To plan, we need a working definition of what sustainable groundwater use is. Basically, we should use the water that we have without causing unacceptable consequences to the groundwater supply.
If you travel in the west side of the valley, you’ve seen the significant expansion of industrial agriculture into areas with no surface water. Hundreds of acres of perennial crops, particularly almond orchards, are appearing. These baby orchards are entirely dependent on groundwater, and they get thirstier as they grow. To establish a new orchard using groundwater as the only irrigation source in a basin that is already in decline is preempting sustainability planning, and it’s insane that Tehama County approves such well permits.
What are unacceptable consequences for groundwater sustainability?
It is unacceptable to have domestic wells lose water due to groundwater decline from industrial pumping.
It is unacceptable to deplete the groundwater such that we lose what oaks remain. Nature needs more water than it’s getting now. A sustainable plan would restore water for the ecosystem.
It is unacceptable to create losing streams. A sustainable management plan should restore flows in creeks.
It is acceptable to not allow new industrial scale ag wells in the west side for water intensive perennial crops like almonds. Banning that kind of well is a relatively simple and inexpensive step towards managing groundwater that Tehama County can take now, so that people can continue living here. Who wants to be displaced because of almonds?
The groundwater system will certainly not recover with additional wounds.
What is sustainable water use? was published in the Corning Appeal-Democrat newspaper on June 24, 2021.
The letter was published in the Red Bluff Daily News under the title What is sustainable groundwater use? on June 25, 2021.
Letter: Ag well moratorium needed
On Mother’s Day I wrote a letter to the Board of Supervisors expressing my concern about groundwater management, especially in the west side of Tehama County where I live. In the last two years I have seen a transformation of many large parcels in the west side go from traditional range lands to huge irrigated orchards. New agricultural wells are popping up all around us.
The right to farm does not come with a right to deplete groundwater unsustainably.
According to the expert for the Groundwater Sustainability Plans — in Tehama County there are four subbasins, each requiring a GSP — there are approximately 6,000 acres of land, mainly rangeland around seasonal creeks, that may yet be converted to crops. Tehama County is developing GSPs because our groundwater has been depleting in an unsustainable way for at least a decade.
The conversion from rangeland to crops, mainly fruit and nut orchards, is happening with astonishing speed, ahead of the development of sustainability planning.
This year so far, 21 ag well permits have been submitted. On average, in recent years, around 40 ag wells per year are installed. The cumulative affect of all this development is not sustainable.
Upper aquifers take several wet years to bounce back. The deep groundwater takes much, much longer to replenish. Agricultural wells dip into the deep aquifer, and that affects the upper aquifer because groundwater is connected.
Tehama County needs an alternative to spending time and money on groundwater sustainability mismanagement.
The GSP development is starting to identify Management Objectives and Management Thresholds and trying to figure out measures that Tehama County will take when thresholds are passed and objectives are not being met.
It is common sense that the key issue is, and will be, the hundreds of acre feet of groundwater that new agricultural wells pump.
The management for sustainable groundwater use, which California law is requiring, will be much easier if the BOS applies a moratorium on new agricultural wells now.
Tehama County does not yet know the effect the recently approved agricultural wells will have on groundwater resources for domestic wells and established orchards. It makes sense, given the questionable sustainability of groundwater in the present, to stop approving new agricultural wells until we know the effect of the ones recently approved.
We know that already the groundwater is being used unsustainably. In times of drought and with this knowledge of our groundwater, it is irresponsible for the county to keep approving, in a non-discretionary manner, new agriculture wells which will each extract many acre-feet of groundwater for decades.
By approving more ag wells, in the face of unsustainable use of groundwater, Tehama County is opening itself up to lawsuits, as resident wells sputter and die. Domestic wells are expected to go dry, as the MO and MT discussions for the GSPs are about how many domestic well failures are acceptable before management actions are taken.
Tehama County, residents, and farmers should be concerned about the GSP process because it is really about the growth of the use of groundwater resources, which cannot grow.
The BOS should enact a moratorium on new ag wells, to remain in effect until groundwater use is shown to be sustainable for a decade, with groundwater levels rising such that Tehama County’s water budget can afford new agricultural wells.
If the BOS decides not to act, everyone will have to share in the high costs of trying to keep expanding agriculture. Since groundwater, at the present time, is being pumped unsustainably, it is highly irresponsible and unacceptable for the County to keep approving new ag wells.
A moratorium on new agricultural wells seems like an impossible idea in a county that promotes the right to farm; however, it’s time.
— Robin Huffman, Corning
Printed on May 20, 2021 in the Red Bluff Daily News Letter: Ag well moratorium needed
On Key Systems Unraveling
Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe wrote, “The six stages of climate denial are: It’s not real. It’s not us. It’s not that bad. It’s too expensive to fix. Aha, here’s a great solution (that actually does nothing). And — oh no! Now it’s too late. You really should have warned us earlier.”
Substitute pandemic for climate in the above quote, and the denial progression likewise occurs.
Less burning of petroleum during the pandemic, as people stay home, results in clearer skies.
Most people don’t know that clearer skies from fewer aerosols emitted (particulates from industrial pollution) means no “umbrella” to shield the sun’s heat. While the particulates fall quickly, invisible greenhouse gasses already emitted remain in the atmosphere as a “blanket” heating the planet.
This summer’s heat, especially going in dry, without much rain this year where we are (Northern California, a major agricultural region) could be killer, to people and other life forms.
The economic hit from so many staying at home with no income could be a killer. No money, no food, no shelter. In response, our nation enacted a stimulus package, sending out life-saving money to most everyone soon.
The stimulus packages may keep coming, due to the prolonged pandemic, damaging the stressed dollar.
Our nation keeps digging a deeper hole of debt in order to keep our casino economy going. All our nation knows how to do, apparently, is to create more fiat currency and to lower the interest rate.
The feelings of people, judging from shortages in grocery stores to gun shops, is that we’re going to be on our own soon.
Communities will step up somehow as the global system gets bumpy. It’s been more than bumpy for Paradise. We’re famous as the town that burned in 2018. COVID-2019 threatens to slow our 2020 rebuilding.
My resilience columns these past few years are grounded in my growing awareness, more apparent by the day, of the unsustainability of our system.
Those of us not in denial have seen disaster at our doorstep for years, hoping that we’re wrong. There’s no surprise except in how exactly the disaster unfolds. Pandemic has shown up at our doorsteps. It could have been someone else first, perhaps Depletion. Fire showed up before pandemic, but only here and there.
We who know that the experience of our undoing is exponential also understand how incomprehensible that curve is. Change appears gradually then suddenly very rapidly.
In our complex systems, like a chord, unraveling occurs along several lines. Each line is an exponential curve.
Although we’re doomed, we’re still here. Let’s make the best of the time we have, be it days or optimistically decades, for ourselves and for our living planet.
On Key Systems Unraveling was published in the Paradise Post on 4-1-2020.
Could we civilized people with all our technologies and resources have entered a “long emergency”, sometimes called “disaster in slow motion” or a “bumpy plateau”? If so, here in California it’s materialized with longer, drier summers and big winds kicking off huge fires.
The October power outages meant to prevent more fires were a major inconvenience to say the least. I’ve heard that we have a less reliable electrical grid than countries like Lebanon.
Many of us are wondering why the wealthy state of California has such an old-fashioned and run-down electrical grid. Others add that we need to scrape biomass from what’s left of our forests and burn it for energy. Our democracy is controlled by plutocrats, with an assist from corporate owned media. We’ve been bought out with stock options. We are given to believing whatever our favorite elected officials (who are not well educated in the science of fire suppression, soil or forest management, or climate change) tell us.
Would it be an exaggeration to say our lives are turning into a living nightmare? Well, now that the power’s back, the firefighters are getting the blazes under control, and rain will surely show up in a few weeks -- yes, let’s not get carried away. Everything’s fine, right?
I have an unsettled feeling it’s not. I am still in a fire zone, with virtually all of California being in a fire zone. I have a go bag (just the bag, not very packed) ready. I’m really not ready to evacuate in five or ten minutes in a windstorm. How could anyone be?
Likewise I’m not ready for a bumpy plateau. This concept came from studies of peak oil where regional peaks in production of relatively cheap petroleum, a non-renewable resource, would start adding up to a global peak.
What if we can’t get gas from gas stations? During the PG&E power shut-downs I had to search for an open gas station because many in the towns around Chico had no power to pump the gas that they had.
It’s not just gasoline that we need, we need the whole system, from resource extraction to consumption, to operate our civilization.
How easily one little thing like wind can affect our economy and our lives. We truly are dancing on the edge, as Professor Guy McPherson has written, Dancing on the Edge of Extinction.
So dance, live, and love the people and animals and land where you live. Buy an extra bag of rice, pasta, oats, dog and cat food (for pets) and whatever other long-shelf-life food you can, that you can prepare in a pinch, without the help of civilization.
Beyond that, love your community. I visit Paradise often and hold on to the property where we lived. It still carries so many memories.
In October I picked apples at Noble Orchards, where they now have a shed and expect to start sales soon. I gleaned grapes at Heinke’s vineyard and made grape juice. I so appreciate the Nobles and Heinkes for having opened their properties for special picking days. Their losses are huge, and yet we still have apples and grapes in Paradise, thanks to these families who continue their farms.
As a community let’s make every effort in Town and Paradise Irrigation District planning and policies to encourage farming on the ridge. Farming is a fire-safe endeavor, contributes to the local economy, and provides local food.
Working outside is more fun and meaningful to me than working on a computer and going to a gym. I’d like to do more of the former, even at my age, as long as I can. We, all of us, are adapting to wind storms and fires and shortages in all kinds of ways, by moving elsewhere, by farming, by prepping, by learning and trying new technologies, and by returning to a way of life our great grandparents might recognize.
So This Is What California Unsustainability Looks Like was published in the Paradise Post on Nov. 16, 2019.
On Symbols and Change
My first semester in college there was a required book in common that I recall periodically as “The Map Is Not the Territory” (not the exact title). This seems an easy and obvious concept; yet, it’s worth pointing out and remembering that the symbol (like a word or an object) for a thing is not the reality (item or entity) that the symbol is intended to represent.
Maps used to be mainly on paper, such as the one of Northern California that I carried in my car. When I wasn’t sure how to get where I was going, I’d look at the map to find the dots with city names and the lines representing roads to get there.
Ten months since the Camp Fire consumed my entire collection, my only map comes from the sky. The GPS system in my car and Maps on my cell phone work so well that while I keep meaning to replace my paper map, just in case, I’ve not tried to buy a map at a gas station.
Money is sort of like maps.
Just as maps are not roads, money is not, for example, food. No matter what claims your bank statement says you have to money, it is not the same thing as actual things money might buy. Just because a few people have most of the money in the world, it doesn’t mean that if their money were totally redistributed that everyone could buy commodities like food, land, water, or items they might think they have the money to buy. Scarcity dictates what money is worth. People with the power to do so – a few economists, central bankers, and politicians – create money. They don’t back it up with actual items, they just hope to facilitate production. They have no power, however, over crop failure due to floods, drought, and extreme weather. At some point, and I think soon, we will feel the limit to how many people can live on this planet; no amount of money creation, redistribution, or austere living will change that fact. Meanwhile, population growth continues.
Change, you may have noticed, is speeding up in many ways.
Since humans could sing and play instruments, surely since the emergence of Anatomically Modern Humans some two hundred thousand years ago, audiences heard music live, person to person, with no sound recorded. Cylindrical mechanisms for playing bells date back to the 15th century. The musical comb invented by a Swiss clockmaker in 1796 started a revolution of musical disks and cylinders that entertained people ever since. (I miss my music boxes.)
According to a timeline at the Library of Congress, the recorded sound began in 1857. Twenty years later, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. By the turn of the century, recordings could be played on flat discs. In the first decades of the 1900s, many musicians made records as record players entered the market, and the recording industry took off. This, plus radio and television, was the main way I heard recorded music until high school when the eight-track tape came out.
With my 8-track player, I could pick my own music in my car, and I played my AC/DC tape until it broke. As far as mobile recordings, after a brief battle, cassette tapes (invented in 1964) won over 8-tracks. The Sony Walkman in 1980 clinched the victory. Then in 1983 the CD entered the market and dominated until 1996 when the digital MP3 started circulating, the time when people were becoming connected to the Internet on their personal computers. In 1999 iTunes emerged and began to dominate. As recorded media became invisible in the early 2000s, most recorded music is now “downloaded”. It’s gotten easier and easier to access music of all kinds. Today, we don’t even have to push a button or necessarily buy it, just ask Siri or Alexa to play it. Since then we have a plethora of voice assistants. In summary:
The first couple hundred thousand years of Homo sapiens music was only heard live.
Since 1500 mechanical music = 519 years
Since 1796 music boxes = 223 years
Since 1857 recorded music = 162 years
Since 1900 records on disc = 119 years
Since 1964 cassette tapes = 55 years
Since 1983 compact disc = 36 years
Since 1996 digital media = 23 years
Since 1999 digital music online = 20 years
Since 2011 voice assistants = 8 years
It’s clear that the span of time between significant changes for music is getting shorter and shorter. In many ways, change is speeding up. Thank goodness we still have musicians to play for us. Music is not the media by which we hear it. Money is an illusion. If we as a species can keep up with the rapid changes, it is because we understand that our symbols are not the things they represent.
On Symbols and Change was published in the Paradise Post on September 18, 2019.
A Hammock in Many Places
Eyes closed, rocking on a familiar cotton rope hammock, my mind took me to my yard in Paradise. Eyes opened I expected to look up at my tulip tree. I was not in Paradise last week, but in my Mom’s hammock in Colorado Springs. There, an afternoon thunderstorm rolled in and brought me out of my daydream.
Shaded by Ponderosa Pines, I spent some time hanging out in my hammock in Paradise, dreaming, swaying, and thinking about life. It had to be a cotton rope hammock when it was time for a replacement. My parents had a Pawleys Island rope hammock in our yard since I was young. The Army moved us every couple of years, and my dad would put up our hammock in the new yard. I got used to new places that way.
Being displaced I have this way to try to feel at home, and so as soon as I could after the Camp Fire, I bought a cotton rope hammock and placed it in our yard, first in Los Molinos and now in Corning attached to our pergola. It’s different here in the valley, really hot, really dry, and we have no tall trees in our yard in the pastureland. But in the cool of the late evening, I can swing and pretend I’m in my yard in Paradise, as long as I keep my eyes closed.
It feels hotter than usual, although I’m told by locals that it’s so far cooler this summer than average. It feels like I’m on another planet in this valley, even though I’m only an hour away from my home of 29 years on the ridge in Paradise.
So much devastation remains in Paradise. Some trees survived, thankfully, but most were burned. Many of the burned trees are stumps now, and many others still stand, with burned bark and no leaves or needles.
Some people who left the ridge during the firestorm never want to live in trees again, and others moved back already, to an unburned area in Magalia or to a lot where the debris has been removed. I have several friends from Paradise who are moving to Idaho, to the high plains around Boise. The more friends and acquaintances that set up house far away, the more I realize that the Paradise I knew is gone for good. Rebuilding cannot happen fast enough. It is happening, and our Paradise traditions like the Party in the Park and Johnny Appleseed Days will continue, but without my hammock under the tall tulip tree, it’s just not the same.
I wonder what the future holds for us. I hope it will include towering trees. We’re thinking of planting date palms here, and in time, if I have that much time, you may find me in their shade in a cotton rope hammock.
A Hammock in Many Places was published in the Paradise Post on August 7, 2019.
We can’t seem to fully know what we’ve got until it’s gone. I’ve always appreciated the conveniences of living in Paradise. It’s big enough that one doesn’t need to leave. I worked in town and could spend all my money in town too, on clothes, shoes, furniture, first and second-hand and antique. We still have a hardware store, the most wonderful in the region.
We had big and small discount stores. We had a large hospital. We had an apple orchard and grapes (both the trees and vines survived the fire, but the operations suffered huge losses). We were shaded by tall pines and oaks and many varieties of trees. We have a multi-use trailway that runs the entire length of the town. We had and have a museum. We had a guild, formerly known as a grange, and the members will rebuild. We had and still have a vibrant community with many festivals. I miss living in my community, even as I am getting used to my new surroundings, making it all it can be.
Paradise is a gift we must actively treasure or we will lose it. As we rebuild from the ground up, let’s consider the soil. I’m thinking about dirt because where I am it’s hard to tell chunks of dirt from concrete. Seriously. We put in a pad of concrete at our new house and also built a large planter. When I used some of the leftover dirt, moved by the skid steer loader, it was mixed with concrete chunks from this and previous construction projects. My shovel can hardly break the chunks of dirt, even after soaking. My intent is to change dirt into soil by working with nature.
If nature is our enemy then we must poison it and add chemicals. The more we add, the more we need. But nature will do so much for us for free. Plants make soil in symbiosis with bacteria, viruses, fungi, and the sun. The soil holds moisture. These processes are positive feedback loops that make our lives easier and less expensive. Grasses grow, which a few of our favorite grazers like cows and chickens enjoy. Hens eat the bugs. Their excrement helps fertilize the land, etcetera, etcetera. Small scale, local food sources are being recognized as a key to our success.
When I attended a class sponsored by the new Center for Regenerative Agriculture last week at the Chico State Farm, I learned some soil biology. It was an intensive day of presentations by a biologist from Australia plus several local farmers. My sacrifice of a day to learn about building soil will pay off in how we manage our pasture land. I’m not a rancher or a farmer by profession, but I am headed in baby steps in that direction, as an amateur. I love to harvest from my garden, and I want to ramp that up a bit.
The new way, termed “regenerative agriculture”, employs the opposite of what we think we know about land management. Instead of working against nature, we work with it, and it’s starting to pay off for those who are trying it at scale. The fears of problems keep the farmers and ranchers doing the same things that their chemical companies recommend.
Thank goodness that chemical companies (and even the new urban planners) are not the only source of information for how to best manage our environment in our historically food producing town.
As our town motto goes, to live in Paradise is to be “in harmony with nature”. With so much now burned to the ground, let’s consider regenerating soil as we rebuild. Soil is more precious than gold.
Appreciating Paradise was published in the Paradise Post on July 2, 2019.
Rebuilding Our Historic Plan
Paradise’s not-so-ancient history lives in the memory of a few still alive who lived it, in the childhoods of their offspring, and in stories told to their grandchildren and great grandchildren. The long-standing families of the Ridge were among the pioneers we celebrate at our big festivals, Johnny Appleseed Days and Gold Nugget Days of Living History.
These folks can still recall the old sayings, like one relayed to me recently from our Corning outpost. (I only heard this saying once to date, so correct me if I don’t get the wording quite right.) It goes something like this, “The time to build a barn is before it rains.”
With the results of a couple big planning efforts unfolding presently, it occurs to me that we have not thought deeply enough about what we’re planning for. Resilience. Deep adaptation. Sustainability, which implies all too subtly that the way we live is unsustainable, which means we’re in a predicament that we can only manage one way or another, in smart ways or in stupid ways. Let’s pick managing the situation well, shall we?
We have a fire management predicament made worse by high density housing, years of drought, poor maintenance of infrastructure (power chief among the issues), and yes climate catastrophe, which produces violent storms from time-to-time.
We have an economic predicament, with insurmountable debt, held in check by confidence alone.
We have a civilization crisis with our aptly named “addiction” to oil, which is getting more expensive to produce as known high grade sources are depleting, etcetera, as the energy return on investment ratios slip down a cliff.
So what should Paradise do? Secure our food supply by rezoning residential properties to agriculture, especially along Ridge lines, and start building barns.
We should keep our irrigation district, and rebuild it to support farming. Our water supply for irrigation does not all need to go through the treatment plant. We have excellent water.
I support all grocery stores trucking food to Paradise, and I support Farmer’s Markets, and I support local food sold in grocery chains and local markets. I support them with my dollars, and when I can produce vegetables myself, I don’t buy that, but I buy what I cannot myself produce.
The people who pioneered Paradise produced most of their own food, and the rest came from what we would call local sources, California sources, with very little imported.
We’re as dependent on imports as exports now, and that’s scary in this time of uncertainty.
In Maui as I write, I’ve been reading about concerns for food security here. The scholars at the universities in Hawaii work with the legislators and with the local people, especially Hawaiians who can still recall the work of their great great grandparents, and the old tried and true ways of surviving on an island.
We’re not an island in the North State, and yet we are like an island, or can be, when the next shock occurs.
Just as sure as a great fire was predictable, other disasters are ahead for us.
What should we do? Secure our food and water supply as best we can and learn to produce our own food with the resources we have on the Ridge.
The vision is that simple, and without that perspective on food security, we set ourselves up for building barns during a storm.
Rebuilding Our Historic Plan was published in the Paradise Post on June 5, 2019.
Like a Phoenix?
One wants to believe, and there’s tons of evidence, that we’re Paradise Strong and Butte County Strong. Like the mythical phoenix, we will rise from our own ashes and be reborn; yet, we are still mucking around in the ashes, remembering those who perished in the Camp Fire nearly five months past, and trying to make sense of it all.
Paradise was hit so hard it knocked the population down and out. The diaspora has Paradisians bumping into each other in our new neighborhoods and in the unfamiliar places we now frequent, different shops and restaurants, and often different work sites. We’re still friends on Facebook and other social media, getting updates from each other.
One such acquaintance, Allan Stellar wrote recently about the diaspora. He’s a healthcare professional, displaced by the fire, reporting from the Red Bluff and Redding area. He wrote to me about people who survived the initial fire only to die from the health effects of the fire. He said, "I see the vacant eyes of fire victims... We are all affected -- respiratory wise, for sure. That smoke has killed a couple of my clients. That smoke decreases our life expectancy."
There are so many kinds of stress that we fire victims carry. They’re the same kinds of stress we all have known for years, but intensified and clustered. The time stress of having an overload of extra work to get through to keep the ball rolling, such as having the usual job and family responsibilities plus dealing with changes of address, insurance, and acquiring the basics.
I evacuated with the fall clothes I wore and little else. We have four seasons here. One pair of shoes, in any case, is not enough… We manage each little time stress. As I’ve always done, I make lists of things to do. I do something in the present, and I knock items off my list one at a time; yet, I keep adding necessities. My list is always long, but the kinds of things on the list are not like they were before the fire.
Some of the list I write down. Most of this list was in my head: Find the remains of my little coin collection in the ashes of my home (because I failed to grab it in the panic of the evacuation). Soak, scrub, and sort the coins. Find out if and when the local coin shop is open. Take the mangled silver coins to Paradise Coin to get a little return on that investment. Buy a few replacement coins while I’m there, just because. My brother would give me a Silver American Eagle every once in awhile, like for my birthday.
My head is filled with time stressors, mitigated by my management techniques. I also have an inordinate amount of anticipatory stress since the fire. I find myself managing not only my own concerns about the future, but also those of my family members. The decisions these days are large, involving our life savings. We look down the road, trying to figure out which turns to take, making decisions that will affect us for a very long time, for example, our decision to purchase a home nearly an hour’s drive from work, adding to time constraints. (I write in the middle of the night.)
As I recognize the extra psychological and physical stresses in the aftermath of the fire, I remember, “what doesn’t kill me makes me strong”. What doesn’t kill us makes us strong.
Take care of yourselves and each other. Get a bike and ride it in the fresh air. Encourage a friend to get a bike again and ride with that friend. Walk with your dog. Hear the birds carry on in the Springtime. Attack your to-do list after you’ve had some coffee.
Play a little every day. (Get enough sleep.) Work together. Figure out what’s wrong, and make smart decisions.
A falcon flew into our garage today. He kept banging his head against a closed window, trying to fly outside. He was stressed. Finally, with the distraction of a gently placed broom handle, he turned around and saw the wide-open garage door.
Sometimes one must stop and look around in order to see which way to fly. Don’t bang your head against a closed window. The phoenix doesn’t rise that way.
Like a Phoenix? was published in the Paradise Post on April 3, 2019.
Coping from Afar
Four months since the devastating fire, we have little choice but to cope with the circumstances. Trying to recover feels like walking up a mountain of sand, as I recall from a childhood visit to the Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado. Even as I was with my brothers, I walked each step up with my own legs, slipping half a step back for every step forward. Walking was slow, so we tried to outrun the slipping sand and got really tired. We made it to the top of one big dune, just to enjoy running and rolling and slipping back down. The sand was hot, but we were determined and full of energy, so we climbed up a few times. Coping with this fire has me remembering the feeling of the steep sand climb.
According to the American Psychological Association resilience is, “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress — such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.” Their webpage called The Road to Resilience includes a number of pointers, one of which is to stay flexible. Being too rigid and closed minded can make recovery tough.
What makes sense depends on variables. The recovery is a 1,000 piece puzzle. I look for the edge pieces so I can build a frame, but sometimes I find pieces in the middle that fit together first.
Shifting sand and puzzles and grief. These feelings accompany me as I try to refigure my life. It is an important time, with crossroads. It’s not a puzzle with a completed picture to guide the rebuild. It’s choices and circumstances, opportunities and realities.
I keep going back and looking through the remains. The home is dead and the remains are not yet buried. Every time I notice another thing we had, burned and broken with glass and metal melted on it. I look for things which might have survived but that, not found, seem to have disintegrated with no trace. I’m pretty much done looking, but each rain clears some ash, revealing colors from my dishes, beads, and jewelry – broken, melted or cracked, and stuck with muck. I keep going back, if only to cry some more over what all was lost. I probably will keep doing this until the debris is scooped up, wrapped, and removed. Then it will be buried.
Otherwise, I carry on, viewing Paradise from the valley. I can almost see it from the hills of Tehama where we are in the process of purchasing a home. With no place for us in Paradise, we cope from afar. If we do not return, it’s not because we did not love it there.
I went to one of the big planning meetings, held at the Paradise Alliance Church. The place was packed. I do not have any doubt that Paradise will recover and in that time be a more beautiful community than ever before.
Coping from Afar was printed in the Paradise Post on March 9, 2019.
Robin Huffman resides in Tehama County, since relocating from Paradise, California after losing her home to the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018.