Stories From California

Fires and Butterflies - Culver City, CA

For the first time in more than a week I am sitting in the backyard. For the first time in more than a week I tell myself I have nothing to do. For the first time in more than a week I decide I have nowhere to go. 

I did not turn on the radio. I did not check my phone. I did not read the news. 

I did morning yoga stretches again. I lit a candle again. I burnt sage again. I meditated again. I made breakfast with oatmeal, apple slices, cinnamon, toasted almond slivers and sunflower seeds. 

I am watching hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. The sun is warm on my bare feet. I rest my back against the chair. I look at oranges on our tree. I look at purple flowers on bushes in the back and red ones in hedges next to me. I look at rosemary in the shade and pink bougainvillea blossoms covering the fence. 

I am finally calm again, finally at ease again, finally me again.

A squirrel darts down the orange tree, hops towards me like a rabbit, stands on its hind feet and stares right into my eyes.

The grass between us is spotty green with lots of dry brown patches. The squirrel must have come from one of the million cables hanging between power poles, the neighbor's avocado tree and our house. It looks hungry. It looks like a vicious little mammal. Do squirrels have sharp teeth? Do they attack humans?

I am very fortunate to contemplate these things at 10 AM still dressed in red plaid pajamas, my hair pulled up in a careless blond bun, enjoying the backyard sun. Ashes on my car and smoke bothering my lungs are my biggest concerns. A little square paper I tore from the tea bag tells me to live my life with love and compassion. 

People are fleeing fires. People have lost their homes. People are missing friends and family. People are mourning kids and siblings who have just days ago been dancing to country music at the Borderline Bar and Grill. 

I have been reporting about all this for one week. What a week the German public radio correspondents picked for leaving town, and me in charge. Of course they did not know it, when they did.

I still have it in me, that correspondent thing, I learned. Non stop updates - check. Answering the phone any time, day and night - check. Non stop devastating news - check. Non stop horrifying pictures - check. Non stop heart breaking sound bites - check. 

I still have all of that in me. Literally all of it stuffed inside of me, one on top of the other. There was no time to digest or process. The whole week was about producing stories. Thinking about getting the numbers of injured and dead right. Thinking about getting the temperature and the speed of wind gusts right. Thinking about getting the acreage of destroyed land and threatened homes right. Thinking about getting the slots for live-talks right. Thinking about setting the alarm clock right. Knowing I'm the lucky one in all of this.

I can finally stop thinking about all that. I can finally feel. And it finally all hurts. 

Yesterday I walked six miles through my neighborhood. I needed to slow down. I want to slow down even more. I want us all to slow down. I want us to put down the phones, put down the computers, put down the weapons. Just breathe and tend to ouselves and to our neighbors in kind ways. Not just today. 

The squirrel makes another jump towards me, then turns around and in one move that looks like it is flying disappears into the orange tree. These are crazy times.

I'm watching hummingbirds and bees and butterflies.

please send your comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.