Happy Two-Days’ Belated Downfall of Sauron Day! (And Cali Update)

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Happy Downfall of Sauron Day, belated! I did actually keep the day, but didn’t have time (forgot) to do a post about it. (In general, I’ve been backing way off posting during COVID. I like DW best of all my internet presence, but the way the internet is structured today, it feels more like a black hole of time suck than real communication. Good article on it in The Atlantic. Reaffirmed my sense that, yes, the LJ days were the last hurrah of healthy internet community and the age of Tumblr, “like” buttons, “share” buttons, and social media destroyed it. Anyway…)

March 25 was my last day of spring break in California. I missed last March due to COVID, so it had been two years since I’d seen it in spring–longest gap in my life. My main hobbit-inspired adventure was a great trek of trespassing across the neighbors property to check the fire damage and recovery. It was the first time since I was ten that I walked down the neighbors’ private road, quite prepared to be stopped for trespassing, but nobody stopped me. I think all three houses on the road are still under reconstruction, so people aren’t really much around. Still, I’m not a bold trespasser, so it was very Tookish for me. It was my adventure, and that’s about as much as I can tie it into Middle-earth.

Going back there is, frankly, traumatizing (in a mild way, and, yes, there is such a thing as mild trauma activation). I think I have impressionistically told people in the past we may have lost 40% of our trees. On the south-facing hillsides, it’s more like 90%. Almost the whole south-facing hill looking down into the Napa Valley (our property and the neighbors’) is completely denuded. It is a tree graveyard with black sticks standing up in the grass like headstones.

The manzanitas are coming back on one neighbor’s land, which is nice to see. Everywhere else, they are still all gone. No new seedlings. Next to no oak seedlings. Every madrone I took note of has died (though madrone seedlings are springing up very fast). Drus is mostly dead now. Of its broccoli-looking live oak remains, half is reduced to bleached bones. Maxima is not quite as dead yet but plainly dying. There is not an inch of his trunk that is not rotting, the bark just peeling away.

Since the fire, of the trees immediately around our house, we have lost Senex, Frater, Phagos, the swing tree, the tree by the library, the tree by the circle bench, two trees by the carport, one of the hammock trees, and all but one of about ten planted Christmas trees. And we will soon lose Drus and Maxima. Of the living trees on the property in general, about a fourth are so damaged it’s very hard to tell if they’ll ultimately make it. The rest that are alive look fairly well recovered.

The squirrels are all gone. (We used to have three or four squirrels running around in Maxima at one time.) The deer seems to be flourishing. I saw the lovely sight of four or five racing breakneck across a hill opposite me. I saw one butterfly, other than the small white cabbage butterflies. A number of flower species were blooming but not profusely. The grass is pretty but rather sparse; you can tell it’s been a dry year. The flowers that used to boom around May are now blooming at the end of March (ex. the blue-eyed grass, the Brodiaea). There were some buttercups and wild iris in the usual places. The hounds tongues were doing rather well, just going to seed.

I had thought I was noticing so many acorn woodpeckers in Glen Ellen because I’m not used to seeing many in Oregon, but I’ve come to realize they’re flourishing because of all the dead wood. They have many acorns stuffed in Maxima, for example.

And that was my adventure.

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Arwen Spicer
Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

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Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer

Arwen Spicer is a science fiction writer and writing teacher raised in the San Fransciso Bay Area, and Northern California will hold her heart forever, even if it turns into a desert. She wrote her doctoral dissertation on ecology in utopian science fiction and is an educator on the concept of workable utopias. Her novel The Hour before Morning was hailed as “A carefully paced, rewarding sci-fi debut” by Kirkus Indie.

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