sundown, last weekend, from the hills over Carmel Valley Village
Soberanes (Pronounced so-BRAN-neez) wild fires continue. I am told this is the number one fire concern in America now.
I’m not doing a lot of traveling around in this. Normal routes are periodically jammed or closed or busy. In fact these days when they’re empty they’re eerie.
The old, closed CV Airport is being used for helicopter sorties. They fly in to refuel, meet for new strategies, check and change equipment.
They swing bright red buckets below as they fly, expandable water-carrying for 4-500 gallons a pop. They’re dipping from ponds, and the ocean.
There are always a couple of locals up the hillside there, staying respectfully behind the familiar yellow plastic tape.
This (below) is from about a week ago, a friend’s place at the top of Country Club Drive which is maybe a mile west of Carmel Valley Village. It was quite a view, and as night fell to a dark sky, huge red flares shot up — visible fury from those hilltops. Beyond our gasps, we conjectured about exploding trees or what comparable made rockets that size, stunning even from our distance.
I heard from a neighbor that bulldozers were cutting a six lane wide swath for fire lanes, off in the flaming wooded edge of oak and chaparral that thrill us all, resident and visitor to our spectacular and dangerous terrain. There’s a growing feeling that such lanes need to be kept up, not abandoned when the fires are out.
Firemen have come to all our houses down lonely roads, hidden away, off in the woods here, what an heroic effort! in a pre-potential-evacuation survey to warn, alert, inform. They’re bloody marvelous. They leave a yellow paper marker fixed with silver gaffer tape to the tops of driveways, announcing the contact made and who’s what where. Fire engines are here from all over California. Firefighters from all over the world. One of them told me this, the Soberanes Fire is now the number one fire concern in our country. Early this morning a group of maybe ten firefighters were on an early morning jog up then down a side road here near The Running Iron, off Carmel Valley Road, staying fit.
One friend is sheltering a family of friends, one of six families she knows who all lost their homes in the past week on Palo Colorado, a strange/remarkable/fabulous uphill road about ten miles south of Carmel with out of this world houses. The terrible count of homes burnt remains uncertain, some residents still blocked from return. I’ve heard 41, then 61 houses gone. One of my friends from Palo is in town while her husband and son stay, holding the hoses, holding hope, still untouched as of today. These homes of Big Sur and Cachagua (pronounced cah-SHAH-gwah) are almost universally stunning structures built by inventive architects and real pioneers with remarkable imagination and enterprise. My friend Bette’s home, surrounded by giant redwood and fern, has a small stream running through the lower half, running with some velocity, too! It passes under then up then out of the house enclosed in part by a boulder-walled, rock floored, glass ceilinged room, full of plants, and it is spectacular. There are undocumented out-buildings too, there are things that have delighted the eye and heart and made rare homes for families and their animals, for lives that opened young to the great possibilities of being alive. They won’t be rebuilt, not the same. Maybe something even better. How lucky we have been to know such things and the people in them.
There’s some loose talk of the insanity of building or living in dangerous places. I think it’s wasted on the initiated. You get your nostrils full of a rarified atmosphere, a geography that doubles your pulse just by standing in it, a hand full of plant and soil that’s one of a kind in the world and you bet you want to stay.
In one of my chats with the firemen when I was outside Kasey’s grocery in the village,( I am always waving, smiling, thumbs up and thanking their passing vehicles), (the streets are filled with handmade crayoned signs:THANK YOU FIRE PEOPLE), and congratulating them on jobs well done, they answered my questions about hardship and risk and long times separated from families. Then, in my response to my noting the light in their eyes, the ready athletic bodies, the strength and resolve you feel radiating from them, and my asking if they hadn’t leapt at this….isn’t it what you train for….isn’t it about the best most perfect thing in the world you can imagine doing….the beaming smiles coming back say yes. Well bless your hearts, all of you. Thanks for coming when we needed you. Safe days and nights, safe journeys, safe home when it’s done. We’re all sure we’re in good hands.
Good to know ya.