Saturday, November 24, 2018


Walking in a welcome rain – 
A cool and drenching one – 
Quelling the flames at the rim of the fire
And dousing the smoldering rubble
Of forests and grasslands
And homes and life…

Walking in a welcome rain – 
A deep and satisfying one –
Rinsing soot and ash from all that remains
And soaking a hint of rebirth
Into forests and grasslands
And homes and life…

Walking in a welcome rain – 
A needed and nourishing one –
Inhaling sweet, unsullied air
And a cleansing sense of hope
Into forests and grasslands
And homes and life…

Walking in a welcome rain – 
A pure and freshening one –
Washing away our tears
And replacing them with rainbows
Over forests and grasslands
And homes and life.

A walk in that welcome rain –
A soulful and pensive walk –
Restores and renews,
Respirits and reminds us… 
What we’ve loved is never quite fully lost 
     so long as remembrance brings warmth    
     to our hearts.

So, when together we walk 
     in that welcome, needed rain, 
We again find Paradise.   

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press

Saturday, November 10, 2018


This grim little tale relates the story of a fire breathing dragon demanding tribute from villagers lest their settlement be destroyed. Rapt in fear a little man is pushed forward from the crowd.  

“What is it that you desire?” the quaking resident asked.

“That the pure waters running from the mountains be captured and rendered unto me, to quench and refresh me as once they did,” replied the dragon.

Purloined Image
The little man retreated into the buzzing crowd, who silenced themselves, heard the demand and pushed the representative back toward the monster.

“I... I… I’m afr… afraid that will be quite… quite impossible,” the little man reported.

In seconds, the dragon drew in his breath, almost doubling in size, and exhaled a blistering flame that roasted the hapless villagers and reduced their homes to ash with only a few standing chimneys remaining.

Then he lumbered away.

"Tubbs" Fire, Sonoma County
Over the ridge, the dragon spied another hamlet.  Folks, having seen the cloud of smoke rising over the neighboring hills had already gathered when the dragon arrived.

“What is it that you desire?” a quaking resident of this new locale asked.

“That the winds coursing over these tors and rises and into your valley be diverted to my nostrils so that I may again smell their sweetness,” replied the dragon.

The little man returned to the agitated crowd and was soon thrust out in front of the beast.

“I... I… I’m afr… afraid that will be quite… quite impossible,” the little man reported.

"Carr" Fire, Shasta County
Again, in seconds, the dragon drew in his breath, again inflating himself to twice his normal size, and again exhaled a fiery force that roasted the people and reduced their homes to ash with only a few standing chimneys remaining.

Again, he lumbered away.

Down in a broad valley, the dragon spotted a town of a little larger size.  By this time the city fathers were aware of the rampages wrought by the beast.  A representative stepped forward to receive the demand.

“Riches!” the frustrated and angry beast snorted.  “I want all the riches that you possess, and I want them all this instant!”

The little man screwed up his courage and asked, “Why?”

The dragon roared, “Because you can’t care for them.”

Once again, this hapless man sought counsel from his townspeople and once again he was returned to face the monster and once again the people and the town were incinerated and once again, the fire-breathing dragon lumbered off looking for another village or town to threaten taking with him, as yet, neither the water, nor the air, nor the riches he demanded.

"Camp" Fire, Butte County
Yes, the fairy tale is grim, but sadly, it is not a fairy tale.  The villages and towns are real.  They are Santa Rosa, California and Redding and now Paradise, California and Thousand Oaks.  

And the demands of the fire-breathing dragon, to which we will now give the name “Climate,” are simple: Alter priorities a bit and better care for the planet upon which we live lest more of our cities and towns burn.

And those demands are not “quite impossible.”

They are essential.

© 2018 
Church of the Open Road Press

Friday, November 9, 2018


comment from a social media participant 
monitoring the “Camp” fire from his or her home

To the extent that I grew up, I grew up in Chico.  The span was 1957 through about 1980.  Highlights of those years always involved a trip to Paradise – above the fog, below the snow – and to the ridge beyond.  There was a Chinese dinner place called the Pagoda where a red-headed lady waited on us for visit after visit, year after year.  I grew up thinking “Chinese ladies” all had red hair.  There was the Wildwood Inn where, as young members of the Chico Community Band – I played tuba – after a concert in the Paradise Park, we stopped in for victuals that were so bad that the band director took us to Cal’s Drive-in in Chico for 29-cent burgers to make it up to us.  And the Colonial Inn where first wife and I and another couple would end up for sundaes after a moonlight drive.  

Most recently, on overnights when visiting family in Chico, the Ponderosa Gardens – a throwback to earlier non-chain motel day – would be our lodging of choice.  Located across the main drag? The Italian Garden Restaurant, a joint I remember as a seafood place called Pinocchio’s with a narrow, spiral stairway to the storage area I had to climb in order to drop off freight when working my college-days’ summer job.

Pedaling a Schwinn three-speed up the Honey Run past the Covered Bridge I’d imagine myself a Yahi Indian stalking a black tail and not ever having to go to school. Picnicking at the cemetery in Centerville, I’d picture myself mucking nuggets out of Butte Creek.  Strolling the Magalia flumes, I’d envision myself a ditch tender making sure logs cut up in the mountains raced unabated down to the mill in the valley.  Piloting a motorcycle up the Skyway, over Humbug Pass and into the Almanor Basin – an adventure to be repeated over and over whether straddling my 1970 Honda Trail 90 or horsing my 2009 BMW GSA along that gravelly bi-way – imagining nothing, rather simply enjoying the sublime beauty of an endless and pristine northern Sierra.

On Thursday, November 8, the “Camp” fire – spawned around 6:30 AM – roared out of the Feather River Canyon, up the ridge and wiped out many of the places I recall from my youth (although we’re not officially sure, yet) and in its wake, took the possibility that some little kid living in Chico today might be able to replicate those memories or embrace those fantasies.  


More than any wild fire in recent memory – and there have been more than a few – this one saddens me.

© 2018
Church of the Open Road Press