Ring of Fire

Last Monday morning at Sunset Beach, the ocean puts the breaks on and tames the desert-born winds. They've dropped leaves and basin dust on driveways and grassy medians before dying at the shore. The leaf blowers should have taken a holiday. The tubular steel wind chimes, the ones that deliver periodic whole notes on most days, are rattled like brittle skeletons. If he'd sailed today, Columbus would have gotten here quicker, or ended up farther away.

Tuesday, 5:00 a.m. through the Sepulveda Pass, heading to the San Fernando Valley, the sun's about two hours away.  The full moon's ahead, above the mountain tops behind Chatsworth.

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During a total eclipse of the sun, the moon grows a circle of light around its edges. As the downhill begins, the ring of light had fallen off and trekked in slow anger, broken, up those mountains, swallowing chaparral and everything else in its way.

The winds toss the fire from hilltop to hilltop. The helicopters buzzed mosquito-like, dropping fire retardant spread by the winds. Where the fire skipped the freeway, small plumes of smoke rise in a continuous smoke signal. It's a lush tree city here and that keeps most of the embers from gobbling up even more terrain.

Near the hills, in the suburban edge called Porter Ranch, the Santa Ana winds are an abusive husband, shaking tree branches until they fall, bloodless. The winds let down, then pick up. The trees flail hysterically again, shedding leaves. The wind picks them up and heads toward the ocean.

Photo credit: The photo at the top of this post was taken by Flickr user Paul McGuire. It was used under Creative Commons license.

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