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At the Gates of Paradise

Lookout Point, Paradise, Spring,2018

Lookout Point, Paradise, Winter, 2018

So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life. – Genesis 3:24

Yesterday for the first time we took a drive up the Skyway to see how close we could get to Paradise. When we arrived at the gates of Paradise we were greeted not by an angel with a flaming sword but by a Highway Patrol officer with a kind attitude and a Smith & Wesson. He informed us that my home on Scottwood was not in the zones now open for return and directed us to go back down the Skyway.

Up or down the Skyway the landscape is not what you expect in your imagination. Instead of a charred and shattered scene, it looks almost clean; almost scoured.

The fire of November 8 came down Butte canyon and those around it like flood waters swirl and plunge and rip on by. The winds behind the fire drove it down at high speeds and it stripped out the scrub and underbrush and blankets of pine needles turning them to ash. The leaves on the trees were toasted a tan brown color for the most part and the sick trees with openings into their trunks were hollowed out by fire and lie toppled here and there.

I say here and there because the trees along the Skyway and up through the canyon seem to be about 80% upright. Whether they will put out fresh green leaves in the spring I have no way of knowing, but the odds favor it. Beneath the trees, there is on all sides a sort of charred surface with tiny chunks of charcoal crunching like tiny pumice pebbles on some cooled volcanic beach. In the middle distance, all is burned black, but closer in you see that the late, very late,  rains of December have already caused the green shoots of grass to push up through the burned soil surface and tint the ground with Spring.

The earth at my feet

The horror of the burning one month back will, in time, be darkness visible when I am allowed into Zone 11 to access to what was my home. For now, in these startlingly beautiful clear winter days, the scene on the road up and the road down is one that hints of, in the spring, something that will look very much like a carefully manicured park.

In the town of Paradise, they are still waiting for recovery to begin. Nature doesn’t wait.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tom Hyland December 9, 2018, 9:28 AM

    Gerard, I thought when you posted the photo of your house foundation and the IKEA bed frame that you were standing there on location. You haven’t actually been to your house yet? Because I remember you mentioned there was a metal box in the bedroom that contained you dad’s wedding ring. Just waiting to see a photo of you holding that in your hand.

  • ghostsniper December 9, 2018, 10:03 AM

    I’d get in. I’d have to. Low crawl from over the hill. Night time air drop. Whatever. I’d get in.

  • Suburbanbanshee December 9, 2018, 10:20 AM

    The police are there to keep the roads clear and the looters out. Not much to loot, probably, but I am sure there are looters out there who are willing to try.

    Beyond that, any time you have corpses of people and animals, you have a public health hazard. Any time you have blocked roads and demolition equipment, you have road hazards. Heck, there are even hungry and wounded animals roaming around. Potential landslides, mudslides, rockslides, houseslides. Lots of potential trouble. Not trying to scare anybody, but disasters mean post-disaster problems too.

  • Terry December 9, 2018, 12:16 PM

    The policeman has an attitude for many reasons. One is he has been empowered beyond his normal day of harassment of drivers with a burned out tail lamp. Also his coffee and donut shop burned down. He has zero empathy for the people who lost their property or lives in the fire at Paradise.

    Yes when it comes to the police I have a learned cynical attitude towards the species. By no means do all police fall into this “police state” description. But given time most probably will.

  • Sam L. December 9, 2018, 12:58 PM

    The very next day, Nature spit on his hands and said, we got work to do. Let’s get her done.

  • ghostsniper December 9, 2018, 2:27 PM

    That’s exactly right Sam.
    When I built my building 12 years ago the excavation entailed scrape cutting the ground down to undisturbed soil and all of that stuff on the top was pushed to the rear, which was basically raw woods and a fairly steep drop off. After the building was constructed the finish grader came in with soil and bulldozers and made everything purty. But the land behind was a bombed out war zone, mostly gravel and scrap trees, etc., on a steep decline. Now, 12 years later, nature has been busy and there are between 50 and 100 30 to 40 foot tall sycamores, maples, aspens, and some oaks where before there was just gravel. And dense undergrowth. Older conifers have died and fallen, crisscrossing, lots of vines 3″ thick, and loads of wildlife live in the nooks and crannies. Nature hard at work, slowly but surely, never letting up.

    After humans have tried their best to destroy this planet, and have destroyed each other, maybe a hundred years after, most of the earth will look like what it always did BH (before humans) as it will claim that which it has always owned. And all that pacific plastic and algore zone in the stratosphere? Gone. Like it never existed. Man can throw his best at the earth for as long as he can and earth will just laugh for anything and everything man can do pales immeasurably to what the earth is. Earth is an entire planet and man is but a smear of a virus habitating it for a spell.

  • Jeff Brokaw December 9, 2018, 4:02 PM

    On the first four or five glances those first two photos don’t even look like the same place.

    After looking at the photos and reading your description, it is still kind of surprising to me that any trees survive such a powerful fire, but maybe that just shows how little I know about forest fires.

  • Teri Pittman December 9, 2018, 7:04 PM

    We had a fire in the Gorge a couple of years back. Left the folks from Portland upset about the damage to the trails. (People had to evacuate but they seem unconcerned about that.). The woods are recovering as they always do.

  • Rlc December 9, 2018, 8:53 PM

    North American Indians set fires to clear brush back, allow new growth and when the spring rains come and green sprouts shoot up, the deer will be all over that area.

    Its modern day humans who in their hubris forget how nature works, and how to live within it.

  • David Spence December 10, 2018, 6:26 AM

    Hey, folks-Please visit the wish-list and the donate cash link and give what you can. There are no more deserving folks this Christmas than the people of Paradise, CA and especially our host.

  • Vanderleun December 10, 2018, 8:22 AM

    Thank you David. I really appreciate every donation and gift. As I said when the fire started and raged through the town and my life, “Ain’t too proud to beg.”

  • Mark Nicolas December 10, 2018, 3:09 PM

    Gerard, you are so incredible at communicating that I feel what you must be feeling when reading your stuff and looking at your pix. I’ve lost it all in a flood, many moons ago, but what you folks experienced is nothing short of hell on earth, from what I can tell. Just praying it doesn’t happen again, and that we quit meddling with trying to change nature, from chem-trails to GMO and the horrors that the Chinese are setting up with genetic engineering on humans, plus let’s not get started on the global warming hoax and how it’s ruined trust in science, etc. One of the Chinese gene-altering dudes said something like, “We’re just making things a little better.” Wha!!! Man will never be able to improve on nature, because when God made all this stuff, He called it “good.” How’re you gonna out-do God, oh foolish man? Huh, huh? “Engage the law of unintended consequences, Scotty.” One good thing, if there is anything redemptive in Paradise. All of the carbon in the soil will feed the beneficial microbes, which will in turn spur on the new growth others have mentioned here. You cannot out-nature Nature.

  • Marica December 11, 2018, 7:23 AM

    Recommended viewing from 12/11/17: Murmuration or “The Art of Flying”

    It’s … crazy wild.

  • Snakepit Kansas December 11, 2018, 5:53 PM

    The average cop that I know deals with trash all day long. Wife beaters, crazy families in drunken arguments, petty crimes and some of the lack of pragmatism and self reliance that often goes along with poverty and losers. They get attitude from anybody and it needs to be shut down so it doesn’t get out of control, and it can get out of control quick. Most guys and gals in blue have a largely thankless job.

  • ghostsniper December 12, 2018, 2:33 PM

    Highway men, meant to be avoided at all costs.
    Their attitudes precede them, doubtful I could ever be friends with someone granted privileges I’ll never have.

  • Steve S. December 13, 2018, 2:58 PM

    You have two photos of Lookout Point, Spring 2018 and Winter 2018. What a contrast. I can’t wait to see the next photo of Spring 2019. Wait for it. It’s going to look so different yet again. Get ready for the wildflower explosion and maybe a few seedlings! …and just think, all that fuel is gone