Tuesday, December 30, 2008
Monday, December 1, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sunset came just after 4 pm yesterday as the sun turned into a huge red ball and descended into the bank of smoke blown over the ocean from the fires to the east.
Today it rose similarly, an eerie orange glowing from within the tan smoke covering the sky. Like yesterday, the disaster sixty miles away appears both on my television screen and in the air when I walk outside.
Weather reports for today are "smoky and sunny with decreasing winds gusting up to 40 mph."
I'd been planning to visit a church in Santa Clarita today, then decided against it because freeways in that area were closed, but at 7 am today it looked doable, so I went.
Interstate 5 was almost empty, so I flew up it, observing fresh billows of smoke from the northeast near Pacoima Reservoir, below which Sylmar lies. North of Hwy. 118, near the Sesnon fire of a month ago, a ridge of orange flame burned to the left of the freeway.
I turned onto Hwy. 14 and drove past blackened hillsides dotted with white wisps of smoke from various trees and bushes still smoldering. To my right billowed huge clouds of an active fire behind the first ridge.
The service at The Sanctuary, a Foursquare Gospel church, was worth the drive. www.thesanctuarychurch.com Even at the 8 am service over 100 people sang praise songs before two huge screens with words and photos, led by an eight-person band.
The pastor preached on "Crossing the Gay DiVide," urging members to reach out in love to gays and not batter them with the need to change their sexual orientation. He asked for contributions to give $10,000 to the LA Gay & Lesbian Center designated for AIDS/HIV services--to balance the $2500 the church gave to Yes on Prop. 8.
After church there was a strong wind; clouds of smoke just south of Hwy. 114 were reddish brown and billowing more dramatically, but the sky was brilliant blue elsewhere.
As I drove back to Santa Monica, I entered the smoke plume coming from Orange County. The sky turned from blue to yellow-brown.
I thought of my sister and her husband preaching at Presbyterian churches in Orange County today. He is a chaplain to OC firefighters and they expected to be up all night last night.
It will be warm today, but I'm keeping my windows closed in an attempt to keep ash and smoke out of the house; even so, the scent inside is strong.
Monday, November 3, 2008
I made a new friend today: George Finger from Staten Island, New York, who flew to California a week ago to work for the NO on Prop 8 campaign.
He'd never been to California before, so he took a few hours out of his training for election day efforts to drive to Santa Monica and see the beach here.
Proposition 8 is the second attempt in the last ten years to ban gay marriage in California.
George is straight and married, but his Christian convictions and his friendship with a lesbian woman led him to be here this week. That friend Jeanne Sales is also my friend, and she suggested he make a side trip out to see the sights and meet me while he is here.
He works as a chaplain with Education for Ministry, a program of theological education-at-a-distance, http://www.sewanee.edu/, and identifies as both an evangelical and liberal Christian.
We drove out to Point Dume in Malibu, where I take all first-time visitors to the Los Angeles area. A walk on the cliffs above crashing surf, a beautiful sunset, and a Mexican meal back in Santa Monica--who could ask for more?
Tomorrow he will be up at 4 am to be at the polls in Claremont before 7 am, where he will provide information on Prop. 8 to anyone standing in lines 100 feet from the voting booths.
Monday, October 20, 2008
Monday, October 13, 2008
A brown smear across the blue sky erased the Santa Monica Mountains this morning as I began my drive to work.
Taking the 405 north over Sepulveda Pass, I saw a white plume on mountains to the northeast and soon entered the driving smoke storm.
Palm fronds churned and other trees' branches flapped in the wind channel at Nordhoff Blvd., my exit for the CSU Northridge campus.
The campus itself was only occasionally in the direct blast when wind direction shifted but leaves and trash flew through the air.
With the 210 freeway closed and the 118 just north of campus soon to close, only half the students showed up. It's Columbus Day but not a day off for CSUN.
At 2 pm with the fire about a mile north, my department chair came around to say classes were cancelled. I didn't tell her my husband had called two minutes earlier from the LA Times with that news and a report that two deaths had been caused so far by the fire.
Stopping at a gas station to fill up, I had to shield the tank from drifting flakes of soot.
A year ago yesterday Malibu Presbyterian Church burned to the ground.
It's the old joke, California's four seasons: fire, flood, drought and earthquake.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
I deserve an early morning jog because I've just returned from two weeks of travel; I need to reconnect with this bit of earth and sea before returning to the drudgery of normal life.
I expect the Santa Monica beach to look a bit drab after Rio de Janiero, but I'm not prepared for ugly.
Overcast with heavy morning fog, the sky and sea are grey and flat. I can see nothing in either direction--no mountains north or south, no Santa Catalina, just the pier in grey to the north and the line of low buildings stretching south to the Venice breakwater.
It's a very low tide, so at least there's a wide strech of firm, walkable sand turned solid by the repeated wash of small waves. The waning moon must be pulling from the west, moving toward a noontime plunge into the ocean.
The water is dirty brown green, and when each wave finally peters out on the flat expanse, it's pushing yellow froth that remains on the sand after the water recedes. The bubbles collapse and leave a line of yellow circles, an archipelago marking the waves' furthest advance.
Why do we pump our sewage out a few hundred yards from shore? I wonder. Isn't this supposed to be a civilized place? Rio has favelas but keeps the water on its beaches clear and clean, except in the inner harbor where ships dock and unload.
At the breakwater, I startle crabs who scramble sideways across the rocks to escape my view.
A woman is dancing ankle deep with the ocean waves as her partner, so I attempt a samba.
There's beauty in every corner of the world, I tell myself, but it's hard to be back in Santa Monica after the stunning morros and beaches of Rio.
Friday, July 4, 2008
I also see a black layer of smoke at the foot of the mountains, extending from today's fires in Malibu eastward toward Pacific Palisades and Santa Monica.
The air is pungent with fires and firecrackers, cigarettes and marijuana.
Tonight's tide is two feet lower than on July 1, giving me enough room to jog on wet sand, but at 8 pm there are still hundreds of people on the beach. The air is 75 degrees, the water probably close to that, though the sun has set.
I dodge soccer balls and frisbees, sandcastles and excavated pools, families, children, lovers, elderly women walking alone.
I'm wearing a light jacket that has two inner pockets, my cell phone in one and my car keys in the other, but it's too warm so I tie it around my waist, hoping nothing will be bounced out of those pockets.
About a hundred yards down the beach, I realize the phone is missing. Yikes--all my phone numbers, four days before I leave for a big trip. As I turn and start running back, the keys fall out of the other pocket and a big wave erases footprints where I had been walking.
My cell phone, somewhere down the beach, being washed out to sea? Not again--this happened two years ago. How could I be so careless?
Slowing down, I study debris on the beach in the growing darkness: clumps of seaweed, food wrappings, the handle of a broken shovel.
Suddenly I see a young Latino man coming toward me with his hand outstretched, my cell phone lying in it. I must have just jogged past him.
"Oh, thank you so much!" I cry, taking the phone.
He smiles and turns back. I open the phone and yes, it's still working though a little wet and sandy. He must have picked it up quickly, before a wave covered it.
Brimming with relief and gratitude, I start jogging south again, keys in one hand, cell in the other.
The Venice breakwater is fully visible today, though tide's still high and I can't walk out there.
I take a photo of the red and smudgy sky and start jogging back, illegal firecrackers exploding around me on the beach and in the sky. I'm jittery, startled by each one, resolving to jog in the morning on the next Fourth of July.
Dogs, also illegal, and their owners appear on the beach as usual after dark, and the scent of marijuana wafts past me more often.
A thin white sliver of moon appears in the sky, turning orange as it descends into the smoke. Later I check and see, yes, we are two days past the new moon.
I stumble into a hole filled with loose wet sand, probably dug for a child and just now sloshed with sand by the waves.
At home John and I celebrate the Fourth by eating hotdogs grilled outside, and I don't tell him about losing my cell phone.
Tuesday, July 1, 2008
There's no room for jogging, just a choice between deep dry sand and sloshy ocean transgressing the North American continent.
It's 8 pm as sun sinks behind the Santa Monica Mountains, red sky smudged with grey by fires further north.
How pacific the ocean is at this moment, though still capable of sudden, sly swipes toward my shoes. Dimly after sunset I see two surfers bobbing in small waves not strong enough to ride them to shore. One slosh of salt water forces me to sprint a few yards inland on deeper sand.
The Venice breakwater has become just a broken string of small rocks occasionally disappearing in the waves. Sea stars and anemone stretch, crabs stalk far below water, enjoying the rich diet this tide brings them.
Instead of walking there, peering into crevices and hopping from boulder to boulder, I'm standing forty yards away where shore is tonight, the higher bank of sand now under assault.
Early July sky stays bright long after sunset. At 9 pm Scorpio still is invisible except for the red glow of Antares, and Jupiter is the only planet I can see among the planes taking off from LA International Airport.
A mile north the new ferris wheel changes from turquoise to red to a patriotic blend of color, anticipating the Fourth of July.