Tuesday, October 30, 2007


The dust has settled (not even), the ashes are gone (as long as you don’t breathe), and the air is clear (again, don’t breathe). Residents are swapping stories and taking stock. We all know people who evacuated their homes, some whose homes sustained fire damage, and even some who lost their homes. For those, things won’t be back to normal for a long time. And even then, their lives will always be divided into “before the fire” and “after the fire.” “Oh,” they’ll say, “I lost that in the fire.”

Since I had to go through the exercise of packing for home evacuation, I realize now how unprepared I was for choosing, gathering, and preserving. I have vowed to do a few things so that if this happens to me again, I will be more organized.

The television news was helpful in telling people what they should do to prepare for evacuation. But, what if you don’t have time or if you lose power and don’t have access to radio or TV?

Rule 1: Be prepared as much as possible. Have a battery operated radio on hand that has fresh batteries. Go out and fill your cars with fuel if you think you might need to leave.

Sometimes officials only let you return to a neighborhood if you can prove that you live there.

Rule 2: Have documentation on your person that proves your address of residence. This can be a driver’s license or a utility bill that shows the service address.

During my rush to pack and organize, I got my digital camera and started taking pictures of my entire house. However, just hastily taken pictures probably isn’t sufficient. Each picture should also have verbal descriptions.

Rule 3: Grab all documentation and paperwork that will help you get your life back together quicker. Some of this stuff may be in a safe-deposit box (it’s probably safe) or a fire-proof box at your house (grab it). This includes passports, birth certificates, bank accounts, insurance policies, and documentation (including pictures) of your household goods that may need replacing.

Mentally go through and evaluate the effect of losing your possessions. Replaceable or irreplaceable? I have two wool, hand-woven tapestries given to me by my grandmother. They were woven by an ancestor cousin, Sophia Flagg, in 1845. Irreplaceable. The family bible lists births, deaths, and marriages and was my first source in genealogy research. Irreplaceable. Then there are photos of my family, both very old photos and even current ones. Irreplaceable.

Rule 4: Make a list and check it twice of your irreplaceables!

If you have to evacuate, you’ll feel so much better if you can at least change your clothes, take a shower, and brush your teeth.

Rule 5: Pack a change of clothes and toiletries to last a few days at least. Think practical. Include a sweater (even though Santa Ana winds drive the temperatures into the 90’s, you never know how it may cool off, especially if you’re sleeping in a tent in an evacuation center), closed-toed shoes, hat, sunglasses.

You may be able to crash at a friend’s house. You may not be able to.

Rule 6: Bedding, a pillow, sleeping bag, air mattresses. Not every one has camping equipment, but blankets and pillows will help.

Again, think camping.

Rule 7: Flashlight, water bottle, water, snacks.

Children present a whole new set of issues. Children like familiar things, familiar food, and familiar people as much as possible.

Rule 8: Include your child’s favorite toy (or two) in your irreplaceable list. Include their special blanket or pillow and special T-shirt or sweater. Include snacks or drinks that they like.

Pets also require extra planning. San Diego County residents needed to take care of horses, livestock, and other animals besides the normal dogs and cats.

Rule 9: Include pet food, bedding or portable kennel, container for food and water, leashes, toys, and anything that will make their relocation less traumatic.

Although life stops for you during such a crisis, amazingly enough, the world goes on outside the disaster zone and you may have to participate. Organize what you need to continue your day job, including paperwork and computers.

Rule 10: Go ahead and grab the entire desk top computer if you’ll regret not having all of your files. Don’t forget your cell phone and charger.

And finally, don’t go through this alone. Talk to your neighbors and call your friends and family. Keep in touch throughout the ordeal because conditions change. If you need something, go ahead and ask for help. You’ll feel much better if you don’t feel like you’re dealing with this all by yourself.

Rule 11: Try with a little help from your friends.

Additional information can be found here.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The New Indie Bloggers

Edit: Alas, IndieBloggers no longer exists. All good things must come to an end! Indie Bloggers was a web site designed to promote writing and writers. My previously posted submission can be found here: Kayak Surfer.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Hills Ablaze in San Diego

The hills around San Diego County ablaze: Witch Fire, October 2007This picture was sent to me by my brother-in-law who received it from a friend (photographer unknown).

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fires in San Diego County

This morning brings air that has cleared up significantly. Early Monday morning we awoke about 2:00AM because the air was laden with smoke and ash. Our cat freaked out and started crying. We quickly closed all windows to keep out the bad air from the fire raging 20 miles east of us.

The next morning we watched the news to determine the extent of the fire. We stepped outside. The hot, dry Santa Ana winds were still blowing hard (30-40 miles per hour) and the air was very dry (less than ten percent humidity). Ash fell from the sky. Although we were still quite far from any fire, the high winds made it impossible to predict the exact path of the fire, as well as how long we would be safe. This picture was taken on Monday afternoon. The sun appeared like an orange ball high in the sky; the lighting was eerie and strange.Smoke-veiled afternoon sun in Leucadia from San Diego's Witch FireBy noon, our area was designated as advisory. We decided to pack our irreplaceable possessions and put everything by the front door. The news helped us organize. We packed a few clean clothes and toiletries, wallet, credit cards, driver’s license, passports, paper work with utility bill showing our address, insurance information, and important work-related information. We grabbed photo albums and negative boxes (there were many), camera, sunglasses, hat, flashlight, sleeping bags, pillows, blankets, water and water bottles, day pack, laptop, and guitars. We retrieved the cat’s kennel as well as her food (oh, she is going to hate this!). We piled everything by the front door. We figured we could be ready to vacate in 20 minutes or so. If things worsened, we would start packing the cars. We went out and put gas in both cars—so we could drive far without having to find gas.

We called several friends: How are you? Are you okay? What’s your status? If you need to evacuate you can come here . . . or, if we need to evacuate we’ll come to your house. It turns out that we had friends who evacuated to our house on Monday night. We had 8 people, 2 dogs, and 2 cats. The next day, we watched the news. It was difficult getting accurate information. Some areas were cleared to return; others were more tenuous. No one wanted to go home, only to leave again.

We had a big dinner Tuesday night and reminisced about college days, since we all were friends from college. I’m really glad my friends came over. It’s much easier to go through the uneasiness with other people. You don’t want to be by yourself.

All of our homes are safe. We are the lucky ones. Over half a million people were evacuated and 1500 homes were lost.

Monday, October 15, 2007

D Street Beach in Encinitas

D Street Beach, EncinitasAt the end of D Street in Encinitas are a few benches, a lone tree, and view of the ocean. A steep wooden staircase gives access to the sand where surfers ply the rollers year round.D Street Beach, EncinitasI frequently stash my camera just in case and this day, as the setting sun played hide and seek with the clouds, I could not resist capturing the on-going light show.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Kayak Surfer

Sunset splendor at Moonlight Beach, EncinitasOnce October arrives and Labor Day is behind us, most of the tourists are gone. The beach once again becomes ours and it's time to reclaim it. Early morning or late day, low tide or disappearing beach, the beach is a playground for fishing, surfing, walking, or running.

So here I am. The clouds are blocking the setting sun, leaving an antique finish across the sky and the darkened sand. The sea is muted, absorbing the fading light. Even the waves are quiet, relentlessly depositing their gifts upon the beach. The water carries bits of shells and lonely strands of seaweed which remain strewn upon the wet sand. The tide is receding and ravenous gulls scrounge for morsels amid low-tide deposits.

I have just finished my run, some thirty minutes of rhythmic pounding, and I raise my arms to help open up gasping lungs. A breeze full of the smells of the sea fills my nostrils, mixing with the dried sweat and salt on my skin and sweat-moistened hair. I welcome this invasion.

I notice a lone kayak, empty of its driver, patiently waiting in the wet sand. I suck more air and turn my back on the kayak. Coming down the beach is its owner, identified by his paddle, full wet suit and helmet. I continue gasping for air and briskly walk for my cool-down. The kayaker and I pass each other, but he doesn’t see me or notice me. His focus is his craft, his intentions are honed in on the melding of his body with this unassuming little floatation device. He looks west to the ocean.

I turn around so I can face the kayaker now reunited with his craft. With the paddle in one hand, he drags the boat towards the water, choosing a position not quite in the water, but within the waves’ reach. He positions the boat carefully and climbs in. He busies himself with some attachments or fittings and then uses the paddle as a lever to push himself towards the water. He strains as sandy goop sucks his craft and tries to prevent his leaving. He stops and waits for a wave to arrive.

I chuckle. The man reminds me of a small child sitting in a wagon, waiting for someone to come by and give him a pull. The kayaker turns impatient and once again begins to push against the sand to inch his way seaward.

At last, the sea relents and a wave lifts the little craft made heavy with its cargo, ever so slightly. He is working furiously now to paddle through the inch or two of liquid before the wave can take back its gift. One side, then the other, the paddle dips into the water, and the little kayak takes on a new wave. After each wave the kayaker responds by paddling with a burst of energy. He is fighting the incoming surf and working to get through the onslaught. The deeper he goes, the bigger the waves become that battle against him.

I am now completely drawn into his playful mastery of the sea. While I had expected the kayaker to work through the waves and reach outside, I now realize that this struggle is but the setup. The real goal is catching an incoming wave, controlling the kayak through the surf. Agile, sharp turns allow him to move up and down the wave.

I continue watching him as he once again battles the incoming waves and struggles to reach outside. He squirrels around a bit, looking for a promising swell. He sees a wave that he likes and attacks it, paddling with the surge to catch his ride. Once caught, the kayak becomes an extension of his body. He works the wave, using paddle, body, and kayak. He rides the shoulder and twirls in the surf.

He is the kayak surfer. He releases the wave and manuvers free to fight the battle once again. He is as relentless as the sea itself.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

The Moral High Ground

I weep that this proud symbol has come to represent a nation that torturesI am beyond angry at my government for being immoral.

First, I resent how we came to invade Iraq based on false premises (lies). I note that we are perpetrators of a pre-emptive war. We have relinquished the moral high ground based on this fact alone.

We further diminish our moral standing by locking people up in “secret” prisons or in Guantanamo Bay without any redress, charges, or legal stature.

Oh, there’s more. We advocate and practice torture, even as our President insists that we don’t. In the fall of 2005 I participated in a letter-writing campaign to President Bush protesting the use of torture by U.S. military, agents, or contractors. Here is a portion of the response I got.
President Bush has repeatedly affirmed our country’s commitment to the worldwide elimination of torture. He believes that human dignity must be protected and that freedom from torture is an inalienable human right.
Does that mesh with water-boarding, sleep deprivation, and sexual indignities? Here is the
whole letter.
Apparently, there’s more. Blackwater USA is a federal contractor operating without any accountability, actively spreading wanton violence without any behavioral checks and wrecking havoc in an already-festering terror-breeding environment. Why do we need Blackwater? Because we don’t have enough troops to continue this war (“spread democracy”) without them. Why isn’t there a draft to make up the troop deficit? (I am not advocating a draft.) Because then a whole generation of young people would actually become engaged and informed with what our government is doing. A 60’s-style activism would emerge.

Why isn’t everybody vocal and upset? Because ignorance is bliss. Don’t bother me while I’m trying to make a living, get my life together, or raise a family. Don’t bother me while I watch another lame reality show on the boob tube. Don’t bother me while I go shopping. (Remember, that is the sacrifice we were asked to make for this war: Go shopping!)

I don’t care if you’re conservative or liberal, Christian, non-Christian, or atheist. I don’t care if you think Bush is a good president or the WPE (Worst President Ever). You cannot convince me that this administration is not morally corrupt.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Lost Hope

(And you thought this post was about politics??? Ha!) When did it become so painful to be a sports fan in San Diego? Not only did we witness our inspired and much-cheered-for Padres’ season melt away, but the Chargers have already equaled the total season losses from all of last year and we are but a quarter of the way in (I am including last year’s post-season in that number). I am at a loss for words. Yoga, anyone . . . anyone?