Monday, October 29, 2007

Recap So. Cal Fires

Our Southern California fires are coming under control based on a variety of reports gathered from the traditional radio, TV and newspaper news sources. I haven't had time to search much on the Internet which I'm sure provides some excellent detailed fire reports. My activities have been such it works for me to catch all-news radio stations when I am busy around the house, or listen to the car radio when I'm out. Also, today I spontaneously treated myself to breakfast out and drug along the Sunday paper to read. I enjoyed being waited upon.

I know my friends would advise me if events were not looking more promising for their family members, so I have employed my mother's philosophy that works quite well in some situations, "no news, is good news."

Sat. the sky was full of that light brown tannish discoloration, completely blocking from view the mountains only a few miles north. I was delighted, only temporarily, when about seventeen big raindrop splotches spattered on my car windshield, I thought this was the beginning of much needed moisture -- it was the begnning and the end. When I arrived home, just as I stepped from the car, more drops almost moistened the entire driveway, but that, too, ended.

From time to time these days the sky's color has transitioned from that light brown to becoming grayish in appearance. This morning we finally had blue sky, accompanied by actual white curdled clouds. Even the mountains were quite visible.

I know the areas east of us in San Bernardino County where Lake Arrowhead, Running Springs and other communities are, continue to demand much concentration from firefighters. For all the remaining fires everywhere I tend to be a bit cautious lest the winds change and come in from the east out of the dessert at what can be at very high velocity -- they're referred to as Santa Ana winds whatever their speed. Dormant fires can suddenly come to life again when those winds emerge. I hope that's not the case this time.

South of here in San Diego County, the San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park actually had to close for a few days, but is now reopened. Only a very few animals reportedly died and other damage was also minimal. Avocado trees west of there around Escondio, were unfortunately affected, with one report indicating one third of the crop might be lost, possibly resulting in increased costs at the store for consumers. Sadly many homes were lost around Escondido.

North of that area is an Indian reservation, also the famed Palomar Observatory. TV pictures indicate dark smoke roiling in the sky in that vicinity, but lives are not reported to be in danger. I hope they continue to gain increased control there.

Events such as this should give us all pause to reassess what our disaster plans are. There are various events, in addition to fire, that are unique to each persons' own geographic area which could necessitate a hasty departure from home. I've been guilty, as probably others are, of needing to reassess my preparations for the unknown. We saw in New Orleans, and some have probably learned the hard way here in Southern California, about some of the complications that can prevail -- the value of self-reliance -- how unpredictable life can be.

I'm delighted to start this day hearing there's a possibility we may be able to look forward to some rain in the days ahead, that the winds are cooperatively laying low, and a high percentage of fire control prevails in most all fire areas.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fires Overshadow Blog First Year Anniversary Celebration

Southern California fires overshadow "Along The Way" blog's first year anniversary celebration. I may share my reflective observations on this first year of blogging sometime in the future.

But my thoughts are continuing to be pre-occupied with the devastating Southern California fires. I am so familiar with many of these areas that are being ravaged. Irvine was subjected to loss, though not the Amphitheatre where I enjoyed summer concerts about which I wrote here in earlier posts. The news mention of almost every Southern California community affected by fire arouses recent or past memories of just driving through there, sometimes of time spent there, often when my husband was still living, or my children younger.

Only a few weeks ago I travelled on Interstate 15 to a class at the Escondido hospital in San Diego County, near where my long favorite Bates Brothers Nut Farm is located. Some years ago our children walked through the pumpkin patch, each finally choosing and picking their own Halloween pumpkin. Another favorite site of ours there is the nearby San Diego Zoo Wild Animal Park. Hills all around Escondido are covered with avocado trees. I've heard no news reports to the contrary so trust those locations are spared. The first days of the fires this week, the traffic had come to a complete halt on that same I15 freeway and I could well imagine the discomfort of those stuck out there.

That morning going out my front door looking north toward the mountains the sky was a brightly colored blue. Then, as I drove southward in my car, I noticed the sky had an ever so slight tannish color, much like the sky I remembered when we lived in Arizona and a dust storm was headed our way. Here in California the next morning when I left the house the northern sky remained blue as before, but the southern sky was a darker brown. The following morning, the northern sky was blue as usual, but the southern sky a darker dirty-looking brown. My voice became raspy walking a short distance from a parking lot to inside my building destination. In the afternoon, as I walked north toward my car I saw only a brownish glaze over the once blue sky as far as my eye could see in any direction. I wonder what this next day's sky will be?

Another less recent memory was four years ago when we had driven to San Diego and were grateful to have had reservations to spend the night there, when news revealed fires had arisen in the area. The flames were moving rapidly, until at one point the TV announcement was made that all routes in and out of the City were closed due to fires. We ventured to dinner at the motel's restaurant, but after returning to our room, stayed inside as cautioned, due to the the smoke-filled unhealthy air, especially debilitating for those with respiratory problems as my husband experienced. Shortly, we were startled to hear named on TV our home city in the northeast corner of Los Angeles County, accompanied by horrifying pictures of destructive fires, houses burning. Our home was not endangered, though I phoned a local friend just for reassurance. We were subjected to restricted exit routes driving home from San Diego the next day, passing burned-out blackened areas along both roadsides. We encountered a driveway full of ashes, spread about like snow, when we arrived home.

As I write this, news media focuses audio and video on mountains east of us where fires are raging in the San Bernardino County area which is -- was ? -- the location of a mountain cabin owned by a relative of dear family friends. This cabin was available to individual family group relatives to provide an opportunity for their togetherness. I felt honored to be allowed to stay there. The cabin was spared during a severe fire in the Running Springs area a few years ago, but family members think it is highly unlikely a similar survival has occurred this time. How grateful we can all be that no family members were present there, so no lives were at risk. Another nearby mountain community, called Lake Arrowhead, has experienced the loss of several hundred homes, many likely the residences of elders, but at least their lives were spared.

Then, there's a popular resort area called Big Bear that's battling fires and is the residence of a friend's sister. I haven't heard about the nearby Idyllwild community with homes scattered through a wooded area that's home to more hummingbirds than I've every seen in one location other than the San Diego Zoo bird sanctuary. I wonder what has happened to those delicate little birds up in those mountain areas? Perhaps they had gone south. Last year, I sold my husband's station wagon to a gentleman who told me they had a second home there and he planned to take it up there to be housed in a garage, especially through the winters. I think he and his wife are safe, but I find it strange that I wonder about the welfare of that vehicle, but I do.

Rehabilitation facilities such as where I provide services are receiving inquiries as to how many beds they have available. Whether or not they will actually need to be utilized is presently unknown. How that may impact the amount of time I will need to make available remains to be seen. I'm just glad my earlier medical issues which side-lined me those weeks beginning around the end of August are resolved and I'm back at work.

Almost everyone I've encountered, old and new acquaintances, neighbors, co-workers, friends, has had reason for concern about these fires. For some the issue was whether or not they could drive home after work. For others, their anxiety has been about their friends and family, or they have related stories that someone they knew had probably lost their home. At least, so far, no one I have encountered has had to experience anything beyond material loss, but that is heart-breaking, too. I feel sadness for them. My heart goes out to all who have experienced loss, including those professional workers, but especially to those injured or who have lost loved ones. The fires are not yet contained, so we don't know what may lie ahead with the capricious winds. You can be updated on the most current reports through your local media and a multitude of computer news sites.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

100 Years -- Who? Me?

People over 100 years of age seem to be gradually increasing in number as our world's population ages. While I have more than a quarter of a century to go, I wonder, will I reach that centennial marker? Will I be healthy? How will my body continue to change in these years ahead? I've been physically changing all my life, so change is nothing new. What degree of mental changes, if any, will I experience? These are exciting interesting years, just as all my earlier ones have been. I expect these years to come to be the same -- exciting and interesting -- always in differing and unique ways.

Some information on aging issues recently came to my attention which I believe others may find of interest, too. The Los Angeles Times October 15, 2007 Health section has a "Special Issue: Aging Well" covering a variety of topics. One such article, "100 or older? There's a pattern" by Elena Conis, examines getting older around the world. Read this article by scrolling down to that title at the above link.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Three Centuries of Living
(Added U.S.A. 10/20/07)

Krystyna: Even though it's the 21st in Australia, it's still the 20th in the U.S.A., so we can keep celebrating Olive's birthday here. Just happens to be my birthday, too, so I can continue celebrating for her as well as myself. Coincidentally, my mother was born the same year as Olive in 1899. Boggles my mind when I stop to think these ladies lived in the nineteenth century AND twentieth century AND NOW Olive is living in the twenty-first century! We can all only hope we continue to have as much fun as she appears to be having as we travel through these elder years. I'll bet Olive will even appreciate belated birthday wishes.

OCTOBER 20th 2007

Birthday Greetings to you, Olive --
Congratulations on being the oldest blogger

***Visit Olive in Australia through the magic of Internet blogging and wish her a happy birthday at "The Life of Riley."

My special message to Olive:

Olive, I've been enjoying reading your stories, seeing your pictures, soon after your first blog, or "blob" post, as you say. Thanks to your helper, Mike, for assisting you with creating such an interesting blog.

Your blog and DVD has been an additional inspiration for at least one Los Angeles area, California, USA, retirement community skilled nursing facility. Some individuals are temporarily there for rehabilitation and may leave for a higher level of care such as Assisted Living, or to Independent Living in the retirement community. Some return to their own homes. Others remain as permanent residents. All the individuals are usually Elders - age 50 years to 100, or older. One particular facility is preparing to explore providing a blogging opportunity for residents. Many will need a helper as you have.

There have been many smiles on the faces of residents who have seen your DVD movie. The movie will continue to be shared with other local groups.

I'll look forward to future accounts of your experiences, observations on life.

I wish you many more birthdays and posts to your "blob."

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blogging Wisdom and Movie Moments

I believe the wisdom of aging allows for indulging some personal needs and whims. That attitude has informed a change in my approach to blogging for the past month or so. Sitting at my desk top hasn't been particularly pleasurable, so I've chosen to spend little time exerting much effort at my keyboard daily. I've been focusing on some personal medical health needs, now mostly resolved, other matters, and placed even my part-time work on hold. I have, however, pondered thoughts and some memories of my favorite season, autumn, including Indian Summer, becoming the subject of several short posts. So it is that I have been catering to myself to the exclusion of some blogging activities. I find I like this current approach and will likely do more of the same in the future.

Movie DVDs have recently provided a pleasurable respite to an unexpected degree. I selected the films with little knowledge of their content. I had seen no trailers, or been exposed to other promotional materials about these movies. I was not influenced by movies based on a specific book, having long ago learned that any resemblance between a book I had enjoyed reading and a movie by the same title was all too often purely coincidental. In fact, using that criteria for a film's selection could be disappointing.

Generally, I attend to the directors, actors and select movie collections i.e. Criterion when I consider movies for viewing, especially if they are known to be selective about the projects with which they associate themselves. Often, films nominated for various film festival awards can also be potential candidates attracting my consideration.

One such movie I selected from The Criterion Collection is titled "Dead Ringers" starring actors, Jeremy Irons and Genevieve Bujold whose talents I appreciate. Irons plays both rolls of identical twin gynecologists known for their innovative treatments who operate an exclusive clinic. This psychological medical drama thriller is purported in the New York Times review by Janet Maslin to be a "loosely fact-based tale...the film's most disturbing moments coming mostly through suggestion."

I find "suggestion" a much more powerful stimulate for my feelings than most literal special effects film creations. Director David Cronenberg's movie certainly impacted me beyond expectation in that regard. I think I was likely overly-sensitive for at least two reasons. One had to do with the movie's medical anatomical focus and visual effects. The other reason was due to a real life experience I had as a pre-teen. In the latter instance, I and others, independent of each other, were subjected to dental treatment from a dentist later determined to have been descending into psychological madness for which he was eventually institutionalized.

This movie is an intriguing idea likely appealing to many of stronger fortitude than I. The shower scene in "Psycho" haunted me for many years, partly due to the scene's music. Selected visual scenes in "Dead Ringers" could readily surpass my reaction to that shower scene -- but I looked away.

I'll recap a few other movies later that I find to be much more pleasing visually, psychologically satisfying, and emotionally gratifying. They portray more frequent realistic life experiences with which we can all identify or, at least, recognize.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Indian Summer Suspense

Autumn season holds suspense for me each year as I look forward to the possibiity an Indian Summer might just materialize. I don't know if some lucky area will experience this unique seasonal event this year, or not. Those years when weather condidtions are such this special period of days occurs where I happen to be living, I find myself entranced for that brief time, almost as though my world has been encapsulated in a special dimension where summer seems to suddenly re-emerge when least expected.

Indian Summer is unpredictable yearly, but most likely to occur after a first frost's sudden sharp cold snap, as temperatures begin to dip toward the freezing weather colder climates experience. Just as I anticipate the onset of increasingly colder days and nights, I am suddenly offered this reprieve and reminder of these unexpected warmer days.

This unique time of year referred to as Indian Summer has been the focus of music and memories for many through the years. Those who appreciate the vocal abilities of harmonizing groups value the talent of those who independently blended their voices in the days before technology did it all for them. The Four Freshmen is one of several such favorite groups of mine. I had the good fortune to see them in performance and meet them at the peak of their popularity. You may listen to their rendition of "Indian Summer" HERE
(scroll down to the third featured album.)

"Summer, you old Indian Summer...."