Out of the Blurry Darkness by Janine Donoho

How cataracts affect vision

How cataracts affect vision

Like a lobster in a pot of cold water, over this last decade the water heated to boiling, yet I’ve been unaware. High desert sun initiated a progressive slide toward dwindling eyesight long before sunglasses offered more than a fashion statement. All that sunshine led to cataracts, which combined with extreme nearsightedness, ended in a debilitating cartoon fall last April. Small stuff compared to seeing the world in blurred and murky outlines, especially in dim light.

Retinal detachment with floaters

Retinal detachment with floaters

Then in January, I stepped onto a fraught road back to vision, shepherded by my fabulous ophthalmologist. Over five months bookended by cataract removal, she also repaired retinal tears—repeatedly—which pushed back my quest for sight. The unintended journey filled me with dread of what could become constant nightfall.

More than anything, I missed my lifelong habits of reading or writing. Gone, the effortless navigation through my rural surroundings. Without binocular vision, tiny rivulets of erosion appeared like canyons, the high points like mountaintops. Perspective flattened. I dreaded another tumble that could compound long-term issues from the first one. Can I just say I’m not a graceful dependent? Thus, a dark night of the soul indeed.

How we see perspective

How we see perspective

Finally in late May, I emerged as a sighted person with only minimal correction. When sprung from the gloom, we went mobile and off the grid, traveling to visit friends in Oregon and family in Nevada, then back again. Then we took off for more exotic climes, disembarking in Japan. More on these adventures in future posts.

Now I’m back in my mountain home, surrounded by brilliant hounds, who shadow me as I pluck a fall offering of tomatoes, cucumbers, and melons—thank you drip system. Then on to winter prep, while anticipating a blissful season in my writing cave. In other words, paradise.

Fall garden harvest

Fall garden harvest

I look forward to reaching out again to those who follow this post along with those readers anticipating new works. Thank you for your patience, my friends, and know you’re always welcome into my worlds.

Reflections of beauty in the garden

Reflections of beauty in the garden

Choices We Make before the Fire by Janine Donoho

Harbinger from Canada

Harbinger from Canada

As the western part of the United States enters into desiccated autumn, we’re told that the official fire season has begun. In fact, fire season now begins nearly as soon as our shrunken snowpack melts. Once the native and invasive species of plants dries, we’re vulnerable to lightning strikes. Yet lightning causes only 10-20% of our wildfires. The other 80-90%? Human caused.

Slide Mountain near Washoe Valley

Slide Mountain near Washoe Valley

In the high Sierra Nevada Mountain range, where I spent my formative years, snowpack has declined for decades—more precipitously as we blow past the latest tipping points. That means wildfires in winter and early spring—the new normal. This aspect of climate change affects the western side of our continent from Alaska to Bolivia, excluding only the more tropical regions. For Okanogan County in Washington State, our wildfires began in late May this year with smoke plumes as harbingers.

Wildland wildfire in Nevada

Wildland wildfire in Nevada

Over a decade ago when we first moved here, Intrepid Guy, who grew up in Spokane, Washington, and I committed to fire proofing our home and property. We wanted no soft-bodied firefighter to stand between an inferno and our house. Our house perches where sagebrush steppe meets Ponderosa pine communities, landscapes that normally thrive with periodic fires. However, lowering water tables, beetle infestations, and fire suppression have reduced these communities’ resistance to wildfire damage. Here are the choices we made:

  • Fire-resistant fiber-cement siding (Hardy Board);
  • Metal roofing;
  • Lava rock mulch out 10 feet plus from the foundation;
  • Rock based circular driveway;
  • Islands of native and drought-resistant plantings with rock mulch and drip system hydration;
  • Native grasses and brush cut back at least 40 feet;
  • Lower branches of our Ponderosas and Douglas fir removed;
  • Predominantly metal structures versus wooden within 50 feet of the house; and,
  • Buried 1,750 gallon tank, topped off and better than spitting on a fire.
Firewise living

Firewise living

When the first wildfire threatened our home on July 4th seven years ago, it started within a quarter mile—bordering the steep slope leading to our home. Not good. Fire devours landscape uphill in its quest for oxygen.

Exemplary Department of Natural Resources (DNR) crews along with local volunteer departments aided by water and fire-retardant air drops limited this human caused wildfire to nine acres of non-fireproofed landscape. Trees crowned, wildlife fled or died, and I baked muffins, although not well, while brewing iced tea for the crews. The DNR incident manager designated our home as a safe house for sheltering firefighters. When we were told to evacuate, we did. We pay hefty fire insurance fees, keep important papers in a safe deposit box, and again, don’t choose to have a person stand between us and fire.

Flames through the trees

Flames through the trees

With this season’s injuries and deaths of Forest Service firefighters, the loss of 7 million acres—and counting—in the western United States, we all need to assess our part in these disasters. Beyond addressing human caused climate change, what else can we do to minimize the destructive force of wildfire?

When the fire bear comes over the mountain

When the fire bear comes over the mountain

When wildfire eats toward us, we take what’s most important: the living critters we’re responsible for and each other. The house and landscape? That’s just stuff.

What matters

What matters most

Soundings, Water Elemental

LaunchFebruary 27th, 2015
The big day is here.

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