#SandFire, Los Angeles

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The ongoing L.A. fire (or Sand Fire, given its starting location on Sand Canyon Rd., one hour north of downtown), has scorched over 33,000 acres of mostly foothill. And three days later, it keeps raging. Several homes have been destroyed, and thousands of people are under mandatory evacuation orders. As of now, there is one fatality.

Wildfires aren’t a unique feature on the Southern California landscape, given our high temperatures, low humidity, and wild winds. Still, this fire is about as massive and scary as I remember. 

While not close enough to be dangerous to us, there is smoke and ash everywhere. It’s been a somber time around here, watching the erratic flames destroy farms, houses, come close to a wildlife refuge.

It’s also been reassuring watching communities come together, people taking in friends and strangers. When the call went out, Southern Californians lined up with their trailers to help evacuate exotic animals from the Waystation center — chimps, tigers and other such animals. People continue to do the best they can under the circumstances, and leave the rest to the firefighters, who’ve been at it for days with hardly a break.

Watching the fire from afar leaves one mostly speechless. Here are two photos from our front yard, a friend’s balcony — and above, from the local media.

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Image credit: abc7.com

Occasional Silence

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The occasional silence … why do we need it?

To read, to hear ourselves think, to create. Silence nourishes our minds and souls. It connects us to the outer cosmos. But the truth is we don’t get enough. And we suffer as a result.

As multi-tasking and demanding quick thinkers, we are drowning in the noise of our thoughts, desires, and emotions. Drowning in the constant breaking news and trending subjects.

Noise is a pollutant to everyday life, but it’s deadly, I think, for creativity.

At the center of all of us there is a reservoir of stillness. Meditation likely offers passage to that sea of calm that lies beyond the noise of our mind. Reading is another way. Long walks, and so on.

And here’s the thing. We need regular contact with that part of ourselves.

I know I do. Badly. It keeps me sane and centered, I think. It’s where I reconnect with a source of calm.

The good news is that part of ourselves in never far away. Once the decision is made to go there. Or, in my recent case, once the creative bug bites.

So, this is a long way around the subject of my absence, dear blogging friend. I’ve been working on the next Zoe Sinclair novel while putting the finishing touches on a short story titled A Blurred Reality. No way around this but to disappear for a while.

As it is often the case in a community, the fear of missing out is never far from my mind. So, I thought I pour myself a cup of coffee and check in this morning.

Visit you, and, in the meantime, ask … how are you doing?

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Image: 365daystobethankful.blogsp

A Lesson from Childhood

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When I was 13 years old and lived in Romania, my mother decided we would take a vacation over the summer with friends. To the sea, in a tent. Camping. All summer long, she said, so bring lots of books.

We would not be leaving the campgrounds much, and will depend on what we bring and the bare necessities within the facility. The parents would be resting, talking. Fishing. There would be storytelling, campfires, but mostly lights out early every evening. When not playing, we, the kids, would be reading.

You can imagine my confusion. I loved books, but why go all the way to the sea, five hours by train, for the whole summer to read?

“We spend too much time watching TV, talking on the phone,” Mom said. “We live in a world of sensory abundance and bonding poverty. This vacation will make up for that.”

Three weeks later, I found myself on the fly-infested rocky beach along the Black Sea coast in a place so quiet I could hear the earth’s pulse. The moaning of the sea.

Sitting cross-legged in a tent no larger than a closet, I read every evening. I met kids from Bulgaria and Poland. Told stories in quickly improvised sign language. Taught them Romanian words, and learned how to say sea and wind — among other things — in their languages. When nothing worked, we found common ground in our English-speaking skills.

What started as sensory and stimulation withdrawal turned into a heightened awareness of the elements. We listened to sounds the wind picked up from afar — broken sounds, but easily heard.

We listened to the lapping of the waves, the sea whispering its own language or that of creatures inhabiting its depths. Sitting on the beach for hours, we tried to decide if the whistling sounds came from a dolphin or some other fish. We laughed so much.

Since then, I’ve returned for more camping, but it was never like that summer, when I learned to go from crippling fear of boredom to hilarious fun and peace.

This post is part of the WordPress DailyWrite, where the prompt is to share a story about learning something new.

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Image:destopnexus.com/BlackSea

Reflections 2016 #atozchallenge

A-to-Z Reflection [2016]

So, the Blogging Challenge is over. Well, it’s been over for twelve days, but recovery takes time — nearly two weeks since I officially opened my blog. It’s been an extremely satisfying month, but also demanding.

After some rest and clarity, I look back at the comments, at the posts written, and I’m overwhelmed. Twenty-six posts, hundreds of comments, and thousands of visitors.

Thank you.

I liked too many blogs to compile a list of favorites — many amazing stories from many different corners of the world. And I’m fascinated by stories. By the blogging spirit out there. The drive to keep going. I admire it and feed off it, and that’s more than anyone can ask for.

My son caught a pretty nasty bug during the last week of the Challenge. All my time went to doctor visits, taking care of him, follow-ups with the doctor when the medicine didn’t work and he broke out in a rash all over his face and arms. Going back for another visit, another test, another set of medication.

Daily blogging takes energy, which was nonexistent at that point, but then I read my friend Gwynn’s posts, and came across a variety of other posts that moved me beyond words. So I kept going. And as the Challenge came to an end, my son got well.

Amazing how much people need one another, isn’t it?  Need might be a big word here, but you know what I mean. We thrive when we feel connected and supported by each other, and we suffer when connection and support are not available. We have these needs as babies and we never lose them.

Blogging, in that way, becomes a group activity. We need to connect, to read each other’s stories, learn from one another. We continue to move because we are a group. We’re in the same boat, on the same trail, so we push forward — for one another if not for ourselves. And you can’t quit or complain — well, you can, but stay with me for a moment — because it would be a disaster to the group.

So, I came away with the realization that continuing to move our feet is the only way to reach our destination. We keep going, for ourselves and for others, to prove that WE CAN DO IT.