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MARTHA SEZ: A week of fire and snow

December 15, 2017
By MARTHA ALLEN , Lake Placid News

It is snowing. Snowing and snowing. I haven't gotten around to putting snow tires on my little Honda, so it skitters around on top of the slush like a water bug on a pond, and this means I can't get to Lake Placid to get my hair done. The snow does inspire the Christmas spirit, though. Or the Hanukkah spirit; as I write this, it is Hanukkah. The winter solstice is rapidly approaching.

I was talking on the phone with my grandchildren a few days ago, and Emma, my granddaughter, kept saying, "It's dark. It's dark."

In Southern California, where Emma lives, people are not accustomed to the dimming effects of cloud cover the way we are in Upstate new York. During daylight hours, the sky is generally bright in Ventura. She wasn't referring to the early dusk of the season, either. I am pretty sure what was obscuring the sunlight at Emma's house was smoke from the Thomas fire in Ventura County, a huge wildfire that is still not contained.

As of this morning, the Thomas fire is only 20 percent contained, according to California's official government report. During the last seven days, it has burned more than 234,200 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara Counties; about 1,000 structures have been destroyed, and 187 structures have been damaged. There are five other wildfires burning now in Southern California.

My daughter, Molly, and her husband, Jim, put the children to bed and were preparing for bed themselves when Molly saw a rim of fire on the foothills. The fire spread quickly, devouring houses on the hillside about two miles from their home. They packed up the kids, Jack and Emma, and their cat, Ritz, and drove to a hotel in Los Angeles. When their neighborhood was safe again they returned, but air quality remains bad. No surprise. Satellite photographs show great drifts of smoke over California and the Pacific, visible from space.

Remember the fire on Noonmark Mountain in Keene Valley in September, 1999? I was working at the Ausable Club then, and I remember club members watching the fire from the dining area on the porch.

Adrian Edmonds used to tell about a forest fire that destroyed Round Mountain and a large portion of Giant in 1913. The fire was so fierce, he said, that ashes, soot and "burning brands" from the fire were carried on the wind into the streets of Keene Valley. People were afraid that the village houses would catch fire, but they did not.

Meanwhile, people all over are preparing for the holidays, buying and wrapping gifts, attending parties and planning trips. My friend Frances told me that she is going to visit family-including a grandchild! in Australia for Christmas, and she is going crazy, what with cleaning and making repairs around her house in the Adirondacks.

Why? I asked. Why do you have make your house perfect when you're going away?

Frances said she didn't know why, she just did. And when I thought about it, I realized that I am the same way. Before I go to California or Michigan I feel as if all of the cleaning and decorating that I've been contemplating all year simply must be done before I travel. Of course, I never do get it all done, and making the attempt just makes me later getting to the airport. Next time I'll be more organized. Say! There's a great New Year's resolution.

I was speaking with my friend Debbie this week about her cats-both orange-and it seems we have a similar situation.

Both of us have cats who go in and out of the house, murdering helpless animals as they go. They just do this as a matter of course; I don't believe there is anything particularly malicious in it. Debbie's husband stocks the bird feeder with seeds, and the cats sit watching as if they were binge watching "Breaking Bad" or something. Debbie's teen-age sons call it the cat feeder. Her husband remonstrates with the cats on the subject, Debbie says, but to no avail. They just don't seem to care.

Feathers in the bathtub. Dead mice on the welcome mat. And what is that one internal organ that they don't eat-they will eat everything else-that is so unpleasant to discover accidentally by stepping on it barefoot? I don't know the answer.

They are not much help with the Christmas tree ornaments either.

Have a good week.



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