Oak Forest Saved

Thousand Oaks is named for the pinnacle species of the sage. The crown of the Coastal Oak are waxy bowls with points. Fallen leaves turn downwards in layers that trap rainwater. The trees, which are drought tolerant and fire resistant, stabilize the landscape. Recognizing this, city law protects all specimens.

Westlake Village takes its name from the artificial lake that drains through the property on which Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood was staged. The property was converted to a park with mobile homes nestled among the oaks. The ambitions of the developer led them to place roads and foundations too close to the oaks, reducing the size of the leaf litter fields and so starving the roots of moisture.

My parents moved into the park thirty years ago, and my father spent twenty years educating the residents on the importance of the oaks for fire safety. When the oak rooted in the middle of the street outside their unit fell, four acorns sprouted in their yard. Fifteen years later, the crowns shield the roof.

At 10 AM Friday morning, the Santa Ana wins shifted from seaward to blow down the 101 freeway. Half an hour later, my son Kevin sent me a link to live helicopter footage. Fire crews were deployed on the ridge above the park, flames licking at the expensive decks. The valley below was hidden by smoke blown from the blaze that had closed the 101 at Reyes Adobe.

The consensus among family members was that my brother and mother had lost everything to the flames.

The pictures below were taken this morning. The winds had subsided overnight, and as I drove into the park the fire team that had secured the hillsides was gathered to leave. As I inspected the park, it was clear that at least one heroic fire team had been working under the smoke the prior day.

Though homes were lost, the battle was won at the downstream end of the park. The last unit caught up in flames had holes punched through windows and sides. A cul-de-sac separated it from its neighbor, and the descending shield of an oak crown whose leaves had been singed but resisted burning.

On the other side of the road, the defense had been mounted at a gully that drained into the stream. The power of the fire was evident in the ruins, but also the resilience of the neighboring oaks that had burned only on one side.

With the progress of the fire blunted, apparently it followed its updraft along the hillsides on either side. A photo from the street running up to the ridge shows the effectiveness of the oaks in protecting the combustible mobile homes from embers.OakForestSurvives

Finally, the joy of anticipation that another holiday season will be spent in my mother’s home.RobinHood51

And gratitude to the oaks for protecting the homes of those that protected and nurtured them.

Salt Burns

Isn’t that how it feels when you have a wound?

I made it to class at HMI last night. It was a near thing: due to the Hill Fire, the 101 was closed at the usual on ramp, and it took me ninety minutes to wend my way five miles through the evacuation from Camarillo Springs to get to Pacific Coast Highway. Traffic up Las Virgenes was throttled until we made it past the hairpins, but flowed freely up to the 101. I thought with the freeway closed traffic would be light through the San Fernando Valley, but the smoke from the Woolsey Fire was driving people out of the Conejo Valley. It was a slow crawl up to Tarzana.

Class began with a review of our “consciousness exercise.” The first three students avoided the point – which was for one day to record our unspoken judgments – instead rambling on about how they learned not to be judgmental. Feeling judgmental, I offered my example: coming in to work yesterday morning to learn of the Borderline Restaurant massacre. Talking with a colleague about the impact on the community where my sons grew up. One of our neo-con, gun-toting conservative colleagues came up behind me and I instinctually turned my shoulder to him. When he walked away, I thought “Well, good, I didn’t need to hear whatever he had to say anyways.”

As we gathered at the elevator at the end of the evening, one of my friends stopped to ask how I was doing. “I’m fine. I just need to stay focused on the situation I described. My weekend is going to be spent trying to find opportunities to project healing energy into the community.” He looked at me, shook his head, and offered, “Well, if anyone can do that, I guess that it would be you.”

I dragged myself to the car and headed back up the 101 to Westlake Village. Traffic warning signs announced that the freeway was still closed at the 23. The smoke was heavy as I exited at Lindero Canyon Boulevard, but let up suddenly when I pulled into the Oak Forest mobile home park. My mother was on the phone with my sister-in-law up in Templeton. We spent a few minutes chatting about the fire and the memorials for the Borderline victims held that evening, and went to bed.

The phone rang at 1:30 AM. I assumed it was another family member calling to check on us. Then my mother, looking pale, shook me to alertness. “Mandatory evacuation.” It was a conservative measure, I understood, but given the impossibility of defending the heavily wooded trailer park, I didn’t resist her urge to prepare an overnight bag. The flames were impressive from the freeway, but hadn’t yet penetrated the housing tracts or jumped to the ocean side. By 2:30 I was helping to set up cots in the Red Cross evacuation center at Pierce College, just two miles from HMI.

Mom wouldn’t lie down on the cot she had claimed, saying that they “were uncomfortable.” I started musing about our camping trips, asking what we had slept on when we were children? Just sleeping bags and heavy mats. She then laid down on the cot and allowed me to drape a blanket over her. My back was becoming tight, so I laid down on the floor and closed my eyes. Unable to sleep, I eventually headed out at 4:15.

Noticing additional closures on the 101 where the fire had jumped the freeway, I took De Soto Boulevard to the 118. The back side of the fire was burning slowly down the hillsides into Simi Valley. Exiting at Los Angeles, I drove the back roads, arriving in Port Hueneme at 5:30 AM.

I’m writing this from work. I tried to fall asleep when I got home after breakfast, but could only dose. We do donuts on Friday morning, and maybe the sugar crash will lay me out on the floor. But it doesn’t feel that way. I did a huge circle around the Conejo Valley where the Borderline Restaurant is the bull’s eye. I’m wondering whether it’s only ego that’s pulling me into the eye of that storm.

I’ll find out at Sunday morning mass.

Home At Last

Last Saturday on the way to HMI traffic was slowed around Topanga due to tree cutting crews. I assumed the same this morning as I drove on the 101 through unusually slow traffic past the blocked Moorpark Road off ramp.

I drove out to Las Vegas and flew out to Parkland. Both were disasters cultivated by ready availability of weapons to people susceptible to violent rhetoric.

What happened last night at the Borderline Restaurant bears the same imprint.

So I will be active over the next few weeks trying to heal the damage at colleges and communities traumatized by the end of so many precious young lives. The psychic scars I salve are the tissue from which the barrier to heaven is woven against those that cultivate a culture of fear.

Think of it that way, my fellow light-workers. We can forgive, but forgiveness does not entail acceptance. Not everyone can be saved.

Basta es basta.

Block-Head Chain

We may be losing the trade war in goods with China, but the virtual trade war is running nicely. It seems the US should soon resume its historical dominance in natural resources production…

Excerpted from the link:

Extracting a dollar’s worth of cryptocurrency such as bitcoin from the deep Web consumes three times more energy than digging up a dollar’s worth of gold.

There are now hundreds of virtual currencies and an unknown number of server farms around the world running around the clock to unearth them, more than half of them in China

Privacy Parts

Apple CEO Tim Cook presented an address in Brussels attacking industry practices that customize our online experience to maximize opportunities for third parties hoping to sell us goods and services. The major actors are Google and Facebook, of course.

I guess that Apple has the benefit of having indoctrinated an entire generation to prefer its products over others. It doesn’t need to market any longer – the masses wait breathlessly. And how exactly do you know which features will inspire them to throw away functional devices and upgrade? Hopefully not by analyzing iPhone usage patterns, Tim.

But what really galls is that Cook and his executive team manufacture devices in countries and facilities where the right to privacy is violated in far more concrete terms. Workers sleep in large dormitories on the factory site working for corporations that collaborate with dictatorial government to create devices that spy on citizens.

Yes, the road to destruction is broad, Tim. Don’t complain of the mote in your neighbor’s eye.

The ‘D’ Factor

No, this isn’t a post about breast size.

Psychologists from the University of Copenhagen have identified a core trait in personalities that project the “dark side” of human behavior. These include narcissism, psychopathy, sadism and spitefulness.

They label this core trait the ‘D’ factor, ‘D’ presumably standing for ‘dark.’

Out at Love Returns, in developing a definition of “sin” by contrast against a mature description of the nature of love, I came up with another term. A term that was also promoted by the Catholic theologian Thomas Merton.

How much money was spent discovering the obvious fact that SELFISHNESS is the root of all evil? And why the adoption of obscure terminology?

So that the researchers can “maximize personal utility?”

Religious Anomie

Comment in response to this:

One of the secrets of managing chronic pain is to learn to focus on what feels good rather than what feels bad.

We all tend to be born with the prejudice that our initial system state is all that is important, and evaluate what is good or bad based upon the trends. Conversely, institutions serve to establish continuity across generations and locations. So what helps is to reflect on what it was like before they existed.

Dog ate cat ate mouse ate cockroach ate… Sucked for every creature except the peak predators, didn’t it? And even sucked for them when all the prey were gone.

But it goes to illustrate that “can’t we all just get along” won’t suffice in a reality of resource limitations. Sooner or later there’s only one grape on the table, and forty hungry people around it.

So back to institutions: religions are institutions that propagate wisdom gained about spiritual experience. The best of them seek to liberate the flights of the mind from cultural and material constraints. Fundamentalists, in my experience, work to the opposite end. That’s true whether they are Dawkins and his friends, or Wahabbists or Christian Crusaders. They want us to be animals rather than humans.

Which brings me to God, or Source or whatever you want to call it. The Gospel of John expressed the tautology most directly: God is Love (and conversely Love is God). Love seeks infinite variety in relationship – it is not chaotic, but it always stands on the side of responsible exercise of liberties. It does not rejected those that make errors, for love provides them the skill and motives to heal the wounded. Everything is a lesson that leads to greater maturity, and ultimately to union with Source itself, carrying with us immunity to the selfishness that wounds without purpose or cause.

Humanity isn’t an ugly spot on God’s creation. We are the adaptive agents – a medicine, so to speak – that recognizes and heals its ills.