I remember living in a canyon in Southern California and how the faintest wisp of smoke, even miles away, struck fear into my heart. I also remember the fuzzy beauty of owl babies and the trepidation I felt when they left their nest. I appreciate Sue’s sharing of her experiences and awareness of how they relate to our common experience through this pandemic.
by Sue Robin, Los Angeles, California
We started watching the owl family nest two months ago. First an egg, barely discernible among the twigs. Then the chick hatched and we watched it grow from a tiny fuzz ball to a giant one as big as its mom—until, a week ago, they were gone. The nest had collapsed. As any adoptive parent would do, we worried. Our ornithological knowledge is limited, and we did not think the baby was ready to fledge, as its feathers were still fluffy white. Russ went down on the hillside to see if there were any telltale signs of an owlet. No feathers! We went with that as a good omen. On Thursday, as if to let us know all is well, Russ spied them sitting on a branch outside our window. I caught a glimpse, too, and it made my heart sing.
The good mood stayed with me all day. An elderly man (these days that means my generation) almost backed over me. I smiled at him, grateful that my hand hitting the trunk was enough to get him to stop in time. He was obviously distressed that he almost hit someone.
Then we went shopping for a new sofa. Not exactly an easy task, but the salesman turned out to be a rare breed. He was pleasant and helpful, and we found something that we both liked. Amazing!
We headed home in a good mood. It was when we turned onto Mulholland that we saw smoke. We live in a high fire danger zone and immediately knew how quickly the small fire burning at the side of the road could turn into a disaster. Russ pulled over to help the man who was calling 911, then grabbed a towel from the back of the car. He whacked at the fire, while the other guy poured an eight-ounce bottle of water on it. Between them, they put it out. Someone had tossed fireworks out the window. Another tragedy averted.
Not more than a tenth of a mile later, we came upon a telephone pole down, wires, too, and more smoke and more fire, this one creeping up the hill. OMG! Two fires in one day in a very dry canyon area. We could not drive through the wires and smoke, and Russ started to back up. By then, the fire department had arrived and, thankfully, had the fire out in 19 minutes, just a few minutes after we arrived home via the back route. The DWP took a little more time. It was not one, but two power poles broken by a speeding driver. No electricity, cable or internet for four days.
We managed. Flashlights and lanterns for light. Hand lit the gas stove. Used the refrigerator like a large cooler and brought 30 pounds of ice home (twice). Gas log in the fireplace worked well. Listened to the opening game of the Dodgers on the portable radio. Played cards, Rummicube, and went to bed early. Read until my Kindle went dead. A neighbor with a generator charged our phones and the Kindle on Sunday afternoon. All that being said, everything felt out of synch. Quite like the disconnection the entire world has dealt with throughout this pandemic year.
Finally, this morning, the electricity appeared as if it had never left. I changed all the clocks in the kitchen. (I have yet to figure out why the microwave, stove and coffee pot all need to have a clock.) Dumped the remaining ice in the flower beds, dried out the refrigerator, vacuumed, and started the laundry. Ordered more batteries, another lantern, and light bulbs that operate in an emergency.
The owl spotting was, indeed, a good omen and showed us that despite near misses, fires and a long outage, we endured. The development of vaccine is, also, a good omen. My constant prayer is that one day this pandemic will be tamped down, snuffed out, and the normal rhythms of our life will return. And like Russ and I are now, in our home, a bit better prepared for the future, with an enormous gratefulness for our survival of what this world throws at us.