Roswila's Dream & Poetry Realm

SEE ALSO: TRYING TO HOLD A BOX OF LIGHT (photos, realistic to abstract)

Sunday, July 06, 2008

HAIBUN (The Gap Fire): Response to One Single Impression Prompt of 7/6/08

Photo: from The Daily Sound, of a Goleta, CA beach with the forest fire smoke over it in the daytime

(draft haibun)

The odd light coming through my curtains prompts me to look out my window. I see what looks like a very light snow flurry and a sickly sort of glow. It’s ashes and the sun shining through dense smoke from the fire in the foothills above Goleta (California). After supper, from our residence dining room window I briefly see the flames shooting straight up from the mountain, then the smoke hides them again. Later when the electricity goes out, I groan at the thought of having to deal with my defrosting fridge, as a neighbor hunts down matches for us to light candles. Given I lived through 9/11 in New York city and countless black-outs there, I am surprised at how surreal it all feels.

matchless a wild fire looms on the mountain

I crank my friend’s emergency radio again and again, it’s whine too much like a sarcastic “hur-ray, hur-ray....” I try all stations, AM and FM. All we hear among the occasional burst of music is static and endless commercials, ordering us to buy this or that, right away.

candle flames flicker
the radio static resolves
into local news

The next evening the fire is still only 5% contained. The electricity goes out again, but comes back on, goes off, comes back on again. The "Gap Fire," as it is being called, is still spreading and there are more mandatory evacuations announced. I’m feeling a bit unnerved, but grateful to be living in a retirement community where folk check on each other, and the administration is organized and responsive.

white ash flakes falling shrouded foothills

The next day, I resist accepting a free box of face masks, but who knows where this is all going? And although I can't see it -- unless I try wiping it off something -- there's black sticky stuff mixed in with all the white ashes. So my lungs may thank me for wearing a mask if I decide to spend any amount of time outdoors. And it is a lovely day, though I feel very sad when I look up at the hills and see all the smoke.

jasmine leaves white
with the night's ashes
unopened face mask

On the next evening’s 6:00 pm news I hear the "Gap Fire" now has the top priority in the state due to its nearness to so many structures. We lose electricity briefly again and await the next probable outage, hoping a sundowner (wind) doesn't take the fire any further toward Santa Barbara than it already has. Earlier in the day, I’d checked on my friend’s beloved African jasmine again.

washing ashes off
the jasmine's leaves
pale orange sun

Friday evening I take a chance and use the elevator to save my complaining arthritic knees. Fewer and fewer ashes are falling. The fire is now said to be 25% contained. Someone jokes that we could all just have jumped in the pool here on the grounds if need had arisen. The 40 person limit wouldn't matter a whole lot at that point, for sure. And those of us with good knees could just jog the six blocks to the ocean anyway. I now have a little “kit” set up with my battery supply, small radio, flashlight, and face masks as this is only the start of a long tinder box summer.

subdued sunset
smoke veils the foothills
to the northwest

The electricity stayed on all last night. This morning some of the mandatory evacuation orders have been lifted, though the fire is still only about a quarter contained. It was a cool night, with no sundowner. The skies are much clearer. One resident here is supervising massive planting and weeding work in her garden, and another is doing some much needed sidewalk sweeping.

shaking ashes
off the bench cushion
Sunday morning

* * * * * * * *

The prompt this week on ONE SINGLE IMPRESSION is “Through a window.” The above is a haibun that is still in draft form, about the California wild fire still burning in the foothills three and a half miles above Goleta where I just moved five months ago from New York city.

Please visit ONE SINGLE IMPRESSION to peek through the windows others offer this week.

* * * *

‘til next time, keep dreaming,

**** [aka: Patricia Kelly] **** If you wish to copy or use any of my writing or poems, please email me for permission (under “View my complete profile”)****My other blogs: ROSWILA’S TAROT GALLERY & JOURNAL and ROSWILA’S TAIGA TAROT, and Yahoo DREAMJIN: Group for Dreamku – Haiku-Like Dream Poems ****

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At 12:48 PM , Blogger Raven said...

Wow... so much in here. So sorry you are living through this and hope the fire is soon completely out and the last for the year - at least for your area. I really liked the "candle flames flicker" haiku... the whole piece pulled me into your experience. I hope you are shaking the last ashes off the bench cushion. Life is an adventure no matter where you go, I guess.

At 1:01 PM , Blogger Roswila said...

So true, Raven. Life sure is an adventure no matter where you go. I keep thinking of several things beyond 9/11: all the recent floods on the Mississippi, Pompeii, and Nero (though the firefighters here sure aren't fiddlin').

At 1:10 PM , Anonymous Pam said...

Fascinating response to the prompt. I was living in Southern Oregon when the 500,000 acre Biscuit Fire was burning. We were lucky because of the normal prevailing winds so we had only a few days of toxic smoke. I found the light amazing and it made me feel like I was inside a painting by Van Gogh. Hope the fire is contained soon.

At 1:17 PM , Blogger Roswila said...

Inside a painting by Van Gogh, yes, I'd say that would fit the light we had here. Good description. I kept feeling I was inside an old Twilight Zone episode that had been colorized.:-) (And since summer has only started, may feel that way again...)

I just recalled a sad statistic from a couple days ago, that was actually good news: the number of fires burning in California was down from almost 1,400 to a little over 500. Phew.

At 5:04 PM , Blogger MyBellavia said...

I cannot imagine the day to day stress you have settled into in your new home. Your writing is beautifully poignant, surely more descriptive than any radio news during such devastation. I put myself in your place here, and the way you take everything in and handle it is remarkable.

I particularly like "jasmine leaves white with the nights ashes" It put me there. I hope your "Sunday morning", was peaceful, and I am praying for all whom this tragedy affected. Thank you for reminding me how safe I've been.

At 5:12 PM , Blogger Joyce said...

What a description of the trying and dangerous times of the California wildfires.

At 5:59 PM , Blogger SandyCarlson said...

What an experience. You place me right there beside you with this. The prose and poetry take me deep into the experience of waiting for the next bit of news about the fire.

At 8:02 PM , Blogger Roswila said...

Thank you all for this feedback. Beyond talking with fellow residents about our experiences, I've felt the need to share. I'm glad what I've written gets it across. Writing has been my way of almost literally getting a grip on things ever since I first concentrated on learning to print as a child. (That, and drawing what I felt or experienced.)

Update on The Gap Fire: About 30% contained. The northeast and southern edges are well-contained and those are the ones near Santa Barbara and Goleta, respectively. Some mandatory evacuations have been lifted. However, the northwest area is still raging. And although there is supposedly some humid weather coming soon, there may also be some unhelpful winds, as well. We lost electricity here in Goleta several times in the late afternoon and early evening but not for a long time. (I've heard on the news that it's all the particulate matter in the air from the fire that interferes with the open-air transformers.)

At 9:15 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was not following this at all and then I heard from a friend of mine who visited CA last week. And now this. Thank you for doing so much more than keeping me aware; thank you for creating in the face of destruction.


At 6:46 AM , Blogger Eva Yaa Asantewaa said...

It really astonishes me to see all that's happening here in the States and around the world. I just read something about locusts--a true "plague of locusts"--troubling China and one woman offering her chickens to help because chickens eat locusts.

Everywhere, people are suffering. And everywhere, people are showing either grave cruelty or wonderful kindness and resourcefulness. The polar opposites as well as the complexities of humanity are on display as never before as conditions change drastically here on earth.

I am glad to read that you are safe and in a reliable community cared for by a vigilant staff.

Here's an article from today's New York Times about your state's volunteer firefighters:

It shows what people are capable of doing when they care for one another and pull together. We're going to have to see a lot more of this in times to come. Perhaps we are all being taught a big and necessary lesson.

Hugs to you from New York,

At 12:21 PM , Blogger Roswila said...

Hi Eva!

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. Yes, Gaia does seem to be going through some tremendous changes and we will need to continue to bring the best in ourselves to the fore. I hold out the hope that coping with Her changes can teach humanity that it is possible to live and grow and work together globally, beyond borders of *any* kind.

Also thanks for that link. Here it is in a form, as it didn't post well in your comment:

The article linked to raised more memories of 9/11, of all the stories about firefighters (and police and "just plain" folk). The closing line: "Fending for yourself in this community does not mean you’re standing alone...” is how I feel about the retirement community I live in. On a daily, minute to minute basis (from the time I moved here) I see residents helping other less able bodied (and sometimes less clear minded) residents.

It is not clear we are safe here. The fire is still burning and some unwelcome winds are due. And it is only summer's start. As so often in recent months I am reminded of the Two of Disks in the Thoth Tarot: the only stability is change. :-) And within that basic instability, I personally cope by transforming my moment to moment experiences into some other form, such as haibun. Hoping the results will have some meaning to others, as well.

At 12:33 PM , Blogger Roswila said...

Thanks for dropping by, Jeffrey.

There's a great deal of intense stuff to keep up with in the news these days, isn't there? Odd thing is, I'm finding I'm keeping up better than I did in New York. Because I'm still not fully familiar with which cable T.V. stations carry what news and when, I'm far more conscious about seeking it out and then listening. I also actually read a small local newspaper daily, which I did not usually do in NYC. And have also started reading news online a bit more regularly. Maybe my still feeling attached to the other end of our continent has something to do with it. But basically I think it has to do with feeling a bit as if I'm living in a time warp here, in a specific sort of community. I need to be conscious about keeping up with "the world outside." :-)

At 1:20 PM , Anonymous zoya gautam said...

'creating in the face of destruction'
'beautifully poignant'
'The prose and poetry take me deep into the experience''inside a painting by Van Gogh'_the wild fires-she turns them into poetry..Thanks..

At 3:07 PM , Blogger For The People said...

Great blog. I will have to look deeper!

At 4:13 PM , Blogger fiftybirthday said...


Hope you are OK. I can put a face to the morning news. I didn't take it as seriously as I should have before.

Jay from New York.

At 4:25 PM , Anonymous Lirone said...

Great mix of poetry and prose to tell this story... hope you're still safe and sound!

At 9:24 PM , Blogger Roswila said...

Yes, we are still safe and sound here in Goleta and Santa Barbara. But it's still a "who knows" situation, with the weather and winds due to change and the fire still burning.

We just had another electricity outage. I was crochetting by a little flashlight, tucked beneath my chin. What fabulous huge shadows that cast of my hands, weaving across the rug. Yes, I wrote a haiku about that ... with a black marker so I could see what I was writing without holding the flashlight in my other hand. It all gets so cumbersome and silly. But I guess I could say that about life in general most days. :-)

At 4:30 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

The poetry is great. And what a way to record the history of your first summer in the west.

I just looked to see how the Gap fire was doing--Not good. I'll be thinking of you this week, and keeping watch of how things go in your area.

At 4:41 AM , Blogger Greyscale Territory said...

Your reflections on experiences with the threat of fire are quite "involving". Love the haibun format for this. It lends quite a mystical atmosphere, reflecting the surreality you clearly feel!

At 12:05 PM , Blogger Roswila said...

Hi gardenpath,

We have fog so far today, which the firefighters say is to their advantage. But the same hot and dry weather hitting the Big Sur and Sierra Nevada fire areas will reach us soon enough. We had an electric outage already today. First time one happened so early in the day (before noon).

I'm embarrassed to say that it all becomes wearying, when the firefighters are out there hour after hour, and day after day without rest.

Maybe I'll cheer up once I get out for a walk and check on my friend's jasmine. :-)

At 4:16 AM , Blogger Sian said...

The haiku are powerful indeed but really your every line speaks poetry.

Hope that you continue to be safe

At 8:12 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love your response to the fires -- your haibun works really well. We are near the Basin Complex fire and it's amazing how much smoke we have here (and by near I mean an hour and a half drive away). I've been using my asthma inhaler for weeks now. Hope things are continuing to improve near you.

At 12:21 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, there is a lot here. And it is wonderfully written.

At 2:05 PM , Blogger Roswila said...

Hi egretsnest,

Oh my, several residents here have asthma and of course all the smoke (even at it's decreasing levels in recent days) aggravates it. Hope you are doing better. I find my eyes get irritated when I'm out and about much. But I sat outdoors today for a while after lunch in the sun, as it is a lovely day. And played my new little occarina for residents as they passed by. :-) We are blessed here, only 6 blocks from the sea -- our temps usually stay lower than inland.

At 7:45 PM , Blogger Judy Brutz said...

Your Haibun is expressive of the on-going experience, the inner experience, How very beautiful. I would like to learn more about writing Haibun.

At 7:57 PM , Blogger Roswila said...

Hi Judy,

I'm very new to the haibun form myself. So I offer this link out of what I have learned so far:

At the bottom of that link page are some more haibun links.

At 4:26 AM , Anonymous deb said...

I love the descriptions, and the way you alternate between the "prose" and "poetry" - makes a nice visual rhythm, too. I haven't seen the news for a couple of days, hope the fire's advance has been held back.

At 10:45 AM , Blogger Roswila said...

Hi deb,

Wish I could claim the alternating of prose and haiku as my "invention," but it's my attempt at the classic haibun form. If you'd like to know more about haibun (which I am very new to), you can visit the link in my comment above yours.

Thanks for dropping by.

At 8:50 PM , Blogger Edward S Gault said...

Very powerful and timely.
Thank You.

At 11:45 AM , Blogger Roswila said...

Fire update: The news says The Gap Fire is 75% contained, but of course that truly doesn't mean too much and could change on a dime. We did have cool weather and low winds last night, so that was good. I look each day toward the mountains and am amazed still at the smoke above the northwest where the fire is still very active, and the rest of the foohills above which are clear skies. Most of the ashes have blown off of our greenery, but the sidewalks still have streaks of them.

When I hear the acreage burned so far in the other major fires here (Big Sur and Sierra Nevada) The Gap Fire here is "small potatos." The National Guard troops (some just back from tours of duty in Iraq) are being sent from the fire here to help fight the fire threatening the town of Paradise up in northern CA. The news there is that the winds expected did not manifest, so that was helpful.

We are supposed to get thunderstorms this afternoon and possibly for a few afternoons after that. Lightning being the worrisome thing. However, I've only been here five months and already I'm surprised at the idea of rain! :-)


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