Sunday, November 30, 2008

Holy Night

Fog from the Pacific drifted in about 4 pm, making the splendid conjunction of Venus, Jupiter, and the new moon impossible to see.
No point beachwalking in the fog with a spectacle like that taking place just above the mist, so I drove to up to the mountains, just above the Getty Museum.
Clear sky stretched above the soup bowl of clouds--and the crescent moon below brilliant Venus (-4.3) and more distant Jupiter.
I watched until the crescent turned orange and set behind the hills, pulling the planets after it.
The first day of Advent, of the new year in the Christian calendar...
O holy night! If only the beauty of the heavens could create peace on earth.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Smoky Days

Again, not a good day to jog. Even on the beach, the air is hazy with ash and smoke, the scent of fire is strong.

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. 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

Walking for NO on Prop 8

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,, 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.