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TToT: Not Exactly the Picture-Perfect Summertime Edition

I think that when most people think of summer, they envision blue skies, green grass, warm weather, and playing in the water.  Today, summer looks much different for me.  The sky is smoky, the temperatures were predicted to be record-tying (108), ash is falling, and everything smells like campfire.  Personally, we are in no danger, but this post-apocalyptic setting casts a strange feeling to the day. 

Here's a photo that I took from my driveway during winter months. . . 

Photo:  Snow-dusted mountains

. . . and here's a photo taken from my driveway today.  Notice how the mountains aren't even visible.

Photo: Smoke-obscured mountains

The cause of our haze is the Sand Fire, which started yesterday and has grown to 20,000 acres.  It is currently 10% contained.

One thing that I have learned by living here is that summer is fire season, and it's always going to be a bad one.  If we have a year with normal precipitation, it will be a bad fire season because of all the new plant growth brought on by the moisture.  If we have a year with less-than-normal rainfall (most years!), it will be a bad fire season because everything is dried out and dying.  

"Summer" just doesn't sound as fun when it translates to "fire season."

Last night, John and I went down to the Hollywood Bowl to a Weird Al concert.  This is what we saw on the way down the freeway:

Photo:  Smoke rises from the Sand Fire
By the time we headed home, flames were easily seen from the freeway.

Photo:  Flames leap in the hills just off the freeway
1.  I'm thankful for firefighters who battle this blaze, and others like it.  The heat is intense, conditions are miserable, and yet they are out there trying to get this thing under control.

2.  I'm thankful for my dad.  Did I ever mention that he used to fight forest fires, too?  No matter what he takes on--fighting fires, teaching middle-school students, building a house, planting a garden, tying fishing flies, or taking photographs--he is my hero. He had a birthday this past week--Happy birthday, Dad!

3.  I'm thankful for each of my children.  This week, (rather-reserved) youngest daughter asked if she was going to make my list this week.  I gladly agreed to share this photo, with her permission. I'm proud of her for many reasons.  I put this before and after photo together so that she could recognize how much progress she has made on her own goal to get healthy.  

Photo:  On left, youngest daughter in September 2015, after getting her hair done.  On right, a selfie taken by same daughter in July 2016, after losing weight and hiking the Narrows in Zion National Park.
4.  I'm thankful for glasses.  Both youngest daughter and I have glasses on order.  We are both looking forward to having the world in clear focus again!

5.  I'm thankful for a working washing machine.  Right before our trip last week, the washer stopped functioning properly.   John was able to repair it this week.  :-)

6.  I'm thankful that the place we stayed in St. George had a washer and dryer.  We took all our dirty laundry with us on vacation. It was nice to come back home with clean clothes!

7.  I'm thankful for pioneers.  If you happen to live in Utah, or if you are Mormon, you know that July 24 is Pioneer Day.  July 24, 1847 was the day that Brigham Young and the first pioneers entered the Salt Lake Valley after a 1300 mile trek across the country. Many of the pioneers arrived in wagon trains, but a significant number came pushing and pulling handcarts, including some of John's relatives.

Years ago, John and I got to be part of a handcart pioneer trek re-enactment. We were gone for less than a week, and our mileage might have been 20 miles total (I really don't know), but just that little exposure gave me a real sense of gratitude for the families who made that journey.  We had porta-potties, we had a dependable source of food and water,  and we had access to emergency help if needed.  The pioneers had none of that.  In the real pioneer trek, people died.  Women gave birth along the way. Women were widowed and ended up having to pull their handcarts without their husbands there to help them.  They went through so much for the cause of religious freedom.  

8.  I'm thankful for clear water.  This week was "clean out the aquarium filter" week, and I really love the clarity of the water after each filter change.  I love watching the fish grow.

9.  I'm thankful for working vehicles.  I still am taken aback when someone refers to our cars as "old" models.  I mean, the cars came off the assembly line in this century!  In any case, John and I are of opinion that as long as the car is running, why replace it?  (Of course, there always comes a time when it is more sensible to replace than repair, but we are not in that situation currently.) 

10.  I'm thankful for John.  When we got to the parking lot yesterday--we always park at the LA Zoo and catch a shuttle when we attend a performance at the Hollywood Bowl--the woman in the car next to ours rolled down her window and exclaimed, "There are still gentlemen in the world!" I am so spoiled, because John always gets the door for me.  I forget that the sight of a man opening a car door for a woman is not the norm.  I do tell John, "Thank you," but I probably should put a little more thought into my thanks.  

So, what do you call this season?  Is it "summer," "winter," "fire season," or something else?  

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  1. Lots of smoke in the air here, too. The fires are about 70 miles away and no where near contained. I don't remember forest fires like this when I was growing up.

    My car is a 2004 and just turned over 90,000 miles. I'm sure it will last another two decades.

    Congratulations to your youngest daughter. Tell her to keep up the good work.

  2. I'm sorry to hear that you have smoke there, too. It's just really miserable, although, of course, it is worse for those whose homes are threatened.

    It's nice when cars can last a long time, isn't it? Why spend money to replace something that works perfectly fine?

    I'll pass along your congratulations. She wasn't giving herself enough credit for her achievement, so hearing congratulations from others really does help.

  3. It seems every part of the country has it's own brand of natural disaster that has a season and a reason to be worried. For us, it's tornado season. Equally scary and devastating, but a very different kind of thing. Seeing such a huge, raging fire so close, with ash falling around you...that has to be quite disconcerting.
    I almost couldn't read the entirety of your post, though. I came to a screeching halt when I read that you and John went to a Weird Al concert. That is hilarious and not something I pictured the two of you doing. Weird Al has a special place in our family. I'll tell you about it another time. :)
    Your daughter is doing great! A goal to get healthy is an important one. A round of applause for her dedication. It ain't easy.
    Thinking of the mode of transportation and the dangers along the way, it's astounding that any part of the west was ever explored. I love road trips in my air-conditioned car, with food and bathroom stops almost anywhere they're needed. Can't say I'd embrace a road trip the pioneer way. Says a lot about what people will endure for religious freedom. I'll leave it at that, and not make any comments about current policies and politics. :)

    1. You're absolutely right that every area has something. Perhaps in part due to The Wizard of Oz, but definitely in part due to science films watched in 3rd grade, tornadoes have always especially scared me--at least in theory, as I've never had to take cover due to one.

      This was actually our 3rd Weird Al concert, so, yes, we are fans. :-) I'm very curious to hear your story!

      Religious freedom is a bit of a hot topic right now. You might be interested in this video:

  4. Summer in Florida is 'try to see if your brain won't melt' time of the year!! It's simply too hot to function!
    I'm glad those fires are far enough way that you and your family aren't in danger, though I hope they can contain them soon.
    Wonderful list of thankfuls :)

    1. The latest news I've heard is that most of those who have been evacuated are being allowed to return home. I think containment is still only at 10%, though.

  5. For me, it is Winter, aka Blizzards and-ice-hidden-under-snow-temperatures-that-threaten-life-and-make-extremities feel like artificial limbs. (lol)
    Those pioneers! damn! even (as your own experience infers) you travel by foot and pulling carts in a road, it takes, like, forever, the part that's hard to appreciate is that, there were no roads.... just like woods and mountains and such. amazing

    1. Exactly! And remember--no bridges, either.

  6. I was not born in the wrong time. That pioneer thing is awe inspiring to me....great post just forced to be brief by using my phone these past few weeks!!!

    1. I'm impressed that you comment at all--I usually avoid commenting if I have to use my phone!

  7. Such a well rounded post.
    Clear focus. From snowy to smoky paints quite the picture. Thanks again for how you describe your photos. I enjoy that very much when reading your posts.
    Fire season does not sound nice at all. So much going on in western Canada over the last few months with fires, but I luckily don't know what that's like here in southwestern Ontario.
    Love your clear water thankful. Sounds wonderful.

    1. Apparently the state of California has rented (?) the use of a Canadian firefighting airplane, but can't get it until August, because of the Canadian fires. We do have other airplanes and helicopters making drops, though. I'm glad you don't have first-hand knowledge of wildfires.

  8. Congratulations to your awesome daughter. I'd say she's pretty healthy if she can do that hike. Prayers for containment of the forest fires and for the individuals that put their lives on the line to do so. The pioneer experience has been romanticized in history books but I, for one, would find it difficult to go back without the comforts we have all become accustomed to.

    1. I used to think "Little House on the Prairie" sounded like so much fun, but I've decided I really like living now!

  9. Late summer is burn season here, but it is controlled burning of the prairies. That is a very different thing from the out of control burning you are talking about. Prayers for the safety of the fire fighters.
    Your dad sounds amazing! Happy Birthday to him!
    And your daughter does too. Wishing her continued success in her quest for healthy.

    1. Yes, controlled burns are very different than wildfires. I think the growth of the fire was not as big today, so hopefully it will be more contained soon.

  10. Eeeeek, okay I think I might like summer less if it meant that everything was in imminent danger of being really truly burned to a crisp! So glad there are teams of brave fire-fighters trying to control the damage.

    I remember the delight of changing the water in the fish tank - it feels like the fish even LOOK happier :)

    1. I read that one of the firefighters lost his own home, while he was out working to contain the fire. The latest count I heard was 18 homes destroyed and 2 deaths. So, so sad. But, I also read that most of the evacuated people are being allowed to return to their homes, so the fire must be traveling in a different direction now.

  11. I so agree with you on cars! I finally upgraded from an 1991 Nissan to a 2005 Equinox. Seems new to me! Rich is still driving an '89 MR2 because he really loves that car but we are at the point where we think maybe we are having to put to much money into it to keep it. But we aren't ready yet! It still runs great most of the time and it really is fun to drive.


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