Just bitchin'

A Hazy Shade of Hell


You know how it is with the news.

What’s happening is usually so far away that, although your inner sympathy-chip is engaged, you aren’t really affected in your insulated, little, day-to-day life. You kick back in the evening to watch the latest events of local or national interest and thank your lucky stars it’s all happening far, far away.

But sometimes what’s occurring reaches out with vaporous fingers and reminds you in a more visceral way that you, too, are part of this world where nothing stays the same.

My state is on fire.

Hundreds of thousands of acres are blazing. There is loss of homes and loss of lives, both human and non-.

In my comfy, little, beach cottage, hundreds of miles and a mountain range away, the sky is yellow. The sun is bloody.


When you step outside, the discomfort is noticeable. Your eyes sting. You smell something acrid in the air. The color yellow now has a scent.

The birds have gone still, venturing forth for food and water, but not engaging in the usual aerial acrobatics and song.

At the end of your normal, unaffected day, a throbbing headache reminds you that smoke is a formidable opponent. And your neck hairs rise when you look to the east and wonder how your fellow Washingtonians will sleep tonight. Or where.

For the first time, we’ve sent out a call for help, for volunteers to stand at the front lines and engage the enemy.

Australia answered. So did New Zealand.

A thrill of thankfulness runs through us for these brave souls so generous with their courage.

It’s a hazy, yellow shade of Hell.

But we’re not alone…


Just bitchin'



There have always been lilacs.

When I was a child, in the first home I recall, they bordered our yard.

As our truncated, customized version of a family moved from locale to locale, they were the first things my mother would plant. It didn’t matter that it might take years before their piquant blossoms would show; that we would have moved on long before the flowers appeared.

There had to be lilacs taking root while we lived wherever we lived, whenever we lived.

When we finally did put down roots of our own, lilacs thrived.

They grew in purple profusion, spilling their heady scent into our lungs, into our dreams, into our souls, into the languid California nights. The sultry heat of the Southwest drew forth flowers and fragrance that would forever be associated with the lessons of childhood.

And one of the most important was illustrated…by lilacs.

It started as a game.

“Find the five-petaled blossom.”


I and my siblings would scour the heavy panicles of purple or pink or cream or yellow to find…

…the mutant.

Among the overwhelming presence of tiny, four-petaled flowers would lurk the stranger in their midst. The five- or even six-petaled bloom. It was special. Strange. Something to be sought. Something marvel-worthy.

“It stands out,” my mother instructed us. “It does not fit in. It will never be ‘normal.’ But…it is beautiful. It excels the norm. But it will always stand alone.”

Excelling the norm became our motto.

Standing alone became our fate.

My mother raised us.

Lilacs all.