Wednesday, July 09, 2008


While we've been mostly off-line these past two weeks, California caught on fire. Our son-in-law is off fighting the fires east of us about 70 miles. He puts in fourteen days straight on the hand crew; then gets two days off. We saw him on Sunday just before he was heading back. He told us how close he gets to the fire, close enough to feel the heat on his neck, so hot he has to turn his face away. He said, it's mostly not the flames that fire fighters succumb to, it's the smoke and ash. It's going to be a long, hot summer for him.
We didn't really have any personal sense of the fires until Monday. That's when we noticed this sky while we were out on a walk at the marsh. It was around 6:45 pm and the sky was hazy to the east of us. The smoke was heading west. That's unusual, explained by an off-shore wind coming from the hot interior. It also explains why we're under a red flag alert for air quality. Still, on Tuesday, the air was breath-able and not noticeably smokier. We're hoping the high pressure relaxes soon.
Out at the marsh, we've had a few pleasant surprises, which always makes us very happy. Twice we've seen this feral, tail-less kitty cat. Both times in the early evening, perhaps close to the crepuscular time for a hunt. We think he walks just like a bobcat. Rather impressive and bold, with very well-articulated muscles. Maybe that's just the wildness, or maybe he's got some bobcat blood in him. He disappeared like every bobcat we've ever seen.
We also had a fine time chatting with this river otter. Unlike all the river otters we've encountered along the Chimacum Creek and Port Townsend Bay in Washington, this one in a Humboldt Bay tidal channel was not wary at all. In fact, she stared at us for quite some time. I talked to her, while she listened attentively. I think she probably expected me to toss her some food, but I had read the signs at the marsh entrance, prohibiting such behavior. I wasn't going to be fooled by those big brown eyes.

We're finally settling in to our new home. Still a few unresolved issues, but we're glad we found this particular place. We can walk into town in about ten minutes-- go to the post office, the co-op, the bank, the library. We've cut down driving by about 90%, which is a very good thing, as gas is $4.79 per gallon for regular. Arcata is an incredible time warp of a college town. Everywhere we look there are faces that hearken back to the late 60s. Peace-lovin' hippies on every corner, long dredlocks down to the coccyx bone, and a marijuana script in their jean pockets. On the 4th of July we stumbled on to an all-day free concert in the downtown plaza. First we heard an incredible drumming band doing African music, which was followed by a band doing surprisingly fine covers of the Grateful Dead. We noticed all the people who felt free enough to dance and sway in the afternoon sun had gray hair and very sweet smiles on their faces.

1. Top photo from the California Forest Service webpage.
2. Marsh photo taken Monday evening at 6:45 pm. The bright green in the foreground is algae.
3. Feral kitty on a walk in the early evening sun.
4. River otter listening to me say goofy hellos, "bonjour river otter!"

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