The heat had persisted for several days, shimmering at dawn, heating the sky white hot.
It is always bone dry in summer as we rarely have rain past June.
The grass dries, turning to gold.
Surrounded by meadows, pasture grass and trees,
the fire danger is extreme.
Fire is a fact of life~
We have put out many small grass fires that luckily were seen before they grew too large.
The smell of smoke or seeing it drift by the windows, is enough to make one’s heart race.
It is the summer scenario of living in the dry hills of Sonoma County.
One afternoon recently, I was out beneath the shade of the oak trees.
Occasionally there is the pop of gunfire.
A neighbor and hunter has begun to sight his weapons.
But close by is a staccato popping I cannot identify, like strings of firecrackers lit all at once.
The sound is coming from the eucalyptus grove a short walk away.
Leaving my patch of shade and iced lemon tea,
I walk through the fields toward the trees.
The forest sounds grow loud with the unusual sound. It seems strangely alive, as if something is happening within I cannot see in the dim light.
Suddenly eagles, woodpeckers and hawks take to the sky, shrieking to their chicks.
A eucalyptus tree over 100 feet tall falls out of the earth.
Tearing from it’s roots, it hits the ground in a few seconds.
I feel beneath my bare feet, the tree’s weight as it collides with the ground.
The dust flies up with the birds.
Then all is eerily silent.
My heart slows it’s beat.
The birds call to one another, settling into their nests again.
Strangely, the next day, another fell.
It went quietly, without the resistance of the previous giant.
Then another split in two, dropping huge dry branches to the forest floor.
The tree has fallen because of the heat.
It is nature’s way of thinning the trees.
The trees expand in the heat as the sap becomes hot, cracking and splitting in an attempt to regulate the temperature within.
Oaks, pepperwood and eucalyptus are notorious for their sudden leave-taking of the earth!
Usually they stand until the rains begin when the wind and water brings them down.
The march of falling trees ended with the return of fog and cooler weather.
Then as it once again heated up, I noticed across the pasture, the drying carcass of a big pepperwood tree laying on the ground. Fittingly it was surrounded by vultures preparing to sun themselves.
Becoming awake involves seeing our confusion more clearly. ~Chogyam Trungpa