Tag Archives: big sur

Message in a bottle

It’s been 98 days since I remembered I had anything interesting to write here. I just checked. There was a meager sighting of sub-par poetry in there, done in the interest of humility and commitment-keeping, but my blog’s officially been getting short shrift since July. And what a shame, because phrases I’ve never in my earthly life written, like short shrift, have just been bopping around up there, waiting for their chance.

I’m not beating myself up about it, which I consider a great achievement. (Maybe next time I will remember in 92 days, or 88.) I am, however, afraid that if I don’t bottle the juice while I got it, it will flee as fast and as mysteriously as it landed, right here on my lap next to a purring cat at 4:54am. So it looks I’ll be plugging in my computer instead of crawling into bed, and I’ll suffer through the work day with an extra shot in my mocha.

The source of my sudden inspiration is hard to say, but suspects include:

  • the spontaneous Big Sur Tuesday night dance party (responsible for these wee hours), which was the most fun I’ve had in ages;
  • three shots and two glasses of wine at the aforementioned fête;
  • the idle perusing of ridiculous genius in my friends’ blogs;
  • the toying with a ridiculous idea to write another novel in November;
  • all this singing I’ve been doing;
  • or all the reading;
  • psychic healings from Laura Day and friends (see sidebar);
  • the extra 5-HTP I’ve been taking;
  • a day chock-full of gifts, in the form of super-kind words from all sorts of unexpected people.
  • Best, and most surprising of all, was the shot in the arm from my own self. I looked at my blog tonight for the first time in awhile, sighed (as I do), and suddenly had the ingenious notion that I could just start re-posting old posts, in an attempt to look prolific without having to actually form sentences. Brilliant! So I started kicking around the archives a bit, looking for a gem.

    Who knew? These fingers at my keyboard now are the same ones that typed the message in the bottle I’ve been holding out for.

    October 21st, 2008: The best laid plans

    Lately my life has been full of regrets and hurts and going-wrongs. Days and days stringing together without the solace of resolution or comfort of clarity. I’ve been tending myself pretty well, with the exception maybe of four days dedicated to eating bread, and am emerging enough from my wheat-filled fog to enjoy a little perspective. Here I can wonder, again, how each time life serves up a dollop of crap, I manage to convince myself I’ve never been here before. What to do? (Followed by close cousin: Oh why am I always this way?)

    And lo and behold, right here in my corner of the world wide web, I find a girl I can recognize, exactly one year younger than I am today. Struggling the same struggles and finding her way. Surely this is irrefutable proof of something more inspiring than I am a slow learner.

    The very dawn captured by neighbor Dave Egbert.

    Lucky day... the very dawn was captured by neighbor Dave Egbert.

    If 34-year-old Lisa could see 35-year-old Lisa today, I imagine she’d be equal parts relieved and dismayed, that exactly everything and nothing has changed. It seems to me right now that my life has been an exercise in nabbing new seats at the same film, waiting for a new ending.  I hope to remind myself, maybe when I read this post next year, to keep diligently pursuing an alternative to spending the rest of my days hapless and blinking in the theater, kicking the seats.

    It’s dawn now.  I can’t take my eyes off the ridge across the valley. My view from here is of the road I walked last October. Scrubby, black silhouettes of evergreens stand like cutouts against an unimaginable, painted sky. The pinking wisps of cloud smoke blush so deeply, then more still. As I watch it feels like my heart is nestling down in my chest. Somehow the sun’s relentless progress feels so hopeful at dawn, while at sunset it can be wistful and at noon mundane. All the while, here we are, just turning the same as ever.


    Filed under life, lisa goettel, writing

    Procrastination Station

    I don’t need NaNoWriMo’s procrastination station.  I have an infinite supply of my own. Like this blog.  I should be writing many, many words right now. In my novel, that is.  Instead I’m writing words here.  Because my brain is working like these sentences. Small and random and not well put together.

    So here’s my random collection of things to share this evening.

    1. Nano halo with ice cream horns

      Nano halo with ice cream horns

      This is a picture of what I look like right now. I’ve decided this is my Nano halo, complete with ice cream horns.

    2. I am weary. I moved houses, again, today. This is a house I will move out of on Dec. 1st, so I can move back into it on Dec. 15th. And I will live there until at least April.  April!  Oh god! If you want to know how I feel about this, go look at the cover of the latest New Yorker Magazine.  You should seek it out anyway. (Thanks Dale.)
    3. It is ridiculously beautiful in Big Sur right now.  I feel bad for all of you who live in places that are cold and rainy.  It is sunny (not now, because it’s nighttime) and 80 degrees and I did yoga on a deck this morning next to a hot tub, overlooking 180 degree blue blue ocean view. (Thanks Nadine!)  I say this to inspire you all to come visit. Since I will soon have a house. And to say “Thank you god for not making me move in the cold rainyness.” Because today I would have just sat down in the mud and cried.
    4. My friend Mike from London is coming to visit on Monday.  Yea.
    5. I’m having lunch with my friend Chris tomorrow. Yea.
    6. I’m going to Mexico in February. Yea. (Thanks Mom.)
    7. I’m going to San Francisco this weekend to write dangerously, at the Night of Writing Dangerously.  And I found out today I’ll get a prize, for raising all those dollars, from all of you!  Hey! Thanks!  I’m also hoping to march in the streets.  You can too! http://jointheimpact.wetpaint.com/?t=anon
    8. Which brings me, aptly, to number 8, the post-Prop 8 despairdrom.  Seriously. I have been ruminating much on this. So have other people who are speaking out most eloquently. Namely, Keith Olberman and Joe Solomonese. Please take some minutes and click on both those links. And it seems I have something to say too.

    The passage of Proposition 8, which takes away the right of gay couples to marry in California, right there in the Constitution, has been beyond a disappointment to me and so many people I know.

    To me it feels personal and it feels mean.  What a pointy contrast to the presidential outcome and The Big O’s message of hope – appealing to the best, most heartfelt, inspired, humble and giving parts of our humanness.

    I am sad, but I not at all hopeless. I know in my knowingest knowing that the passage of Prop 8 will be more inspiration for all people, in every state, to engage in a dialog.  And dialog will save the day. Dialog with those who are directly impacted by it is important, but also those that aren’t. Those who think this has nothing to do with them.  Those who think that the rights of someone they haven’t met are not inextricably linked with their own. And it is my fervent hope that this inspires dialog with ourselves.  What an opportunity to discover what our own beliefs and (often subconscious) intentions are bringing to the world!

    They say a “value” only changes when two held beliefs come in conflict.  It can be a painful and sometimes lengthy process, but it happens all the time.

    Example: I believe the gay lifestyle is wrong.  My son just told me he is gay and I love him.

    Whether or not it seems so, I promise, these two statements are fully incompatible.  These incompatibilities force something to shift.

    My invitation to you is this. Take an opportunity, right this very minute, to shine a kind and honest light on your most deeply embedded beliefs about love and relationships in general.  All your parts.  Write them down. Your parts will disagree and you may not like some. But in so seeing, we have a chance to more consciously choose which part we want to lead our lives.

    Cheri Huber says something to the effect of “You can have a wounded little whiny person in you who just wants to get whatever she wants all the time.  You can love her and listen to her and accept her as a part of you.  But you don’t give her the credit card and keys to the car.”  (I have a part of me who wants to pop other people’s zits.  But I do not let her go to parties.)

    Ok then. Remember to check out Joe and Keith’s links.

    Back to writing.


    Filed under life, lisa goettel, offerings, politics, writing

    The best laid plans

    I live in the most magnificently, impossibly beautiful place on earth.  I do not know how I ended up here or how I know I belong in this place, right now, but I do.  (I reach for the camera… where??? Heaven knows.)

    I had a crisis of trust today.  4:something pm and I have not accomplished all I intended.  I do not know where I will be living in six days.  I am lonely and unsure.  About everything.  How have I put myself in this situation?  What to do?  I know, in my heart and being, that trust and joy and perfection is available to me right now.  But how to simply abandon the fear?  The fear feels real.

    I want to eat chocolate and nap.  I do eat chocolate.  I check e-mail and do half-hearted work instead of nap.  I decide to read the blog of Laura Diamondstone, our current Big Sur Artist-in-Residence who I have been actively involved in getting here for an 8-week residency through the Big Sur Arts Initiative. I fall into her words and experience so far.  Her appreciation for this place overflows like a blessing.  I am so profoundly grateful to live in a place where everyone recognizes the majesty.  It is lost on no one who has eyes.  And there is always someone who is remembering when I’m not, who can help bring me back.  Today it is Laura.  She helps me remember, and I get up to go on a walk.

    Small, stingy tears start leaking, as I take my steps and listen to the perfectly human voice that comes forth.  This voice of such an understandably fearful, human girl who just wants to know where she will be living on Monday and how the money will come in if she follows her heart.  Who misses companionship and wants to turn back around on this lonely and beautiful road every time she thinks of mountain lions and loose dogs.  She picks up a rock and keeps walking.

    Her want and will to surrender to trust is inexplicable and powerful.  She needs to know that there is an easier, more aligned alternative to life than to arm-wrestle it.  More leaking.  She walks by the broken house.  The house that after architects and planning and county soil specialists and permit approval, broke right in two when the ground slid out from under it, only weeks before it was to be occupied. The house that with the best laid plans, now sits empty, broken and caught up in lawsuits.

    She makes a deal with the universe.  One week.  One week she will give herself and her heart entirely over to life.  She will banish worry and fear with absolution.  She will not let either make a single decision and she will walk through every door open to her that aligns with her intention.  No matter what.  If it does not work, if nothing opens, she will go back to arm-wrestling.

    She sees a loose dog and turns around. Then remembering, no fear decisions, turns around again.  She stands and faces the dog.  She asks silently and respectfully for passage and walks more steps. The dog stays looking. She soon feels the natural cadence of her journey close, nods appreciation and goodbye to the new Aussie Shephard friend and without fanfare, turns to start the climb back up the dirt road.

    The sporty red car of friend Christian turns the bend and is coming toward. The crunchy roll of dirt and gravel under the wheels is reassuring.  The girl smiles and waves and he stops.  She leans in the window and he tells her she is beautiful, walking on the road.  She says the view makes her look good.  They chat and within three sentences are negotiating her next house-sitting gig.  She will move in on Saturday.  She has 12 more days of bed and home while he is in Maui.  She throws the rock back to the mountain and follows him down to his house, taking careful mental notes on dog food, sprinkler systems and TV remotes.  He tells her there is a light around her.  That it is strong and powerful and fortuitous.  She hears the universe smiling and thanks him and it and herself and looks out at the sunset.

    There is a fox and a wood spider waiting for her at home, and she greets each of them before they go along their way.


    Filed under life

    The great debates

    It’s another glorious day in paradise – hot sun, blue sky, big ocean, sun setting and I’m eating chocolates dipped in peanut butter and drinking a blueberry Izze.  I’m in the honeymoon phase of a new love affair with life – serenading and writing poems to it, making dates, walking around all giddy. To this I credit a whole host of responsible parties – namely me, Cheri Huber, my person I talk to (I hate the word therapist), healers, friends, random path crossings with wise people… in some more meta way, everyone who has ever crossed my path ever. This is proving, once again, my circumstances have nothing to do with my happiness.  It seems it is the human condition to need constant proof of this.  We are slow learners. (Or perhaps I will just speak for myself.)

    Just for kicks, let us paint the picture here.  In the external realm, I am recently broken up from a serious and wonderful relationship of more than 3 years, I’m homeless, my checking account balance today is -$347 (yes, that is a negative sign), my car is making one of those little “uh-oh” noises and the check engine light came on again, “catastrophic rain-related mud and debris flows” are predicted by all the experts to befall Big Sur this winter, this morning I spilled a mug of hot tea all over myself (again) and last, but oh no, not least, I am likely the proud new party to a frivolous lawsuit.**

    **Indeed, a woman behind me when boarding the plane home from Colorado tripped on a bag I set down in the aisle while I was stowing my guitar and it seems she is rather enthusiastically tormented by her swollen ankle. Susan from Risk Management at US Airways has called me to let me know I should give my insurance company (which insurance?) a heads up about the coming claim.  Know any good lawyers?

    This is not to say each of these hasn’t given me pause – it’s not hard to start ruminating on any one of these subjects and watch myself dissolve into a seething, sobbing or withering puddle of goo. I have to check myself constantly.  But the will to check myself, and to choose something different, now that’s news.  I find it’s not so much these arguably legitimate concerns that even bother me really, it’s the voice in my head that never ceases to remark on my culpability, unworthiness, righteousness, (pick your judgemental characteristic of choice.)  This voice sucks my soul out through the head of a pin and spends all day letting me know why I deserve it and offers me every situation I encounter as proof.

    I have recognized this voice before, and been unable/unwilling to disidentify with it for long.  It’s powerful and wily and reasonable and convincing.  By even getting me to hate it, it has sucked me back into itself. Cheri Huber calls it self-hate, even when it’s directed outside.  I’m in a three month class with her via e-mail and phone calls and she wrote this yesterday: “Print it out and hang it on your wall–everybody! Self-hate, the incessant voices of dissatisfaction, leave you feeling frustrated/exhausted. THEN the same system talks you into doing something that will strengthen IT and leave you feeling WORSE!”

    Indeed. (Flash back to so so so many lost days spent watching movies and eating sugar because “I deserved it.”) Perhaps even more poignantly though, she responded to a participant who was doing the “yes but…(bemoaning his/her terrible situation)” by asking simply “And, of course, you know the only way to address this problem is to stop, yes?”

    I’m experimenting with this whole stopping business.  Just stopping.  Watching the train take off from the station, working me into a lather about exhibit A or B and just stopping.  If it takes zoning out for a minute or breathing or leaving or walking or temporarily distracting, whatever… just stopping.  And I must say, if this were a diet shake infomercial I would sign up to be spokesmodel.  I am deeply changed in my days.  The content hasn’t changed at all, but I am changed.  I’m waking up in the morning (early!) and writing and reading reassurances to myself, meditating, doing yoga, making breakfast.  I’m cooking really good dinners and walking on achingly beautiful roads being grateful.  I’m reaching out to friends because I want to, and receiving the love they have to give.  I’ve even set up my calendar to e-mail me things like “You’re Wonderful!” throughout the day, and who would have guessed I could believe those voices too.

    Yesterday in my session with my un-therapist there was another touchstone moment of realization (it should be noted that as time goes on I’m finding epiphanies are less and less “my god!” and more and more “oh yeah”) – and that is: this isn’t requiring my familiar “muscle-through” approach to life. While committing to stopping does require some force of will that often feels like a strict parent or that coach who used to shout through the last, shaky push-ups – more than that it requires that I allow all my most deeply uncomfortable feelings of rage or shame or disappointment to just be there. Not doing anything at all.  I’m begging to do push-ups at those moments.  They’re just sitting out there for everyone to see, and there I am, just sitting there.

    So here I am, hereby announcing this commitment to the world to keep stopping and sitting there, which at this moment feels like it’s giving more weight to the commitment.  Most of the time, that has felt like a bad thing.  But look at all I have to lose!

    I’m going to go now and not watch the debates.  I’m a political junkie turned politically-inspired-but- non-debate-watching happy person.  They should talk about that.

    1 Comment

    Filed under life, poetry, writing

    Of mountains and molehills

    It’s late and I have to get up in six hours.  It’s been weeks and weeks and weeks since I’ve written regularly though, and I’m determined to prove to myself that typing a few words is not pushing a boulder up a mountain.  I wrote two whole posts last week and had internet problems so I didn’t post them, and when I re-read them later they felt forced and inadequate.  Blah.  I’m sticking my tongue out at my inner critic right now.

    I’m just going to say a nighttime prayer (I wish that word wasn’t so associated with churches and bibles) to this infinitely supplied universe, full of things that are healing and nurturing and fulfilling. Heirloom tomato pizza, suprise path crossings with old friends, singing(!), Ani DiFranco’s new album, the nighttime that is serenading me with crickets.

    For the majority of you with whom I’ve lagged in contact, here’s an update in five minutes or less:

    • I’ve moved 12 times since July.
    • I’m luxuriously perched atop a Big Sur ridge in one place for a whole month, as of Saturday.
    • I went to Colorado for 10 days and saw changing Aspens and old friends.  I love Colorado, changing Aspens and old friends.  I saw my cat and three ex’s.
    • I’m teaching myself how to play guitar with “Guitar for Dummies”.  I know 16 chords and am very, very proud of myself.
    • I’m single for the first time in 10 years.
    • I’m taking a three month Zen class with Cheri Huber remotely, using conference calls and e-mails.  My assignment: do something that a) nourishes my heart and spirit and b) will earn me $500 in three months.  I think this is scary and implausable and fantastic.
    • The neighborhood skunk just waddled by the open door and gratefully decided against coming in for another cat food feast and four hour nap under my bed.

    I’m back!

    1 Comment

    Filed under life, writing


    Part of me wants to sit and write forever – typing my digestion of this past week, month, year. Another part of me wants to sit in a silent room– having nothing to say, nothing to write, nothing to do.

    Tonight I’ve settled upon my red pajamas, renting Juno and eating a dove bar for dinner. I did start writing some yesterday, noticing there’s the writing I feel I should do – updating friends and family on the fire – and there’s all the words underneath. I’ll probably make a series of it, as the onion reveals itself. I beg your patience with both the wordy waterfalls and days of silence in between.

    I just re-read the last fire update I sent. Now it feels so dramatic. The big, bad (and yes, still burning) fire that had all our fingernails chewed down to the quick has, after an exhaustingly watchful week, moved along from Big Sur with (relatively) little fanfare. This is in no way intended to diminish to the 27 homes lost, or our northeastern neighbors who are now evacuated, but when it seemed like the fate of the entire coast was at stake, to have the highway back open in the span of a mere week seems altogether anticlimactic.

    The statistics feel worse than the fire. Apparently by the time this is all said and done (probably not until the winter rains) this will be the largest wildfire in California history. It’s a few fires actually, that have joined and will burn more than a quarter million acres. In all honesty, that means nothing to me. It’s a vast sea of wilderness that my brain can’t wrap itself around. When I look at the fire maps I see fragments of Bambi flash through my memory reel and I imagine the distress of the deer.

    Hearing about landmarks, big and small, help my mind and body understand. I can picture the garden at the zen center vividly – memories of my fingers in soil beds that are now smoldering, black mounds. Sula’s house, where I sat with her over a long tea, talking about the joy of mixing paint colors and how Big Sur swept her off her feet so many years ago. Feeding her horses lunch and imagining myself living there too, in the little Airstream on the ridge. All those paintings and teacups and books – the accumulation in the life of a dilettante – now ash and dust.

    View from the highway July 3rd

    ** View from the highway July 3rd **

    When I first saw the fire up close, on evacuation day, I was surprised at the force of the effect. I sucked in breath and sobbed. The line of flames burning down the ridge looked like a scalpel, with neither malice nor care, cutting through the vulnerable skin of a friend. And we had to leave, not knowing if we were in for an appendectomy or a heart transplant.

    The week away was a blurry flurry of websites and phone calls and meetings. Everyone insatiably hungry for information, most of which told us only to keep waiting. The people who know things announced it would be at least a few weeks before we could return home. And as abruptly as the evacuation came, one evening (Thursday? Yesterday? A year ago?) they announced the road would open to residents the next day. This was more shocking to me than the evacuation frankly. Great for Big Sur businesses and obviously a good sign the fire was well contained along the coast, but I couldn’t help feeling like I’d just worked really hard getting comfortable in an uncomfortable chair, and now I had to go find someplace else to sit. I could understand the joy of friends who could finally go home, but I had no home to go to. The place I was planning on moving to survived by the hair of its chin, but the owners have decided not to rent it for awhile. So now what?

    I began to feel all the stuff behind the stuff. How becoming absorbed in managing a community website was simultaneously providing me with a point of focus and a container, giving me purpose and sense of earning my space in the village. How the fire was giving me a good excuse for eating badly, feeling sorry for myself and playing hooky. And now the containers and urgencies were falling away, and my community was scattering back up on their ridges, each immersed in their own fridge clean outs. (I have to make mention of my friend and fellow fire gypsy Linda’s perfectly written account of re-entry – http://survision-bigsur.blogspot.com/.)

    I’ve spent the time continuing my coffee shop wifi tour of Carmel, feeling out the not knowing in the occasional courageous moment. Not knowing always seems to come in equal parts pain and freedom. I’m still searching for my bootstraps after days full of tears and frustration and naps. But angels abound, and in the span of a day I’ve secured Big Sur house-sitting gigs through the end of August and Yossi signed a lease on an apartment in Marin.

      **the view from my front door**

    **the view from my front door, July 16**

    (Aside: There’s an overwhelmed little girl in me who wants everyone in the world to know that her old hometown flooded, her new hometown burned, she’s homeless, alone and her dog died last week. But what more to say than the picture of this moment – I’m nestled under a homemade quilt in a private guest house over a glimmering, enormous ocean, sipping wine and feeling taken in and loved everywhere. Don’t let me get away with the poor me routine please.)

    When I finally drove back to Big Sur this weekend, I nervously wondered what our new landscape would have to say, but it wasn’t anything like seeing the fire. I just stared at the hills in awe and curiosity, not the least bit sad. Where I saw the fingers of flame coming down to the road is now a giant, ashy mountain. In the right light you have to look twice before you even notice it isn’t green. The trees are still intact in many of the burn areas, where the fire didn’t crown and just burned through the understory. (I have a newly enhanced fire vocabulary.) If anything, Big Sur just looks even more dramatic than before.

    What most residents see is a much-needed, healthy clearing – and the makings of a winter full of mudslides and road closures. Not to mention all eyes are still on the half of Big Sur that didn’t burn, as we glance at the calendar and count down 100 more days till fire season is over.

    It makes most people wonder why on earth anyone has perched themselves up here in this place. I know painters who stay for the limitless landscapes. A friend told me today her neighbors wanted “country without the rednecks.” Henry Miller said it’s where he learned to say “Amen.” For me, Big Sur is a teacher of the lessons I’ve signed up for. And whether it’s flavored with pain or freedom, it always whispers in my ear “this is how big my love is.”


    Filed under life, writing

    Fire Update – July 3

    It’s been a helluva week. Lots to tell…

    The short version update as of this morning:
    – EVERYONE in Big Sur was evacuated yesterday. Both sides of the highway. This is the first time this has ever happened. We’re talking about a stretch of Highway One that is more than a 90 minute drive.

    – Yossi and I are safe and sound, in Carmel, staying with kind strangers who have offered a room of their home to us in downtown Carmel as long as we need it. I’m sitting at a Carmel coffee shop waiting for the morning’s fire update to post on the website.

    The longer version:
    This whole week has been one giant roller coaster blur. It’s giving me a whole new appreciation for living in the moment (and how difficult that can be!) I think part of me has been slow to send updates because it’s all so dang overwhelming.

    As you know Yossi and I were already planning on moving, which in most ways has turned out to be the hugest blessing. It put us a week ahead of the game. Friday and Saturday we packed up everything from the house and found a place to move to. Until Sunday that is, when it was announced that the place we were moving was under evacuation advisory. So we just decided to move everything into storage and figure things out day by day, which is what we’ve been doing ever since. Monday we found a guest house in Big Sur to stay at for the week, and then landed a house-sitting gig, also in Big Sur, for July 5-21st. We were sitting pretty until yesterday morning (was that just yesterday?) when our host knocked on our door at 8 to give us the news that we were under evacuation advisory, and half of Big Sur was under mandatory evacuation notice. Ash was falling like eerie snowflurries everywhere, and though we were only a few hundred feet from the ocean we couldn’t see the water for the smoke. We (again, miraculously ahead of the game), secured a place to stay in Carmel for the night.

    I spent the morning updating the surfire2008.org site with the evacuation news (which came from the “official” sources about 3 hours after the news of it had already spread everywhere), packing up the last bit of stuff from our old place (all but our poor, now certainly doomed plants,) packing up computers and files at the Big Sur Arts Initiative office and then sitting down for more web updates at noon, to find there was now a mandatory evacuation for all of Big Sur. Communication was now really breaking down all over town. My favorite story is one of a local hotel, who evacuated and closed without having let half of their guests know. Not even a note on the door. The community hotline wasn’t working because it was evacuated too. And fire was now clearly visible from the highway in several places.

    Yos and I sat down and re-grouped. Most people we saw were in good humor – in a weird way, it was a sweet afternoon. Big Sur people are generally well-connected to each other, supportive, self-reliant and prepared. So even the incredibly fast turn of events wasn’t panicking people. Since we were already all moved, we wanted to help where we could, so we went back to our landlord’s place to help them get their stuff out and help him prep to defend his house. By the way, many, MANY people in Big Sur, including many close friends of mine, are still there. Mandatory evacuation doesn’t really mean mandatory, it means that once you leave you can’t come back. And people are invested in defending their homes. And nobody is trusting the fire incident command team that has come into town to fight this fire, because they don’t know the terrain, homes or people. Many poor decisions have been made and opportunities have been missed. And the official fire communications team can’t even get out this morning’s update because their e-mail isn’t working. So the locals are relying upon themselves and each other. They have all gotten gel to spray on their house when the flames get near and they all know the fastest way out.

    We’re still really in the thick of this thing. The news this morning (all unofficial) isn’t good. Since yesterday, fires have started in Santa Barbara and Malibu, taking all our air support and a bunch of our crew. The fire is coming down toward the highway in several places with several more homes and businesses burned and threatened. 10,000 more acres burned last night alone, and the incident command team’s quote in the paper today was “this is far from over. If we were in a marathon, we’d be at mile marker two.”

    As everyone in CR knows, the hardest parts will come – everyone out of work, no long-term housing, who knows what destruction to come home to…

    My focus is still helping with the increasingly challenged communications through the surfire2008.org website. It’s become a pretty essential resource during this – it was covered in the Monterey Herald this week. It keeps me feel connected to the community to contribute with this, especially since we’re now all scattered everywhere.

    I’ve got to run – but updates will come more frequently now…

    1 Comment

    Filed under life

    Big Sur Fire – Update from June 26

    In case you haven’t heard, there’s a Big Sur fire. A big, big, Big Sur fire. And here I am all brushed up on my disaster awareness on the heels of the record-setting Cedar Rapids/ Iowa City flood. Plague of locusts, anyone?

    View of the fire from the top of my road, Sunday June 22

    View of the fire from the top of our road, June 22nd

    There are over 800 fires in California right now, and as of yesterday our fire, now named the Basin Complex, is the number one priority. (I’m not sure how to feel about that.) It warranted a quick fly-in from the Govenator and got us $20 million more in resources – a good thing.

    The fire started after a lightning strike on Saturday afternoon and has burned 18 homes and large out-buildings so far. It’s growing more than 10,000 acres a day (bad news), almost entirely toward wilderness and away from the residential and business areas (good news.) At the moment I live in “central” Big Sur, if there is such a thing, and am about 2 miles northwest of the fire with a highway and river gorge in between us. I’m safe and at no immediate risk. The weather has been very helpful all week, staying cool and calm. We all have our ears perked up and bags packed though, as a wind change is expected tonight that isn’t as favorable. We have drought conditions and major overgrowth of underbrush everywhere here, so what isn’t burning is a match waiting to be lit. And fire, like water, has a mind of it’s own.

    The community here is well-versed at emergencies and has pulled together beautifully. We already have a hotline going, fully staffed by volunteers for the next two weeks. Our entire fire brigade in Big Sur is a volunteer-driven nonprofit, as is our health center, and they’re incredible. I asked the( fantastic) guy who built the 2008flood.org website for Cedar Rapids three weeks ago if I could have his code, and I got surfire2008.org up and running yesterday, with the help of friends. I feel supported and connected to everyone here, and like any good small town, we all crowd around the steps of the state park station together at 7 each night to hear updates from Frank, our fire chief.

    As for me, the impact is substantial and growing. I know many who have lost homes and many more who are evacuated. I’m scheduled to move on Monday, but my new place may or may not be standing right now (it’s in the middle of the worst part of the fire) so I’m packing, without knowing exactly where I’ll be yet. Yossi will be moving up north of San Francisco soon, but doesn’t have a place lined up, so we’ll both be in somebody’s guest room it seems for awhile. Most businesses are not operating, because the highway is closed and tourists are being turned around. And tourist season is Big Sur’s bread and butter for the year. The smoke is thicker than fog here – it woke me up with a start this morning, smelling like someone set a campfire in the kitchen. Esalen, where I used to live, has been evacuated, and while they expect they will be able to save it, the staff housing is right in the burn path, as is their water line. Power and phones went down days ago to everyone more than a mile south of me. The Henry Miller Library is being actively defended – the whole gorge coming down to it is on fire. (And Rob Schneider was going to do stand up there tomorrow night! Damn.)

    It’s a sight to behold, this thing. I can walk up my road and watch the flames. Nature reminding us we aren’t so big and powerful. It’s clearing out the old pretty effectively, and as scary or sad or overwhelming as it becomes in some moments, I can appreciate that. A friend of a friend who lives right in the fire path and doesn’t know yet if her home is still standing said yesterday “at least I’ll finally be rid of those damn mice.”

    And next spring in the Sur will be a blanket of bright, electric green.

    I know many of you are spent with disasters of your own. But if you wish to help out, the most needed thing are contributions to the Big Sur Fire Relief Fund. You can mail donations to: Big Sur Fire Relief Fund PO Box 59 Big Sur, CA 93920.


    Filed under life

    Life and death in a small town

    Big Sur has been full of death and life. Our vibrant spring blooming everywhere has been tempered with sadness. Our postman, Mike, hung himself on Thursday. Ric Masten, a local and international artist/ poet/ storyteller/ undefinable life commentator passed away peacefully at his home on Friday. My friend Ronnie killed himself last month. And there have been other deaths – people I didn’t know personally but touched many here.

    It occurs to me, that the enormity of the population of this world – the sheer number of people on the earth that at one moment will have me feeling entirely insignificant – will, at another moment, nurse me out of my missing any one person too much. For every person we have contact with, we are touched uniquely and permanently. The precise constellation is irreplaceable. So is the form. But the touching, the inspiration, contact that I receive is formless and entirely replaceable. When you aren’t here, someone else is. Your space gives room for another to arrive. And whoever I come in contact with helps me better know myself, and life.

    For me knowing this takes the edge off – replacing the hopelessness with freedom. I can’t criticize myself without feeling the relief of my insignificance. I can’t pull the hope out of my despair.

    I miss everyone that is gone. And when I start missing too much, something knocks me on the head and reminds me that what I’m really longing for is still available. The best of us is in everyone. And everyone does their best.

    Thank you for your inspiration Ric:

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    Filed under life, writing