I love it when my weather app says rain and I wake up to sun shining into my living room. I’m amused when I see that one lightning bolt and wonder who it’s for. And I think those little swirly wind icons are cute. OK, so it’s just been me (and Jackson) and the weather for days (months?).
After our string of dry weather, I was glad the burn ban was lifted. I’d been waiting for an afternoon sans wind swirlies, lightning, or rain to get out to my fire pit. Ta da — last Wednesday was it. In my gardening duds and with my trusty pitchfork, I hauled salal, black berries, escalonia, ivy, and miscellaneous pruning piles from around the yard and got things underway.
What is it about tending a burn pile that calms the nerves? It’s a soothing activity that unfolds over the course of an afternoon. You can’t rush things. It’s a balancing act between getting enough flame to do the job and not burning the house down. At the beginning, I had my bucket of water and a garden hose at the ready. And after that match strike — dry leaves always catch first — I bring out a lawn chair, stab my pitchfork into the ground, and just watch the white foggy smoke change to leaping yellow flames, hoping I’ve gotten things off to a sustainable start.
Then, when the fire gets going, you can just relax and let your mind wander. Being outside, in raggedy clothes, not accountable to anyone else is a pleasant sensation. I feel as if I’m part animal, involved in actions appropriate to my species and to the season. Smoke gets in your eyes, your hair, your clothes — yes — but, no matter, you’re doing a job: watching the day go by.
Being a bear
Animals have jobs too. Being a bear in autumn means finding as much to eat as possible. I don’t think our bears actually hibernate but they do seem to follow the ursine requirement to store up fat for the winter. Hence, a couple days ago I got a text message from my neighbor, Bonnie Blake, just as I was brewing up morning coffee. “A bear came through last night. My fence is only 2 feet high now!”
With steaming cup of brewski in hand I wandered into my lower yard. Before I even got there, signs of the bear barreling down the hill were obvious: a section of heavy-gauge double-twisted wire fence was ripped from its posts and bent flat. Down the hill, my Asian pear was nearly picked clean and a third of its size.
Note: bears do not in a gingerly manner put their paws against each stem of a lovely ripe pear and gently pull upward against the branch, the proper harvesting method. “Picked” in bear-lingo means tearing down carefully constructed tree cages and knocking as many branches to the ground as needed; then taking several bites out of each luscious pear, leaving scattered remnants all over the ground (which the wasps, squirrels, and deer certainly appreciate) and depositing a huge signature poop pile before ambling off.
If I sound angry it didn’t last long. I admire and respect all our wild creatures, and I don’t mind sharing the bounty with them. I was just hurting for my pear tree. I picked up all the pears on the few remaining branches and called tree doctor Todd Wiegardt to stop by and coach me on what emergency resuscitation might be needed. Todd said, pointing, “Cut here. Trim here. You’ll probably get some aggressive watershoots, but the tree should be OK.”
I immediately harvested all my Liberty apples too, eliminating (I hoped) a return performance. Now I’m mulling over whether it’s worth repairing the fence again. Maybe Bonnie and I just need to install a couple bear gates — which we leave open during fruit season — because when my bear was done “picking” pears, he/she sauntered down through Bonnie’s yard and destroyed her fence too. At the least, we’re going to install a Bear Crossing sign.
Pods and bubbles
On the human front: medical professional tells us that pods are in! A pandemic pod, or bubble, is simply a small group of people who have close contact with one another after first establishing and agreeing to covid safety rules. This idea originated in New Zealand and is actually a legal designation in places like England where “bubble” members can count as one household. If someone in the bubble contracts the virus, everyone in the bubble must self-isolate. The UK outlines very explicit guidelines about social distancing, indoor and outdoor activities, and other safety requirements for bubbles. (Here’s a link that explains: www.bbc.com/news/uk-51506729.)
On the Peninsula and over the river, many friends I know have created informal bubbles and have established principles to govern their gatherings. In my pod of six, over the summer we gathered outside for picnics, fireside meals, and morning coffee. Our protocol is based on the trust that we all act for the safety of everyone in our bubble. But in these winter months things will be trickier. We’ve established one pod-member’s open air front porch as a possible gathering place, and we’ve decided to meet again to discuss updating our agreements.
For instance, what about the holidays? Some pod-members will travel to visit family in other states: will we require a quarantine on their return? If yes, for how long? Although under the UK guidelines you cannot be part of multiple or overlapping pods, we do have a pod-members who are in bubbles with other friends or their own children. We’ve also found that sometimes pod-members have differing ideas about what’s safe. I, for one, say no indoor dining, but not everyone thinks that’s necessary.
It’s really important as we enter these winter months of cold, wet days not to get cavalier about safety. Yes, it’s been a long haul so far but it’s not over yet. Even if a vaccine is approved in the first quarter 2021, the mechanics of manufacture and distribution could drag on for a year or more. So buckle up your seat belts, folks — keep practicing the CDC protocols and following the advice of reliable medical experts like Drs. Fauci and Birx.
I was outraged that our county officials needed an epidemiologist from Seattle to slap their hands in order to require more robust monitoring of visitors and business owners who aren’t following protocols like mask-wearing. Let’s not be caught in a county superspreader event like the one created by our clueless “leaders” in the White House. We know what to do.
Our friends in AAUW had two days of voter registration tables around town and a couple of these dedicated women mentioned that some citizens said they aren’t going to vote this year. C’mon people! — this election is critical no matter what color state you’re in. Get yourself registered and let your voice be heard.
And, finally, a big shout-out to John Vale and Fred Carter who worked to get a ballot drop-box at the Peninsula Senior Center in Klipsan. Of course you can still mail in your ballot, as always, but there are also drop-box locations in north county — Menlo, Raymond, South Bend, and Bay Center; and south county — Naselle, Chinook, Long Beach, and Ocean Park. (Get a complete list of addresses here: https://co.pacific.wa.us/auditor/elections-ballot-drop-box-locations.htm.) In case you’re wondering about election security, it takes two people with two different keys to unlock and gather ballots from these boxes.
Be well, get your flu shot, and be safe.