Monday, June 23, 2008

Smoke in the Air

Ah, the sweet smell of California summer: smoke from nearby wildfires. The nearest is about 25 miles away by road, if I am listening to the scanner correctly, up in the Cherry Creek drainage. That means on the OTHER side of the Tuolumne River. That’s a good thing, as resources statewide – manpower and air tanker support – are all working fires in populated areas, fires that threaten homes, farms and livestock. The fire rule you hear all the time is that during the day fire burns up slope and up canyon. At night, when the air is cooler, the fire settles down and smoke drifts in other directions. So while our days are often relatively smoke-free when a wildfire is burning nearby, we wake up to smoke in the morning. It’s now nearly 9:30 a.m. and the air is still heavy with smoke, enough so that the houses across the two lanes of Ferretti Road are visibly obscured and the sky is a uniform grey.

Air quality warnings are out all over northern California. We are urged to stay inside, not to exercise too heavily, especially is we are elderly or have breathing or heart problems. The original smog, competing with Hawaii’s vow (volcanic air pollution).

From downstairs I am hearing, “Hello. Hello? Hello! Hello?” For the first time since she arrived just over a week ago, Goldie the Parrot has decided to speak out. She has been muttering for several days, but today she is calling for Verna just as she does in her own house.

Got a badly needed “animal fix” yesterday afternoon, visiting a friend who has two cats and two Golden Retrievers. After petting the cats, I was reminded that I really do have an allergy to some cat dander – sneezing, itchy eyes, and all. It got better once I washed my hands and opened a window. The dogs did not seem to create the same problem. They are wonderful, but I love Goldens anyway. The younger male is curious, into everything, wants to chew on small, plastic objects like clocks, timers, and cell phone chargers …. I was careful to put my shoes out of his reach! The female, Abby, is older, more mellow, better behaved, and seemed a little jealous when Andy got too much attention.

Onward. Look up! Give thanks for the good, don’t waste time feeling sorry. Don’t forget to pray!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Verna -- and fire weather

Have I mentioned Verna? Our relationship began more than 25 years ago when Christie left and I moved to existence mode for five years or so. No time is a good time for a non-custodial parent to snatch a child. On the advice of attorney, we did not fight, although we would have won – at the cost of very legal fees and a very angry teen-ager. But Christie is another story not properly told here. Suffice it to say that Vera was the mental health counselor who worked Groveland at the time. Ray went on to assist her in group therapies, and we became good friends. Ten days after I got back from Hawaii, Verna wrecked her car and landed in the hospital. She was discharged to transitional care (read rehabilitation) five days later, and left transitional care eight days after that. I have had her here for a week. She had nowhere else to go. Her daughter is in Illinois, one son is in Arizona, the other 4 or so hours away in Napa Co. Nobody has time for Mom. OK, Roger came from Arizona and dealt with the car. I am very thankful that I didn’t have to do that. But he runs a small, private school in Sholow, Arizona and had to get back for summer session. Admittedly, Verna is difficult at best. She is strong-willed and stubborn, lonely and loud. She needs to feel like she is the center of attention – although she will deny that to her dying breath. She didn’t break anything and has no major lacerations, but did get a severe concussion that has an intermittent effect on speech, balance, mobility, and memory. So she is on a walker, using the tub transfer bench and bathroom grab bars, and depending on me to cook and do the heavy stuff involved with caring for Goldie, her 50-year-old parrot. Thankfully, Verna can get to the bathroom on her own, and can bathe and dress herself.

Meanwhile, the cold weather has lifted and severe fire weather has arrived with a vengeance. We have already had several major fires between Sacramento and Redding, one in Stockton, and several in Santa Cruz Co. There is one burning now near Watsonville on Hwy 1 north of Monterey that in less than 24 hours had destroyed several multi-million dollar homes. The strawberries in your market probably came from Watsonville if they were grown in California. About 1:00 this afternoon the temperature here was 89° outside and 90° inside -- 95° in my all-but-attic bedroom. So it’s beach shorts, bare feet, and all the fans operating. Suddenly the sky got very dark, the thunder began to roll, and a parade of fire engines started up Ferretti Road. Everyone is on lightning lookout – Groveland Community Services District, California Department of Forestry (or whatever they are calling themselves these days), Stanislaus National Forest fire crews, and the folks at Yosemite National Park. Nobody wants a fire in our neighborhood. The scanners are running again – this, after all, is why we have them. We learned it is important to know WHERE the fires are, and WHAT they are doing. So far, the only fire call has been a fire on Oak Grove Court at the other end of the subdivision and 5 or so miles away. Not far enough when the wind in blowing in your direction. Now I’m hearing something about smoke east of Pine Mountain Lake. There’s a lot of country east of the subdivision, but we’re on the northeast end … Thank goodness we’re on the road that is the last line of defense for fires coming up the river canyon – they will not defend houses on the other side of the street, but will defend ours to keep a fire out of the major part of the subdivision.

Darn. In my current chaos/non-order, I have no idea where to put my hands on some of the most precious pictures and other important stuff. Best also make back-ups of my genealogy files for the safe deposit box.

Pray for the fire crews out there on the lines, and for those who have been burned out. Give thanks that you and I are not among them. Pray for rain. Look for those silver linings! Keep praying …..

Monday, June 9, 2008

Order from chaos? I doubt it!

I am NOT an organizer. Not an organizer of stuff, anyway. And now I am paying the price. Reaching bottom in my chaotic upstairs is requiring endless hours of sorting, filing, shredding, and finding new homes for what is left. I have to be brutal. If it doesn’t have a home, it cannot stay. If someone else can use it, it must go to Good Will, or Salvation Army, or Helping Hands. If it specifically relates to Groveland, it gets to go to the Museum/History Resource Center. If it is garbage, it needs to find its way to the garbage can. If it is precious, it needs to find a home – which may mean determining the relative preciousness of two different objects. I find the process both tedious and painful.

There’s that clipping about the man who codified the game of baseball – who later moved to Hawaii, became the first fire chief of the City of Honolulu, and is buried at Oahu Cemetery in Nuuanu. My great-grandfather Cathcart is also buried there. …. Pack-rats don’t throw wonderful tidbits like that away. So … it’s interesting, but is it really important in my current life? Toss it.

There’s the $.5 million itemized hospital bill for Ray’s 6 weeks in the hospital in 2006. Damned hospital spent all that money to keep him alive, then 4 months later put in a catheter he didn’t need, caused an infection, and ultimately killed him. I’m past the worst of the bitterness and hurt, but not ready to discard that bill. Yet.

There’s the magazines he subscribed to – Hawaii, Scotland, Body&Soul, Yoga, Smithsonian, Southwest Art, ChipChats – and the ones I subscribed to … assorted journals from genealogical societies and other charities we support. There are the ones that were gifts – Prevention, Guideposts … Will I eventually read them? Past practice says not.

Mr. P, there’s still years worth of accumulated Christmas cards. Does that teacher friend of yours still use them? I hope so!

There’s a small mountain of photographs that need to find their way into albums – either hard copy albums or digital ones. Can’t do that until I have waded through the rest of the accumulation.

Lord, help me to see through the clutter to the wonderful space I will have when this is done. I give thanks for the garbage service (can’t begin to match what they have in Honolulu, but at least someone empties the can if I remember to put it at the top of the driveway …) – and for all the wonderful times Ray and I had together while this stuff accumulated. Keep me praying!