wildfire ashes snowing along the river…

Good Morning dear Mourners,

the sun over the San Lorenzo River on Mon. 17th @ 10am

For over a week our Santa Cruz community and environment has been in the clutches of the devastating San Lorenzo Valley wildfire that has destroyed the homes of humans and wildlife throughout the Santa Cruz Mountains. Our sky was sheathed in heavy smoke, snowing ashes far and wide, covering everything with its tears of sorrow for petrifying loss. Our sun was wrapped in an eerie, fiery orange veil, reminding us that the wildfire was devouring relentlessly anything in its path. Nature had set loose her mighty lightening force, sending us the fire demons, the messengers of unprecedented hot fires that harvested ferociously the results of our Climate Change silence. Our firefighters battled the fire beyond human endurance with reduced workforce and undersupply of equipment. If it wasn’t for their determination and heroic efforts then wildfire would be raging with apocalyptic appetite through our whole region.

black leaf with hieroglyphic imprints…

I went down to the river to water our Estuary Project plants during that week. It was remarkable to see the fire debris: intact leaves that were black and fell apart when touched. They were actually big pieces of ash, testifying of the heat the fire was generating. The remains had not gone through a slow burning process. It looked like an explosion had occurred, sending us fragments, telling us of its deed with hieroglyphic imprints.
The plants were continuing to pursue their intend to live and be part of the connecting life cycle: seduce the insects to harvest their food offerings with their brightly colored blossoms and thus nourish Nature’s web. It was uplifting to watch the will to live in spite of all the horrifying devastation around us.


In last week quite a few Widow Skimmers have been present at the Mike Fox fruit orchard. If you have seen one then you know they are exceptional big. So it won’t surprised to hear that they are cousins of biggest family of dragonflies. I have never ever seen a Widow Skimmer and was thrilled to welcome a new insect at the river levee, hoping they’ll become a regular river visitor.

distressed COMMON MURRE droopy wings…

About 2 weeks ago, I noticed that there was an increase of reports for COMMON MURRE in distress. I got curious and asked around. And that is how I found out that the Native Animal Rescue had over a 100 calls for COMMON MURRES. It’s worth noting that the birds had no waterproof and that there was a mix of juveniles and adults. Usually the young birds end up in distress and with injuries. The Calif. Dept of Fish and Wildlife will be examing the dead birds, trying to figure out the cause of their deaths. As you know the Native Animal Rescue center is doing an amazing job helping injured critters and in times like these they will love to receive our donations. Also be sure to check out their delightful blog posts.

juv. PIED-billed GREBE learning its river boundaries…

The juvenile PIED-billed GREBE is trying really hard to get along with the belligerent, territorial PIED-billed GREBE adult. The youngster is getting to the point of instantly fleeing as soon as the older one heads its way, making pitiful high pitched sounds as swims as fast as it can. The teenager is in training to accept boundaries, which is a matter of survival: as long as it is at a safe distance it is allowed to hunt and eat. I am happy to report that the adolescent is getting the hang of the ‘house’ rules on the river.

To-day we had our first blue sky in over a week and Nature withdraw her threat for more lightening, our firefighters got more help and equipment. So to-day we got to give our gratitude to the universe for being able to catch a breath of relief. And let me tell you: it was mighty sweet to feel that release!!
Sending you peace and comfort greetings~ jane

wildfire ashes caught in a San Lorenzo River spider web…


12 thoughts on “wildfire ashes snowing along the river…

    1. Hi MZ & Cho,
      Thank you so much for including us in your prayers! Your kindness makes a difference & matters to all of us. Kind greetings to both of you~ jane

  1. I am so disheartened to read as you demonize fire in this column, Jane, by calling them “fire demons.” California and its landscapes, both redwood forests and hillsides of chaparral vegetation, that provide wildlife habitat filled with the native species you so rightfully adore – evolved with fire, both wildfires and later domestic fires set by indigenous people over millennia. That is not demonic. It is the way of nature.

    It is the Smokey the Bear policy of fire suppression for the last 110 years that has caused this conflagration. Fire suppression does not allow natural lightening fires to burn to provide a patchwork of forest cleansing that could keep conflagrations at bay. In most fire prone ecosystems, before fire suppression of the past 110 years, 95% of fires burned less than 1/4 of an acre, creating ideal conditions for continuous natural cleansing of forest floors, while also providing the fire heat upon which many of species are dependent. Before fire suppression, it was a landscape in balance, fine tuned over millennia. We have created the imbalance and are now paying the price. This has nothing to do with Climate Change. It has everything to do with poor management and development decisions.

    Now watch as the bulldozers and chainsaws begin their destruction of watersheds so humankind can continue to do the wrong thing, always thinking of fire as an enemy, forgetting that fire is a friend to countless species. Wildlife habitat will be scalped so people can continue to live in areas where fire is a way of nature. Let’s just clearcut the whole state, shall we? To make room for human occupation of … well, anywhere and everywhere. I just shake my head in sadness for the ignorance of natural world and why humans can’t seem to know how to live in it without destroying that from which we also evolved.

    1. Hi Jean,
      Thank you for your feedback & I can see your points. Yes, powerful storms, floods, fires, lightening, hurricanes are part of Nature & strong forces that have to be reckon with. Yes, humans have created an imbalance. And yes, indigenous people have set domestic fires, which according to my understanding were controlled fires. I have no information how indigenous people viewed uncontrollable lightening fires that burned their land & people.
      I can see how I could have phrased my perception differently & I appreciate that you brought my awareness to that.
      With appreciation~ jane

      1. Thank you Jane. We are both passionate when it comes to the environment and wildlife habitat. I am glad that you may now have a different perspective of the natural role of fire in the evolution of all life in Santa Cruz County and landscapes throughout California and the west in general.

        Yes, the fires set by indigenous people who lived here for thousands of years before European colonization practiced controlled burning. You asked how they “viewed uncontrollable lightening caused fires.” Pretty simple answer. First they observed how natural fire operated to burn itself slowly, due to the fact that fire had never been suppressed. They saw that fire was a good force that produced a healthy landscape. Then they decided to use fire the way nature did; that is, to burn in places where they wanted to increase the production of vegetation that suited their needs (e.g., plants whose long stems they used in basket-making). Second, unlike human occupation today, when indigenous people live on the landscape, they moved about, as conditions required. In other words, they emulated wildlife … by moving (migrating) where it was good to be.

        Here is a good link to show how the descendants of those who lived with fire are helping forestry departments to understand the essence of controlled burning of a landscape that has known fire for millennia: https://www.npr.org/2020/08/24/899422710/to-manage-wildfire-california-looks-to-what-tribes-have-known-all-along?utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=environment

        And here is another good news story about the redwoods of Big Basin State Park https://apnews.com/efa48694b12c74a9700b03dbe3ffde30

        I hope you find them informative. Their message is that “the environment” is not “destroyed.”

  2. Hi Jane

    As usual, this is inspiring, interesting, and precious to hear your thoughts and observations. Thank you thank you. It literally means the world to me

    1. Hi Batya, your words are wings for my finger on the keyboard. Reading that you the posts matter to you, makes me gather river tidbits to share with you. Thanks for being my muse~ jane

  3. Thank you so much for this absolutely wonderful post! Your description of the effect of the fire was beautifully poetic- the “fiery orange veil”, the” wildfire raging with apocalyptic appetite”, a leaf with fragments of hieroglyphic imprints.” The accompanying photo for the last expression was so powerful. I also love that you are seeing so many butterflies and other insects, enriching the range of wildlife you report on. And, most of all, I was so delighted to read about the Pied-billed Grebe baby, and it’s having to learn limits from its necessarily strict parents. That’s a level of observation that I aspire to but rarely reach. And, of course, I was so happy that our lone grebe pair actually had a young one. I had no idea. Thank you for all of this! You are an amazing steward of the river.

    1. Hi Barbara, it’s so heartwarming to read your delight over the post. The sky over river & sun were such a new experience that I tried to portray that. The young Pied-billed Grebe is a really good fisher & I have some lousy pics to prove it. Yes, we have quite a few new insects, who are training me on figuring out who they are…My river passion gets nourished by my observations & it’s wonderful that they resonate with you. Warm river greetings to you~ jane

  4. I came to the Santa Clara Valley prior to the evacuations, and have been unable to return. As much as I love the Santa Clara Valley, I want to get back to Felton. Despite all the good news about what did not get destroyed, there is so much saddening news about all the homes that burned.

    1. Hi Tony, yes, you are right: it’s heartbreaking to know that some of my friends lost their homes. The other part is the destruction of the environment. Both will take time to recuperate. Hope you find some nature oasis over in Santa Clara & that you get to come home soon~ jane

      1. Oh, I so enjoy the Santa Clara Valley. I wish I could have been here a century ago. The ground is so flat. The soil is so excellent. The weather is (normally) so pleasant and ideal for gardening. I just can not afford a home here.

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