Fire is natural. Wildfires occur naturally in almost all terrestrial ecosystems and plant communities, even if the fire is extremely rare in some areas.
In California and the arid western states, fire is extremely common. The issues we face now with catastrophic fires are complex. To understand the causes, we need to first understand the basics of fire ecology. Let’s just talk about California.
California has what is called a “Mediterranean climate” – long, hot dry summers and short moist, cool winters. For most of the history of California as we know it, the forests, scrub, chaparral and grassland communities that make up most of the state would have burned within their own fire “regime.”
What is a “fire regime?” In general, it has two variables: fire frequency and fire intensity. Fire frequency is how often it is normal for a given ecosystem to burn – every 50 years, every 150 years, every 500 years, or whatever. Fire intensity has to do with the temperature of the fire, and will be related to the amount of fuel present, as well as other factors such as wind speed and direction, moisture levels (related to recent drought or rain), etc. Related to fire intensity is how quickly a fire moves through an area. The less fuel, lower the temperatures and the faster it might move. However, remember that higher fuel loads, especially if they are really dry, could also cause the fire to move very fast and burn very hot.
It is also important to know that that plants (and animals) in these communities have evolved adaptations to fire over time. For instance, many conifers in frequent-fire communities have “closed cones” which require hot temperatures to burst them open and spread their seeds into the post-fire cleared forest. Other plants have fruit or seeds that fall off each year but simply lay dormant in the ground until fire passes over, and either heat or other soil chemistry changes that only come after fire trigger the seeds to sprout. So, you see, even though we think of fire as destructive, it is also regenerative. It is a natural part of the cycle of fire-adapted area
Next thing to know: most of the plant communities/ecosytems in California, from the swaths of forests in the coastal and inland mountain ranges to the extensive arrays of scrub, chaparral and grassland communities across those same mountains are all adapted to fairly frequent fire frequency, on the order of 75-150 year cycles. Given this, fire historically would have moved through these areas quickly because there is a not of accumulated dead material and the last fire came through not too long ago. Mostly you would have mature dying plants but not a lot of dead/downed plant material.
Does this make sense? So, think about it. That would also lead to low fire intensity. Because the fire would move quickly and not have a lot of accumulated fuel, the temperatures would be lower. Right? You with me?
Then think of what happened over the past century or two. The first thing is, a whole lot more people of European descent came west and started “settling” the west and California. Those people started to suppress fires because they didn’t understand that the fire was needed. So for a long time fires in these forests and scrub communities were put out before they could complete their natural cycle. Wildfire was not seen as natural and even in remote areas with little to no human population, forest managers put fires out. (Probably also from the point of view of trees as crops and needing to protect economic interests.)
As a result, fuel started to accumulate from plant material that died in place. Then when fires came again (because remember they are natural and they will come again), there was more material to burn.
So, what happened? The fires burned hotter and they were more intense. That led to a real disruption for the adaptations of the plants involved (for instance, fires might burn so hot that they killed seeds in closed cones and in the dormant soil seed banks instead of stimulating them to grow). And of course, hotter, more intense fires were harder to control or put out. They got way out of control pretty easily and burned fast and hot. Which freaked everyone out and made them suppress the fires even more.
Imagine this happening for a century or so. Finally the understanding of fire regime and fire as natural came into play for ecologists starting and made its way into management understanding and methodology starting in maybe the 1980’s and 90’s.
But by then, it was too late because so much fire had been suppressed that there was an INTENSE accumulation of “unnatural” fuel everywhere in California and across the western U.S.
Add to this, the fact that human population has exploded and there’s been a massive influx of people to California, and thus human communities have expanded more and more into fire-prone ecosystems and plant communities across the state. Because, remember, the entire freaking state is fire-prone and is adapted to frequent fire intervals.
And, bam, we have had a mess to deal with for a long time.
Now, yes, one management tool is to do “controlled” (a.k.a., “management”) burns in an attempt to burn up accumulated fuels. It’s a great idea in theory. But, seriously. Can you imagine how difficult that is to do well, to control, and to implement across large areas? Just pull up Google maps, turn on satellite and peruse the state of California. Look at the massive amount of area we are talking about, most of it incredibly remote with steep, inaccessible terrain.
Also, it is super hard to do controlled burns near any kind of human development. Do you think that the residents are very keen on it when black smoke billows out of a hillside on the edge of their subdivision, and fire trucks are parked on the road there? What kind of conditions do you think are needed for it to be safe to conduct such a fire? How many things can go horribly wrong? What is the narrow margin of it possibly going right?
And now, finally, let’s add in a few climatic factors.
Number 1. California is fire adapted to frequent fires because it is a VERY DRY PLACE and has been for a long time. Remember, Mediterranean climate. Remember, “long, hot, dry summers.” Got it? Good.
Number 2. In addition to a long summer, California is also prone to prolonged droughts. I don’t remember the details, but things like lake bed sediment analysis and tree ring analysis of super old trees in the Sierra Nevada have shown evidence of really long droughts many times over the past few thousand years (I should really Google this right now for more facts here, but I’m not going to. You can if you want and let me know what you find out).
Number 3. Global climate change. I’m not really ready to dive into the modeling or projections or studies or any of that, and I’ve been out of the field for too long to be up to date on any of the details. But I know there’s a ton of data out there. Clearly the catastrophic fires are related to the increased severe weather of all kinds. The specifics of how it’s playing out in CA and what kind of evidence we have for it is beyond the scope of what I feel up to here.
It is time for women to rise up and lead. To show the way to a loving world order. Can we do it? I don’t know. But we have to try. However that has meaning for you go for it.
There is so much to be said for cycles. For knowing that there are cycles. For knowing that the pain always subsides, eventually.
So, today, none of the darkness has manacled me. Skies are blue with cooling autumn weather ahead. Potential is here. Love is present.
I’ve been reflecting lately on how powerful it can be to let go and surrender and love the life we’ve got.
It’s easy to get lost in ideas of how I (we) should be. What life should look like. And berate ourselves for not meeting the ideal we have created.
Why? Why do that?
Why not, instead, see who we actually are and what our life actually is.
Walk with awareness. Explore life and ourselves. Realize our assumptions and beliefs.
Freedom lies this way.
Waking up today I didn’t feel like I weighed a thousand pounds. Instead, I felt energy slowly returning to my body and heart. The love and the light are finding their way into me. Rejuvenating me.
Being willing to walk through the darkness and grief and anger and sadness,
into it fully,
to wait there as long as needed,
this has allowed love to find her many-tendriled way through the shields I had erected.
Slowly, slowly, healing is happening.
Thought you might like to know, since you’ve been witnessing my journey.
Witnessing is crucial. Doesn’t matter if you say anything or not. Just being there, willing to see me, holding space for my journey, is beyond measure.
Grateful for your presence. Yes, you.
Today is another day. Sometimes when I wake up, I am grateful to be alive. Excited for what will come in the hours ahead. Other times (like this morning), I lie in the gray light and wonder why I feel like I weigh 1,000 pounds.
I’ve made a commitment (to myself) to write honestly about my struggles. As they happen, or near to them. To try to untangle my mind and emotions through writing and while doing so to create some interesting content that might help or touch a reader.
I’m not sure I’m achieving any of these goals. Yet, I’m going to keep doing it. Because I know in my gut that it is required of me.
Somehow, this is serving. Me. You. Someone. Well, definitely me.
Last couple of weeks, one of the painful themes I’ve been diving into (reluctantly, painfully, yet necessarily) is how I am in relationships. Not “Relationships” because I don’t have those, but all my relationships. Friendships, mostly, but also sometimes work/professional relationships. At this point in my life after close to 55 years, I’ve got enough experiences piled up to see patterns and learn from them. If I choose to.
Honestly, though, it feels like I have no choice. I must do this. If I don’t accept this assignment, I will die more and more on the inside because I will continue to not understand why things happen as they do. I have to understand, and probably change because of that understanding. And also, regardless of whether I change or not, I have to accept the results of this internal learning process no matter what they are.
Here are some of my observations of these relationship patterns I’m seeing:
Observation 1: I change in every relationship and context and I try hard to “grok” what/how the other person wants me to be and then be that.
Observation 2: I compare myself to other people and get jealous of them.
Observation 3: I judge other people but never figure out how to process that judgement so it grows and grows inside of me.
Observation 4: I re-live times that I was bullied, abandoned or betrayed and I project those experiences and the feelings I had during them onto the people I am with and situations I am in now.
None of these behaviors is ever sustainable. I tend to get so exhausted, resentful and overwhelmed that I leave. Either for good, or for the day. I CHECK OUT. If I don’t leave, then eventually I usually lash out angrily.
Although it’s starting to be easier for me to spot these patterns, they are so part of who I have become, that it is very hard to see any of this as it happens. And of course, other people have no idea what is happening inside of me, so, they come up with all kinds of reasons, most or all of which are not true, about what the behaviors they see mean.
I suspect that the most common things people think I am are: spoiled (my family especially might think this, leftover from when I was the baby of my family), selfish, angry. That I do not care about them. And often it gets so intense for other people that they get angry at me and sometimes they stop interacting with me completely.
So, I feel like I’ve alienated a lot of people in my life, and burned more bridges than I can count.
Was that what I wanted? Not on your life. Absolutely not. Not at all. No way.
Its all been the cries of a desperate girl, who just wants to be loved and have friends. Who just craves so hard to be important to someone. And in that desperation, I’ve betrayed myself over and over again.
This is no longer an option. I cannot do this anymore. I want to be free of all of it.
Easy to say. How do I do that? I can’t go back and change what happened. It turns out that I can’t just decide to be different and make it so. Because I’ve tried, and no such luck. Just failure and self-loathing ensue.
I can, however, put the light of awareness on these patterns. Pray for change. Allow what is. Release the judgment. Let light in through the cracks in my heart. And through this all, realize more and more that I already am loved and important. Just by being. This is my soul’s journey. Precious, unique and beautiful. Love is here. It doesn’t have to come FROM someone else.
This is my prayer today. Let light in to my broken heart. Know the truth that I am loved.
For some reason I don’t exactly understand, and in no particular order, I feel compelled to write and share these facts about myself.
Yesterday, August 23, 2018, right around 6 PM EST, one of the most wonderful dogs ever born left this world. Jake came to me in summer 2003, just over 15 years ago, after my dad died of cancer and my dog, Buddy, was hit by a car and killed that same night. The grief of that time for me was close to unbearable and when Jake came, he brought the healing and love that I needed to just get by.
Jake was a sweet and playful young dog transitioning out of puppyhood when he arrived in my life. I didn’t realize at the time, but I see now that he had a big responsibility to help me and he stepped up to it with zest and sweetness. He was cute and funny and loving from the very first day. He had energy beyond belief and his constant need for exercise got me out of the house to a local dog park and into social situations that I needed but wanted to hide from.
Over the following years, my life was not exactly stable. We moved around the Bay Area multiple times and my attention was not always on making sure Jake had the environment that he needed. I believe that the natural energy of a dog is to care for its person emotionally and that can take a large toll on them in some cases.
In 2010, I became aware of this and also that even more change was in my future. I did not know what was about to happen, but I knew that I needed to move, leave California, explore inner and outer new boundaries and places and spaces. So, I let the Universe know that I was willing to give Jake a new home and just like that, a wonderful family appeared. From the start, every one of the four members of this family loved Jake just as much as I did. They got him 8 years ago, so he’s been their dog even longer than he was mine.
So, he was around 16 when they let me know last week that he was failing fast. He’d lost most of his hearing and his vision was going. He was in pain a lot of the time from causes unknown. We had a video chat on Saturday so I could talk to the family and see Jake. The picture on this post is a screenshot from that video chat. He’s already dissolving into the light.
I am sad, but the grief is not really different from what I’ve had all these years since I let him go, and also, death is a natural part of life. I’ve never doubted for a second that “re-homing” him was the right move for both of us. All the times I visited Jake over the years, took him to the beach and for walks and hikes, played with and loved on him, he has always been ecstatic as only a dog can be to greet me. And even more happy, it seemed, to go home again after our adventures.
I am grateful beyond measure to the family who has loved him all these years: Zeric, Sage, Sherri and Keith, thank you. From the bottom of my heart.
Dearest Jakey, thank you for everything. I will miss you and love you forever. May your journey onward be peaceful. Whatever mystery you are going to dissolve into, may it bring you even more adventures, love, fun and ecstasy than you had in this plane.
As the days and hours continue to pass, things shift and change, as they always do. That’s the greatest gift and the important thing to remember. Nothing stays stagnant. You can’t step into the same river twice.
That’s about all there is to it. If you can remember and stay rooted in that truth alone, then you can weather any storm, emotional, material or otherwise.
The pain and struggle of the last week and the last post have subsided. The difficult decisions about how to manage my current financial crisis have been made. Family and friends have stepped up to support, listen and provide critical advice. I’ve figured out a plan to move forward that will keep head above water and keep foreclosure at bay for at least 3-4 months.
In that time, anything can happen. And I’m not in control of any of that, so I can relax, do the next thing, trust the process and enjoy the adventure.
Someone reminded me the other night about curiosity. To stay curious about what is happening, what is being offered, what the Mystery is communicating. Always. Through any crisis, real or perceived.
And I realized, curiosity is one of the keys. If I am curious, I can’t be hiding. If I am curious, I am receptive. Curiosity brings me out of the shadows and into the light of love.
Curiosity allows me to have a continuous conversation with the Mystery about what is happening. About how it is serving my evolution and all of humanity’s evolution.
And that, my friend, is ultimately why am I writing this blog. To stay curious and to share curiosity, as well as insights, adventure, pain and joy.
I’m writing this blog to provide a reflection for you as well as an outlet for me. I’m willing to let you see the struggles and the winding path and the circuitous route through what most of us feel we have to hide.
I’m doing this because I want you to feel less alone. And less like you have to hide. I’m calling to everyone (yes, everyone) to liberate yourself.
Freedom from what you think you have to do, say, think, make amends for, cleanse, remove, change, purify, fix or make right.
Come to the temple dirty and unkempt, in crisis or with clarity, alone or enjoined. Enter at will. Allow the cool welcoming beautiful interior of your heart be your home. Become more and more willing to let what you think is shadow or darkness come out, be seen and drink from the light.
There is no enemy. Not really. Everything is happening for you.
Ask yourself: “What is Being Offered?”
If you’d like to comment below or privately message me your response to that question, I’d be honored to receive it for you.
If you just want space to be held for your process around this, okey dokey. Holding space is what I do naturally.
And, if you want some insight or response, I’m happy to offer that also. Just let me know.
Eternal gratitude to Vanessa Stone, whose words and teachings I am freely plagiarizing here. I know it’s ok, because it’s all just the truth and there is nothing that can really be copyrighted when it comes to truth.
P.S. Sorry about the ads that appear in the youtube video – I haven’t learned how/if I can remove them.
Been going through hard times the past few days. Within that journey there’s always nuggets of wisdom peeking out from the darkness. Navigating the confusion that arises in my mind is the only way to find the clarity that I seek. Bumping around the dark is required.
I’ve been rather silent here on my blog. The intent has always been to write the insights and the muddiness, to share the vision, to offer what I can to anyone who happens along.
One of my dearest friends, asked me last night if I’ve been writing about everything I’ve been going through. The answer was: “Sort of, no not really. In my journal somewhat each morning.” He has always encouraged me to write my experiences for everyone. To put my journey out on offer. It may be that my willingness to tread deeply into my own interiors, meet the God of my understanding in any locale, truly grow and stretch and change are of value to many.
It thus occurred to me that all I have to do to keep the blog going is to write my morning journal here, tidy it up as needed, and hit the PUBLISH button. Okay. Agreed. I’ll do it.
So, here we are.
It’s hard to know where to start with what’s going on, today. It’s hard to know what exactly to write in a digestible small packet for you. YOU. My reader.
My father was a writer. It’s been in my blood for as long as I have been alive.
I am a spiritual warrior. Nothing fancy, nothing on the outside to call your attention to it. Just another middle aged woman, kind of an old hippie, going about life trying to get by. But inside…
Inside, it’s all about my soul’s journey.
Who you are and what you have experienced will determine how you interpret that statement. So, stay open, my friend.
It is doubly or triply hard to write honestly here and tell my story because so many facets of it feel intensely private and not something I want most people to know. I feel like I have an image that I need to protect in certain parts of my life. For instance, my new real estate business and any of my business personas from jobs past. People I know or have known “professionally” might find this blog. What if they read it? What if they find out my failures and challenges? These things feel like weaknesses and things that I should be protecting, keeping hidden.
After all, isn’t that what we all do? Isn’t that how life proceeds? Choose your image and grow it hard and hide all the other shit in some closet in a back room.
Well, yes. That IS how we usually proceed.
But for whatever reason, if I am completely honest with myself about what my mission is, really, here on Planet Earth, it’s to counteract all that bullshit. It’s to shine a real light on the human journey and do what I can to show a way to complete authenticity. Someone’s got to do it first. If I keep waiting for someone else to make it safe for me to show up as me in all my messy confusion and all my glorious clarity and everything in between…
I’ll probably be dead before I ever share anything of value with you.
And, guess what? That is not acceptable.
So, here goes.
I am in Chapter 13 bankruptcy to try to protect my house and deal with an accumulation of credit card and medical bills. I’ve been in Chapter 13 for 20 months. I’m behind in payments. I got fired, yes, fired, from a job I loved at the end of February. I can’t and won’t talk too much about that because, frankly, I’m legally prohibited from doing so due to a legal settlement. I’m not even sure I’m allowed to say that, but fuck it. It was unexpected, cruelly done by my former employer, awful and painful for me, and it put me through a ringer that I’ve never been through before. In fact, I’m still coming out the other side of it. It set me up for another round of financial ruin as well as an emotional dive so deep I actually called the National Suicide Hotline one night. As you can see, a nice woman on the other end of the phone talked me off the ledge.
However, because in general this is how I roll, I picked myself up off the floor, got to work figuring out what to do, talked a lot with God (and listened even more), started a bunch of new business ventures of my own, commenced legal action against my former employer, got my real estate license and hobbled along.
As of today, none of these are really bringing in much money and all the savings and small legal settlement are gone in trying to get everything started and pay bills and eat. At any point, I could get a real estate client and close a deal and things would even out for at least a while. But, nothing as of yet and it takes at least 6 weeks usually for any deal to close and to get a check. I have one source of income and that is my Airbnb. It brings in between $800-1200 a month.
Oh yeah, before I go further, let me clarify: I am alone. Completely alone in this journey on a daily basis. I have cheerleaders and supporters in friends and family who love me. That is an immense blessing. But, in the little moments of time, I do not have someone I talk to about what is going on, no one to run my ideas by each evening, no one to help me get the car to be serviced, clean the house, make dinner, do the dishes, keep up the yard, or any other damn thing. It’s just me and what I can pay for. (I’m just telling you the facts, ma’am.)
So, now, here I am. Months behind in the bankruptcy payments, looking at a foreclosure action if the BK is dismissed, with about $6k in a IRA and not even $500 in the bank. Trying to come up with possible solutions, to figure out how to play that little bit of money into keeping the house and getting by until things turn around financially.
A couple days ago, it all became more than I could bear and the tears came. They linger just behind my eyelids, a tightness in my throat. There has been complete meltdown and inability to see clearly what to do or how to proceed. Fear and sadness have gripped me.
Yesterday afternoon, in the middle of a meeting with the owner of the real estate company I’m affiliated with now, I got an email from the grown daughter of the family in Santa Cruz, California who adopted my beloved dog, Jake, in 2010. At that time, I needed him to go to a safe and grounded environment as God called me onto the proverbial open sea in a boat without oars or sails (more on that story eventually, probably). I have missed him so deeply and silently for 8 years. And now, she told me what I already knew in my heart, he is dying.
I have no money to go see him. My heart aches beyond words. So much grief connected to the stories of my life. So much grief to walk as a human no matter what our story. And the grief is balanced by joy. All of it wrapped up in messiness and mistakes and victories and lessons learned.
I sit today in the mountains, on the front porch of my cabin home, listening the crows and cicadas waking up, sipping coffee, writing this blog, completely steeped in the unknowing.
Last night, talking to my friend, I realized (again) that there isn’t really any solution. That no matter the fact that I had a different plan, this is being offered to me now. This whole damn clusterfuck of life. This is it, baby. It’s not gonna look all pretty and tied up in a bow. This is the truth of life as a human. I have no idea what the hell is going on. I can’t control any damn thing.
This is Life. Let it roll.
Jeez. It’s so anticlimactic to work so hard for so long and launch TheUmaverse.com and then none of the social media links work correctly and even the facebook posts about it just slip away.
Starting a website is a long-term project, even more so if it’s an online shop. It has to be a slow burn with gradual growth, and I knew that, but I’m still experiencing the post-launch period right now as a rude and sudden skid to a stop. It’s a strange feeling.
That said, I feel SO PROUD that I did it and that it’s live and while this is just the start and there’s much yet that I can do to grow and improve it, it has good bones. If I do say so myself. I’m so damn tired of the photos I’ve got for sale that I’m already wanting to dive in and find and edit some new ones.
I have sold twice so far in downtown Asheville for 5 hour shifts at the permanent Grove Arcade Outdoor Artists’ Market. Super fun and great feedback. And I sold a bunch of photos. People actually want my stuff. That helped me really kick into gear to get the website up and running. I just put in orders for more photo prints, mats, frames and packaging supplies (retail and mail) today. I’ll sell again Thursday and hopefully over the weekend.
It’s not a lot of money but it’s a thrill and it’s a start and it’s a dream I’ve had for 8 years. More, really. Forever I thought my photography, or anything I made or had to say, wasn’t “good enough.” But, thanks to so much feedback from friends and acquaintances over the years (yes, that’s YOU who are reading this) I finally believe.
And the Tarot Readings…they are the greatest gift of all. I love to do them so much. It’s like I get plugged in to some kind of cosmic connectivity when I read for other people. I so love to serve in this way, and to be served also.
Also, this is only a side gig. I’m working a lot on Walls of the Wild with my brother, Jeff Bode and sister-in-law Dede Lifgren, helping with marketing. Wow. Who knew that SEO could be fun. Who even knew what the hell SEO is.
But, the real gem here is the real estate career. Got my license end of May and just started last week with a local Weichert franchise. Soon, this will probably be my primary focus and I’m so excited about it. The Asheville real estate market is absolutely booming right now.
So, here’s the point of this rambling post about websites and work: For the first time in my life, I am doing 100% only the things I want and love to do to make a living. This has been a REALLY LONG TIME coming. And if you read to this point and you are longing for that also, I just want to say, don’t give up on the dream. And do all the work to understand what it is that you truly want, on the inside. Because the outside will only be a reflection of the inside.
My plan is to blog more about this very thing. Pray for me that I actually write those posts. I got shit to say. I want to say it. Thanks for listening to this rant.
For your rooms and walls: Photographic Art
For your inner spaces and growth: Tarot Readings
After years of daydreaming and night dreaming, talking and musing, dipping in and retreating, it’s official. Today I hang out the “open for business” sign. Come on in and look around at my new store, The Umaverse.
Notwithstanding that I am not a lover of long-term plans (because I tend to not stick to them), the basic idea is that UmaBode.com (where you are now) will come back to life as a blog of all things Uma, while the new site, TheUmaverse.com, is for commerce of all things Uma. That’s right, you can now buy Uma goods and services!
As for this blog – I really need to get back on that horse. I have so much to say and it’s not really fair to my lunch dates that they have to listen to me go on and on about every damn topic I care about. That’s what you-all are supposed to be for!
So, have a look at the new site and get yourself something for your walls and something for your soul. Either or both—I’m happy to help.
I can’t take down the Christmas tree. I’m not sure what that’s all about, but I just can’t bring myself to take it down. I love seeing it when I come home and I love how it lights up the room in the morning before dawn and at night while I’m puttering about the house. And so far, even though I haven’t watered it in days, the needles aren’t falling off everywhere. It’s like a superpower tree.
So, what the hell. I’ll just leave it up. As a reminder of the goodwill toward all that is my prayer. May we move past fear, through the perceptions of division, to truly see and accept all views. May our evolution continue and may real Love prevail. I have no idea exactly how the tree represents that, but it does. I guess because Christmas is about Jesus Christ and he taught love and acceptance and compassion. Still the one truly radical idea of all times. And the one that is closest to our true nature, so hidden.
This world is freaking me out, so I’ve decided to make art and beauty and to share it where and as it is invited and accepted. Here on my website, it is freely offered. No promotion or marketing, no requests for payment. All I have to give you is my naked heart and an ever-deepening connection to Source, to the God of My Understanding. Oh, and a lot of confusion and words and pictures that somehow express that and maybe also manage to make some kind of sense of it.
I think a lot about what is happening in the world. I may write about it here. I am not sure that I will really keep writing regularly and posting. Today, I feel like I will. I just need a place to put it all out there.
So. There we go. More soon. Go forth and relax. 😉