Angels, Dancing on Treetops

Angels Dancing on Treetops, oil painting by BD Sparhawk



When I get up to the Pearly Gates, if that indeed might be where I’m headed, I will walk briskly (with a sinner’s confidence) to the Saintly vision of Peter, my arms extended in my fresh unearthly joy, and the Saint, who will know me, rising, flushed of face (and seriously annoyed) will, in exasperation, ask:
“How could you have missed THAT?”

I will be stopped in my tracks.
                           “The other day…with your friend… I heard you, and I find you did not know. You did not know? We pointed!”   he will continue.

 “We placed you in front of it, we moved you there, we poked and prodded!  Why, we even cast sunbeams and danced moonbeams on it. ”   Saint Peter turns for corroboration, hands spread wide palms up for emphasis to a cherub at his side–who nods emphatically, excitedly– “We had you live beside them. See them daily. Sleep by them nightly. We had you feed the horses there, right where they were, miles of them!”.   He will stop just short of shouting:  “In a line!”

“And here again just this brief while ago, bringing you into a new place to live so you could look down your hill into your valley below and see all the beauty, all the color…..HOW can you have missed that!”

Oh dear.

All this inspired by one of my last conversations, being told by an observant girl whose young  heart swells at the sight of the woody places, streams and trees….

“I love the Sycamore for that,” she’d said to me, “you can always trace a river or streams hidden in a forest by the Sycamores growing alongside it. Look down there, see?  Now the leaves all orange and gold; you will find the river at its roots, you will always find water….beside the Sycamore.”

It was mid December, we’d had two frosts, we’d passed the shortest day.
Honestly I was shocked.  With these  truths Saint Peter addressed to me, that everything at heaven’s command had been done to put me in the path of woodland habits, and it had all indeed overwhelmed me, an emotional feast I’d never finish, and sure I’d seen every particle…. yet I had missed this most ordinary truth.
“Oh! Of course. You’re right, you’re right!”   Hot tears leapt from my eyes.   “HOW did I miss that?”

And left me wondering how much else I’ve missed. Would the heavens be an endless scold from here through eternity. Well no, no that’s not very nice, and improbable. But what ELSE have I missed.  I thought I’d seen so much.  I’d boasted to myself of all I’d seen in my long years.

But if I failed to know the Sycamore and what they mark, and  I had lived among, then…..
…..What colors have I failed to observe. What minute’s turning to me of a friendly face, a smile I abandoned too soon. What bright light from a baby’s eyes sent to me like a piercing message I must never forget — yet did not let register. What music, what delight, what pain, what love. What gentle brush of a wagging tail. What barely felt breezes stirring from the crow’s wings. The kindness of the bus driver who stopped at the patter of my running feet. The twice-warmed coffee, the special dish, the hearty greeting. The rising sun’s heroics….. from which I had driven west.
How could I have missed that.

I think we can experience everything, you know, have it all.  We have so many receptors, unused, untried, even unknown. So that walking forward with assurance that every nuance be seized, filtered in by hair and smell and dangerously opportunistic raw flesh… to all of it, because knowing is living.

I’ll try.

I mean to say, the thought itself  must be a poke from heaven, must it not?

Wouldn’t it be marvelous to surprise the Saints and ourselves simply by paying attention a bit more.

Happy New Year.  Here comes 2018.



Big Sur Fire: Evacuations, Updates

Big Sur(Photo credit, Toby Rowland-Jones)

Big Sur Fire ~ Sycamore Canyon, Pfeiffer Ridge, Clear Ridge


December 16, 2013
5:00 PM

The Pfeiffer Fire started after midnight on December 16th in the Pfeiffer Ridge area just west of Big Sur, CA . The size of the fire is approximately 500 acres and is 0% contained.

Crews are actively working to protect homes in the area. There has been multiple structures consumed and or damaged by the fire, but it is still too early to do an accurate assessment.

An evacuation of the Pfeiffer Ridge area is in effect. The evacuation area is from Sycamore Canyon Road on the south to Clear Ridge on the north; Highway 1 on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west.

The Red Cross has established an evacuation center at the Big Sur Grange.

Road closures in effect are as follows:
Clear Ridge Road
Pfeiffer RidgeRoad
Sycamore Canyon Road
Road from the River Inn to Pfeiffer Ridge Road.


The fire remains active making runs, with some spotting. Early today, resources reached 200 personnel assigned with additional resources responding all day.

Central Coast Interagency Incident Command Team will be transitioning on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM. To assume management of the fire. The Incident Commander of the Type II team is Mark Nunez.

A community meeting is tentatively planned for Tuesday afternoon at the Multi Agency Facility. More information to follow.
*************************************************       PFEIFFER RIDGE HIT BAD

         ***UPDATE 4:25 PM***

(Source: Monterey County Weekly)

Eyewitness accounts indicate that number could climb significantly, according to Diana Ballantyne, general manager at Fernwood. She said that a firefighter that she spoke to told her that every home along the Pfeiffer Ridge area he was fighting was completely laid to waste.

“There was nothing left,” she reported him saying.

Nineteen engines are working the fire—six from Cal Fire and 13 from various departments across the county. There are also six hand crews, one bulldozer, and two water tenders (large tanks that serve as mobile fire hydrants). Cal Fire also confirmed that multiple planes and helicopters are working the fire, but were unable to give an exact number at this time.

The fire is reportedly burning through several different types of terrain, from brushy chaparral, redwoods and oaks, and riparian habitat like the sycamore trees in Sycamore Canyon.

No cause of the fire has yet been confirmed, but Ballantyne says that she heard from firefighters that it started somewhere between the Pfeiffer Lodge group camps and Buzzards Roost. “And it just took off up Pfeiffer Ridge real fast,” she says.

Ballantyne has evacuated Fernwood’s guests, but says she will stay open for locals and firefighters.

~~~~UPDATE 1:10 PM~~~

Per AA all aircraft has been set down due to smoke conditions…the 2 copters are at Monterey Airport on hold….fixed wing at Hollister. This is from a post on BigSurKate’s blog, by BEUSCANNER.

****UPDATE 12:40 PM**

KTVU and AP Wires

BIG SUR, Calif. —

A wildfire burning through the picturesque coastline near Big Sur had grown to 500 acres early Monday,  forcing area residents to be evacuated and destroying 15 structures including homes, authorities said.

The fire was moving quickly though the tinder-dry hillsides near Big Sur. The region was in the grips of one of the driest years in history.

State fire spokesman Jonathan Pangburn said Monday morning he was still working on determining how many people were evacuated and how many homes were threated.  At least 15 structures including homes have been destroyed by the fire.wildfire firefighter file photo   photo: Getty Images

UPDATE 11:10 AM:

As of 10:50 a.m., the wildfire was zero percent contained, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Lynn Olson said. Offshore winds are blowing the fire toward the ocean, but flames have not crossed Highway 1 yet and remain on the east side of Highway 1.

“Standing here at the base to Pfeiffer Ridge and hearing propane tanks blowing up and seeing the ugly thick dark smoke indicating more properties have been destroyed. It’s the saddest moment imaginable,” Big Sur resident Toby-Rowland Jones said.

The blaze broke out at midnight on a hiking trail called Buzzards Roost Trail, firefighters said, and flames spread along Pfeiffer Ridge Road and Sycamore Canyon Road.

Mandatory evacuations are in progress, residents are evacuating north to Carmel, and the Red Cross set up an aid center at Big Sur Grange Hall.”(from KSBW Action News)

~~~~~~10:30: 20 homes gone, 500 acres burned. Spread expected to Sycamore Canyon within next 15 minutes. (This is a report I got from Shiry Escobar who is currently safe at Blaze.) From ‘coastroad’ on Big Sur Kate’s blog. Kate is the best place for the current news.

****UPDATE 10:45 AM: From local resident Chelsea Davey: (Monterey County Weekly Report):

“Going back down the (Sycamore) canyon now for another load from the house. I have all the family photos and some heirloom pieces but there’s still time for one more trip before Sycamore Canyon gets cut off.”

As air support arrived, with two tanker planes, a spotter and a helicopter in the sky – as of around 8:50am – Davey had safely evacuated to Apple Pie Ridge. 

“A whole neighborhood has been engulfed,” she emails. “At least a dozen homes. Maybe more. I can finally hear planes.”

10 AM:  Three homes destroyed, not identified where, fire headed toward ocean. Smoke visible from Carmel, Carmel Valley****

Started around midnight, early Monday, December 16 and scattered news is coming in.

Estimates between 100-300 acres burning on Pfeiffer Ridge, the closest ridge to the Pacific west of Highway One. And leaping to Clear Ridge, east side of Highway One, with reports of structures burned. 

Sycamore Canyon Road, which is Big Sur’s main beach road to Pfeiffer Beach, looks like it’s about to be closed off, and some structures possibly scorched or burned. Residents are evacuating along with precious possessions. I know Big Sur, that includes the animals. Even the recalcitrant pot-bellied pigs and goats. The horses are herded to the beach.

130 Firemen and equipment deployed, and air support expected by dawn, or underway now. It’s being called a vegetation fire, source unknown.  Evacuees are headed to Fernwood and the Grange. Residents are felling trees near homes. Sheriffs are alerting locals.

We haven’t had much rain at all this year and it always sets an undercurrent of worry along the Central Coast. It’s dry. The driest year on record in California.

I’ll keep updates here as they come in. Pfeiffer Ridge and Sycamore Canyon are probably the most beautiful places on the planet and always will feel like my home.

God Bless beautiful Big Sur and it’s wildlife and extraordinary geography, and the good-hearted pioneers who relish their exceptional lives in that redwood to ocean brilliance.

Studio Chair

The Studio Chair

Oil on Canvas.

This big old fine thing sat in the corner of my studio in Big Sur in the Sycamore Canyon cottage. The seat was a good three feet almost square, fine curling up with a book chair, or collapse in me chair or just to look at for it’s generous proportions.

The bathroom is through that door around the corner, deep claw foot tub and circular shower curtain that always made me feel like Paris redux.