This journal focuses on the art, history, culture, and wildlands of the northern Big Sur coast. Periodic entries and documents appear at random here.



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Re-visiting fire: Tubbs Fire, November 24, 2017

November 24 — Mark West Springs, Riebli, Fountaingrove; Sonoma


He who does not realize to what extent shifting fortune and necessity hold in subjection every human spirit, cannot regard as fellow-creatures nor love as he loves himself those whom chance separated from him by an abyss. The variety of constraints pressing upon man give rise to the illusion of several distinct species that cannot communicate. Only he who has measured the dominion of force, and knows how not to respect it, is capable of love and justice." 

— Simone Weil, "The Iliad or the Poem of Force"

At first we drove past. I knew the first impression would be that we were gawking. But then after a bend or two I made a u-turn, and Debi and I drove back to the couple who were working through the rubble of their burned home. One of the haunting dissimilarities between the Soberanes Fire and the North County fires is how public and industrial the clean-up in the latter fires can seem.

Click on the image for aerial before-and-after photos of the Tubbs Fire. Image by Overview News//DigitalGlobe 2017.Most burned homes in Santa Rosa are in close proximity to one another in comparison to places like upper Rocky Creek and Green Ridge and Long Ridge. 

Bulldozers can follow paved roads and sweep up the rubble of a whole neighborhood. You don't have to sift through your burned home by hand unless you want to.

Photo used by permission of Kiky Lee at Atlas Peak.

We crossed the road and introduced ourselves.

"We're so sorry for your loss. We lost our place in the fire in Big Sur last summer and we know what you're doing right now. And we just wanted to stop and say we're sorry."

There were tears and stories and descriptions of the fire and the lovingly pointed out details of a home and life Connie and Elsu were always working on and creating happily together.

Three of their near neighbors died in the fire. The fire hit so quickly in such ferocious winds that there nothing to do but try to get out at once. Lynne Powell had grabbed her border collie Jemma and was driving out in one car while her husband George rounded up three other collies and was following fifteen minutes behind. But in the smoke and panic Lynne missed a bend and her car slid down into a ravine. George drove on having no reason to think she wasn't always just a little way ahead. It was only later he learned he'd driven past her.

“If I had known, I would have gone down there with her, even if it meant I would have died with her,” George said. “I don’t know how I’m going to cope. She was my life.”

“She was my life,” he repeated.

Ash, glass, oak. 

Fire, glass, sky. All images—except the first one by Overview News//DigitalGlobe 2017—by Debi Lorenc.

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