Ciao'd after eating rice pudding - no raisins! 


When my husband and I were startled out of our sleep by the ruddy smell of fire, we thought our home was on fire. No. And then we thought a house in the neighborhood was afire. No again. Instead, there were thousands of homes and vineyards burning 40 miles north of us in Napa, Sonoma and Santa Rosa.

We didn’t realize the terror until the next morning, which I shouldn’t term “morning” at all. The sky had disappeared. The light was little more than a smudge. The sun rested against a pillow of grey. Powdery ash punctuated the air. Shards of black, the afterlife of trees and, bless them, people’s homes, wallowed at the bottom of our pool and on the wide white arms of our Adirondack chairs. I gazed through my kitchen window at a surreal, sorrowful and dreamlike landscape. Any color I could discern lurked only in the sepia tinge of the air. The green leaves had dissolved into the brown branches. Sparrows and squirrels went about their business in grey camouflage. Even the red hummingbird feeders had assumed a plum hue.

Smoky air is different than fog, a familiar visitor to those of us who live near
San Francisco. Smoky air doesn’t come on little cat feet like fog (thank you, Carl Sandburg). It infiltrates and then it hangs. Smoke doesn’t wear fog’s mantle of misty and cool. It’s heavy and smothering. And unlike fog, which can highlight the colors it surrounds, smoky air mutes everything into a single muddy gradient.  

 Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi began spinning in my head and would not let go.

“Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got
‘Till it’s gone
They paved paradise
And put up a parking lot”

When the air cleared, my mind did, too. My eyes opened wider. The sky flaunts all manner of blue depending upon where your gaze alights. Cerulean, cornflower, steel, Duke, Yale and UCLA blue. Far from one note, the sparrows flock in a fluttering mix of grey, white, black, and brown. The squirrel flourishes red highlights in its fur. The Adirondack chairs are whiter than white. They glow with their whiteness. There is so much green. The lime green of the lime trees. The yellow-green in the bamboo. The Japanese maples strutting autumnal dappled greens.  The grass outside the kitchen is bright, the sage in the garden is silver-green. I could go on and on with this green thing.

I know, I know. It’s not lost on me that the “green thing” signifies life, renewal and nature. It's a promise and I believe that promise will be kept. Soon green will return to the fire-ravaged areas to the north. It will manifest itself in new beginnings of the structural and soulful kind.  

During times like this, manifested in wildfires, hurricanes, and the playpen aka the White House, sorrow and helplessness can permeate our days like smoky air. We all have different means of dealing with the unfathomable. My friend, Tori Ritchie, wrote a heartfelt and heart wrenching post on her blog, Tuesday Recipe, today. And then she shared a recipe “that might make you feel better.” It’s a recipe for Farro, Squash & Kale with Currants. I could not have shared a more spot on recipe myself so I’m spinning the spotlight to Tori. And I’m making that Farro goodness tonight. #grateful #lifeisshort #letseattogether

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