmmaker in Los Angeles makes a hateful anti-Muslim film, it can cause riots, death, and destruction throughout The Middle East. We witnessed this too with the Qur’an-burning pastor in Florida.

Personally I’d like to see the film maker behind bars as well as the pastor, but the problem is bigger than that. Free speech, for one thing. Democracy demands it. Civility, however, has its own demands. To put it simply, we must respect others.

Civilization is eroding and evolving at once, and perhaps this has always been the case. We know how fast things can erode, as a mere snowball turned into an avalanche while we sat frozen in our seats.  But let’s remind ourselves that The Butterfly Effect works both ways, toward healing, understanding, and enlightenment as well.

Robert F. Kennedy expressed it elegantly, “Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”

What we say and do matters. What we write matters. It all matters.


Filed under mindfulness