Firewood Becomes Ash

Last week I was reading that the UK was expecting record temperatures – it might reach 100 degrees. Knowing how excitable people there get as soon as it gets over seventy, I could only imagine what the scenes were like. And I was heading somewhere even hotter.
It was 104 when I arrived at the end of Friday afternoon at Wilbur; smoke hung in the valleys as I came across from Williams, and the light was soft and a little eerie. That was nothing compared with Saturday evening; it had been 111 that day, with something of a wind all day, and haze that diffused the direct heat of the sun. A few people had come to sit for the afternoon session, and when we came out the sky was the colour of copper. I had seen this before, a couple of years ago with the Lake County fire; there was some discussion as to whether this was blowing all the way down from the huge fire at Redding, or east from new fires in Mendocino County – in either case, far enough away not to pose immediate danger. The moon, when it came up, was bright orange – not from the eclipse that was visible over in England, but from the smoke.
It was a quiet weekend; perhaps guests were put off by the continuing fires, or by the heat, but in any case, it made for better connection with the people who were there. On Sunday morning, going up to the deck to find it covered in ash, I spoke about that and somehow connected it to Mazu’s ‘This very mind is Buddha,’ and ‘No Mind, No Buddha.’ I almost wish I had recorded that one to listen back to how I did that. In the evening I asked someone who had sat with me at Wilbur before, and came to several sessions again, if there was something she would like me to talk about, and she offered ‘romantic love, and lost love.’ It was easy for me to find things to say about that, and there were lovely contributions from a young relationship counsellor and a man who had been married for thirty years.
As usual when it is that hot, the only chance for running came at first light; I did my usual loop up to the Medicine Wheel on Sunday. Reminiscing about the time I saw a bobcat, I saw instead only a young man in dark camouflage carrying a crossbow. However, when we left the yoga deck after that morning’s sit, right by the steps and the large oak, I saw a bobcat crouching in a little gulley. It turned and made for the slopes, pausing to check if we were still a danger, so others got to see it as well. I think I can count the number of times I have seen bobcats in my time in California on both hands, so it felt most auspicious.

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The view across the valley on Saturday evening

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A wan sunrise in the Capay valley on the way home on Monday morning.

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