Thursday, October 31, 2013

Sweet November, You Had Me at Autumn

By Cal Orey

Hello November! ... This morning instead of a swim at the resort pool, I played hooky. At 5 AM-ish the pup Skye, got me up and outdoors into the 20-something degree weather to do his business. Back indoors I fed both Aussie and Brittany, Simon. And, I confess. I crawled back into the cozy waterbed with golden colored flannel sheets and entered dreamland. At 7:40 (yep, I looked at the clock), I got up and brewed a cup of Pumpkin Spice Coffee. 

Autumn bliss with a growing pup and senior dog.

A Writing Day: On this Thursday I was happy because the plan was to write anecdotes from yesteryear for the Revised and Updated OLIVE OIL book. The writing of a book is the fun part; the research is a challenge. In between Skyler devouring my fave comfy over-sized chair in the living room to demanding his romp in the dog run and flaunting his hazel colored big puppy dog eyes begging me to play ball with him, I surprisingly managed to get several long forgotten memories written. 

Dog Walk, Let's Go: As the wannabe leader of the pack, I anticipate our daily dog walk in the afternoons just as much as my go-dogs do. And today, we all got the feel-good endorphin high from getting outdoors and getting a move on. By the time we were through, all of our tails were wagging and it was back home. Now, at 9:30 P.M., I feel the calm of the dogs and myself, winding down as I field calls from the networks, dishing out readings upon command. Today, unrequited love seems to be the topic of choice. I wish I could just say, "Get a dog." 

Fall Fare: This week I've had my fill of homemade White Chocolate Fudge and Peanut Butter Fudge. (FYI: The freezer trick doesn't work. Note to self: Must swim more, walk more, treadmill more or will endure muffin top.) It was a fun Fudgefest...and now I'm done. More seasonal fruits and vegetables seem to be on my mind and in the kitchen.  Plus, coffee, tea(s), water are on my list and goodbye to sweets till December. The rub is, I can't get pies out of my mind...rhubarb, pecan, custard, and the list goes on and on. Maybe a hen glazed with honey will suffice?

Pantry Clean-up: Last week on a chilly afternoon, I did it. I spent hours cleaning out the pantry. I'm talking honey, honey, honey. I know that nature's nectar boasts a long shelf life but once opened I think, "When in doubt, toss out." And the olive oils? Ditto. There's only so much I can use in a year or two. On the upside: The pantry is re-stocked with amazing treasures that I'm writing about for The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, Revised and Updated, due in January 2014. And so, my body, mind, and spirit is in Olive Oil Land.

Two Britts bonded at first sight.
A dear dog love connection.
Senior Dog is Doing Well: It seems so long ago. But back in September Simon, my 10-year-old Brittany had surgery on his forehead. The tumor was benign; his hair, as forecasted by the vet and techs, has grown back. Nobody would know what a brave boy he is. My canine warrior got through the challenge as we both did during the loss of our best friend. Last year, this time both Simon and I dealt with the ups and downs of losing our Seth. Once gone, Simon remained strong through my tears. He was on double duty grieving the loss of our boy and I will always be thankful for his strength and compassion.

Going to the Dogs: In my column What's Cookin at Callie's Cabin, this week I wrote about a handsome dog who befriended me at a Barnes and Noble book signing. A group of service canines upstaged me and my attempt to discuss, sign, and sell my books. So, I just went with the flow and made a new dog friend.
A handsome canine.

"Good as Gold"... A few surprises came my way today on the first day of November. My article "What's Your Pet's Sign?" graced the cover story of Oracle 20-20 magazine. And that's not all...
Wellbella magazine (found in GNC stores nationwide) featured my book The Healing Powers of Honey (Kensington) in a sweet two page article, page 16. Keep in mind, this book (my fave of the Healing Powers series) contains dozens of eye-catching healthful recipes (good enough for a hungry honey bee or human) and was included in the Good Cook Book Club. 

Translated in other languages.
I anticipate enjoying cozying up by my first fire of mid-fall. Image courtesy of 

Making a Fire is a Job: So, no I haven't done it yet. One neighbor has begun. I see the smoke billowing from the chimney in the A.M. I will do it. I must clean the fireplace; although I don't think there's much to do. And there is kindling, the firewood is stacked and dry. The thing is, once you start making fires there's no turning back. (And those perfect manicured nails I had in SF? History. The dogs get pedicures, not moi.) When the temps hit the teens (in a few days) I will celebrate. It's funny, after each book I write, I celebrate by making a fire, drinking a cup of hot tea, and watching a film with the animal companions. Such is the life of a city girl aka mountain hermitess (flanked by two dogs and a cat who thinks he's a dog) in the sierras.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Falling into Fall, Naturally

Fall Flower Power
By Cal Orey
Autumn is here and I'm feeling it... In the early morning I've been treating myself to Pumpkin Spice Coffee. On Wednesday I spent part of the afternoon making a semi-homemade Sweet Potato Pie. And, nesting (organizing my abode with warming things, like comforters and pillows to herbal teas) for colder days ahead. The cob webs on the high ceilings and fireplace are calling out my name, "CAL! Clean me!" But I've tuned it out for a bit longer.

Dog Day Afternoons: Yesterday, took the Type-A canine duo for a long walk. First to our fave spot amid pine trees and logs (allowing young and fun-loving Skyler to jump over one after another for a makeshift agility course; senior Simon keeps up). Once both dogs are smiling it was back in the car for a longish autumn drive to savor the sweet season, with the heart of an autumn child.

Got bangs trimmed, fall spells long, straight blundt bangs

Pumpkin Spice Coffee is here!
Destination: Hope Valley in the sierra. This time around, the aspens were golden, more than at Lake Tahoe but not as vibrant as few years ago when going to a book signing at San Francisco. Maybe I missed the reds, oranges, light gold leaves of fall? Still, it was Mother Nature at her best. Calming to mind and spirit.

Hot Tub and Tourists: Once the dogs had their fun, it was time to let them chill and hit a resort pool/hot tub. Thanks to the warmer temps (as I predicted) tourists were too plentiful at "my" oasis. Note to self: Only swim early AMs, starting next week--7:00 AM.  I've grown to love serene water, not choppy with voices of chatter or chlorine overload.  But, the little orange pumpkin candies and chocolates in the womens' spa area made me smile and were a sure-fire reminder that fall has sprung.  
Keeping my swims to early AM

Autumn Edibles: After the semi-treat, I hit the gift shop and picked up a copy of Friday's Tahoe Daily Tribune. My latest dish--Sweet Potato Pie--was featured on the cover and that made me feel warm and fuzzy. This awesome autumn pie took a while to make and make it smooth as silk but it was worth the extra effort. It was so rich (I used butter, lemon olive oil and half and half) that it made its way to the freezer or I would have devoured the whole thing... I also whipped up a Mediterranean pasta dish (for the OLIVE OIL book I'm revamping) and the colors of vegetables reminded me of the season.

Harvest season for honey...Need to recycle pantry
Indian Summer: Due to the warmer than cooler season, the firewood remains in the backyard under tarp waiting to be stacked and put into the garage. The storm windows are up! The mornings are in the 20s and afternoons nearing 70s. Twenty-five miles to Carson City we're talking 70s and folks are clad in T-shirts and shorts. Weird? Not really. It's the sierras! Anything goes when it comes to weather year-round.

Weekend at Lake Tahoe: Because of the warm-ish days climate (as was the case in the San Francisco Bay Area back in the fall of 1989 when the major quake shook our Golden State) tourists are here in the mountains. When you live in a resort town you learn how to dodge tourists and find hot spots where they don't know about to go and enjoy solitude local-style. 

The Full Moon in Aries: Last night the phone was busy with clients calling me, the "energizing, calming intuitive"to read them as emotions were out of sync. I received my charts for 2014 to help me help them. Funny how lunar cycles affect people, pets, and even trigger earthquakes around the world. Update: A 6.5 hit the Gulf of California forecasted by me but more south. Still, I saw water, West Coast, this time--and it could be a foreshock and/or migrate north to Southern California. Or not.

My Autumn Weather Forecast: Neighbors are asking me, "Callie, what's the forecast for upcoming weeks?" I smile at their belief in my predictions and dart: "Warm/Cold, Warm/Cold...Flooding in December, most likely for Tahoe-Reno and California. The snow will arrive late in Jan/Feb and more than I want. Read: Shoveling. Note to self: But that's winter here in the mountains.

Staying Cold-Flu Free: But now, I'll enjoy the days of fab fall. I'm going to bake mini butterball cookies to pair with teas and coffees and eat more fruit, vegetables, and nuts to stay skinny and healthy. No flu shot for me. Boosting the immune system with plenty of nutrient-dense foods, getting a move on, staying clear of humanoids, and getting shut-eye are natural.

This is my fave writer pose...Getting ready to input prose to The Healing Powers of Olive Oil, Revised and Updated

Thursday, October 17, 2013

I Survived the World Series Earthquake

By Cal Orey

Pets help predict earthquakes

Today marks an unforgettable event that I will never forget...More than 20 years ago, on Monday, October 17, 1989 I experienced a frightening major earthquake. In retrospect, I received so many cues, my own body, mind, and especially signs from my sensitive companion animals, three cats and a dog.

* On August 8, after a strong foreshock hit, my sensitive Siamese-Manx, Ashley packed her bags, put in her change of address and moved outdoors to reside underneath the morning glory bushes. I knew it was odd behavior but let it go.
* In October, a week before the main quake, my yellow lab Carmella paced back and forth in the living room of my San Carlos, Calif., bungalow. She wasn't a high strung dog. It was unusual that she was restless. Being a busy journalist, I didn't dwell on her action-orients moves.
* On the morning of October 17, my orange and white food-loving cat Alex refused to eat in the morning. This food strike was very odd for my lean and healthy feline.
* My oldest cat, a gray and white Tuxedo named Gandalf behaved as though all was usual and he
was a very balanced animal.
* In the late afternoon on the hot Indian summer day, I fought an excruciating headache. I took to bed to try and escape the pain.

Then, it happened. At 5:04 PM, strong rattling of the bedrooms woke me up. Startled by the sound similar to a freight train put me in fight or flight motion. Back in the day, it was protocol to get to a strong doorway. I instinctively grabbed my dog and headed for the front door. Once I reached the dining room, the floor was buckling, windows and French doors shaking fiercely. I couldn't keep my balance and fell, cut my leg. In my mind I thought, "The world is ending"  as I watched and heard the loud noise of a shaking home.

I got up quickly and crawled to the doorway. The quake seized. I heard the words from my neighbor upstairs: "Are you okay?"  With a rapid heartbeat, shock, and frightened and answered a weak "yes."  As a native California who had endured two strong, rolling Livermore quakes while a San Jose resident; and the 6.2 Morgan Hill shaker scared me when I was living in Santa Cruz Mountains--you'd think this wasn't a big deal. But it was bigger than big. But I survived.

This earthquake, however, was different. My instincts told me that the epicenter was not San Carlos and it had to be worse elsewhere.  I soon discovered it was catastrophic. The center of destruction was in Santa Cruz Mountain but greatly affected  infrastructure downtown Santa Cruz, Watsonville, the Marina in San Francisco, East Bay and other regions. 

When I turned on the TV I was welcomed with a black screen. Nobody was outside. I put my canine on a leash and walked towards the post office--the place where my boyfriend. Car sirens were going off and I was stunned. I felt like I was in a sci-fi film. The main window of  his workplace was shattered, pieces of glass on the sidewalk.

Once back home, news reports began to roll in. The 15 seconds and aftermath for weeks of a 7.1 earthquake was widely felt throughout California, neighboring states--and the damage was significant. Hours, days, and weeks of strong aftershocks kept people on edge in the Golden State. For weeks, I refused to sleep in the bedroom where it hit. I camped out in the living room with the lights on. I was clad in clothes, a dog leash and shoes next to me on the floor. I was hardly alone. People south of Santa Cruz lived in tents and were afraid to go back inside their homes.

As a journalist, I was given several assignments to write about the event and its aftermath. Then, I reconnected with geologist Jim Berkland the man who predicted the World Series Earthquake. Four days prior, on Friday the 13th an item about his forecast was published in The Gilroy Dispatch. And then the drama began for him, the man who predicted the quake, and whom was suspended from his job because of the frenzy of press and panic that followed. "Was this the Big One?" 

An eerie story that I'll never forget is the East Bay Vivarium...a pet shop with snakes and lizards. The owner in the East Bay did not have earthquake insurance. His creepy crawlers' aquariums broke, fell onto the floor and countless creatures escaped in the dark of the night. He was faced with saving his inventory on the loose or like others, helping the people trapped in their cars on the two-level Cypress Street Viaduct of Interstate 880 in West Oakland. 

Two decades later, I became the author of The Man Who Predicts Earthquakes. And today, as I live at Lake Tahoe it brings back memories of a memorable day.  These days, not only do I have a book written on quake prediction, but a website where earthquake sensitives post their forecasts--Earthquakeepicenter ...

Meet Jim Berkland, a California geologist whose forecast of the famous October 17, 1989 World Series Quake that rumbled through the San Francisco Bay Area was right on the money. This is the first book to document a geologist's uncanny ability to foretell earthquakes around the world. This facinating read includes stories of earthquake survivors, a wealth of details about seismic activity in earthquake prone regions around the world.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Dog Pounds: A Weighty Issue

By Cal Orey

How much will my Aussie puppy weigh when he's all growed up?...

Yesterday, I took my 10-month-old Aussie Skyler to the vet to have his nails trimmed (I'd love to have a manicure!) and weighed in. He hit 40 pounds, give or take a pound. (The scale is quirky.) I sensed he would weigh in more than less. I can feel his dense weight and width; he's now larger than my leggy, solid and taller Brittany.

Male Aussies can weigh 50-65 pounds. My vet forecasted 50s when he came in for shots because his puppy paws were big. These days, I'm told we'll know the final weight when pup hits 1 1/2 years. So, why does it matter how much does the puppy weigh? Curiosity. It's a new herding breed for me. And I'm eager to see just how big my canine companion will size up. 

Actually, I used to be a sporting lab girl. My second yellow retriever weighed 75-80 pounds. In my 20s, I had a small Maltese (probably 25 pounds) and a black lab at 70 pounds. Three Brittanys in the course of 20 years--38-43 pounds (a weight that is nice, people say)--not too big and not too small, perfect like Goldilocks finding the suitable bed. 

Skyler's Father.
So why do I want Skye to be a big boy? He makes me feel protected both indoors and outdoors. When we hug each other his body feels strong. So, here I sit wondering,  "Will he be as large as his dad?" One breeder told me the father doesn't look huge. He did get his father's smile, amber-ish colored eyes, and white chest and handsome double dense coat.

Skyler was the only male amid his six sisters. I selected him, the pick of the litter.  I prefer calm male energy with an even temperament. And, to me, he looked like his blue merle mom. No, he didn't get the soulful ice blue eyes (I discovered this by the third month); but yesterday one vet tech insisted in the sunlight she saw blue-light brown. I see amber-green. The eye color does seem to depend to change in lighting.  I adore his human-like eyes whatever color they are...

This A.M. Skye's energy astounds me. He roughhouses with Simon, keeps me on the go--5:00 AM wake-up call but bedtime was earlier last night. He now sleeps in his "man cave" with the door open. All is quiet. 

Size does not matter.
Kitty Zen and puppy Skyler have an amazing cat-dog understanding and closeness that is fun to observe. Fearless cat, Aries, fearless dog, Sag. Two fire signs. Very compatible. Two animals that get each other. And the more Skyler grows it doesn't concern my Siamese. After all, he has proven he can hold his own. Size does not matter.  And it's adorable when Skye wraps his large paws around Zen.  Not to ignore the similar markings of the two companion animals.

Perhaps, I should take a cue from my laid-back feline. So he will weigh what he will weigh and his eye color will be what it will be. The essential thing is, he is a healthy, happy lively boy that brings happiness and balance to our lives each day. 
P.S. I wonder if he will weigh 50 pounds--almost half of me, a small but feisty dog woman with dog pounds on the brain.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Letting Go Hurts

By Cal Orey"
Loss hurts but strengthens 

... what we have enjoyed, we can never lose ...
 all that we love deeply becomes a part of us." ~Helen Keller

A gift  for me last December was born
 after losing a beloved canine companion, named Seth,

 a fallen angel  from "City of Angels"

Today, I awake to news about a cyclone in India and strong earthquake in Greece--natural disasters that come with great loss. As a grownup woman, an author-intuitive who takes calls to hear men and women talk about change--all types--you'd think I'd have mastered the art of letting go of precious things, good experiences, great jobs, and loved ones. But the real deal is--each time we face a loss--letting go hurts...

It doesn't matter, whether it be a parent, lover, dog, cat, fish--or anyone close to you. All of God's creatures that have crossed your path and left make an imprint on your soul.  
 Oct. 12, 2012 Seth fell, lost all balance-
it was like a great earthquake to me...foreshadow
to the angels taking him

As an intuitive, I often read for people who are going through loss and it brings out all sorts of emotions: shock, bargaining, sadness, anger, denial, and acceptance. I listen. I try to be in the moment of how they're feeling--because I've been there, too. It's part of life. I'm not judgmental. I offer insight, tap into the energy of the spirit in question, whether it is on Earth or in the hereafter. It doesn't matter because either way when there is separation--it hurts.

This morning a caller reminded me of my past muse Kerouac
My Brittany duo loved each other
Separated from a Canine Companion
After Seth passed, Simon was on double duty comforting me and feeling the void of an empty home. Yes, dogs have emotions. My cat Zen sensed something was off and offered comfort and quietude.  But, I picked up the pieces of broken hearts and went on a mission to find a healing canine...

Almost one year later, despite the painful memories of end days, finding a delicate balance can happen again.  But letting go is difficult on unforgettable days, like this. It's uncanny, but today, October 12 was my parents' anniversary. And it was my father who taught me about dogs, and that letting go hurts.

Life goes on...

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Sequel: Fall Has Sprung...I'm in Squirrel Mode!

By Cal Orey
Got my teeth cleaned on Monday. Brushing the pets' teeth, too.
Fall is my fave time of year--autumn babies are believed by some researchers to live longer, quality lives. In the sierra fall is flaunting its true colors. The aspens are golden, leaves are dropping, and the heater is kicking on with and without my help. I wonder if cooler October temps is a sign of a colder winter. The government Shutdown is affecting the informative NOAA website so I have to turn to my sixth sense and rain-sensitive Aussie for a weather forecast. My forecast is warm/cool, flooding in December, and snow, snow, snow early 2014. So, as I work on my swimming for the imminent ponding, here's my updated To Do Autumn List:
It's cold outdoors!

  • OUTDOORS STUFF: The firewood is in the back  covered with tarp, but not stacked as of yet. I'd rather go swimming this AM. Will put in garage when the weather clears up in a few days. I took a poll and the wood people told me I really don't have to have the chimney cleaned because I didn't use a cord of wood last fall/winter.  Pine needles? Check. They are in green bags and were hauled away yesterday. And the needles are off the rooftop.  The best clean up? Those mean Club Med type kids and big wayward dogs across the street have left and quietude is in the fall air.
  • THREADS FOR WARMTH: Received earthy colored sweats, jeans, and sweaters from Victoria.  What was she thinking? I got a long and lean sweater (love it) but it's too thin! Skinny jeans fit and will keep me skinny. Got light golden colored flannel sheets as a birthday present. Cozy, cozy, cozy. 
  • BRING FALL INSIDE: Pine cones...I am beating the squirrels. There are piles in pots on the deck and will bring some more indoors and place in baskets. After all, these are a signature of where I live. I don't remember so many pine cones on the ground but I like it--they're big, fat, and fresh. And throws. Still need to wash--the green and maroon ones. The aquarium heater is keeping my goldfish swimming. They are happy. I pray that we do not get a power outage like the 3 day blackout. Not fun. I always worry about my water-loving kindred spirits.
  • STAY WELL:'s not going to help me. My insurance is hiking my premiums (again). I pay late every month to make a statement. I haven't used it and I don't like paying so much when I use it so little. Why can't I get a larger rebate for staying healthy, poor, and wise? Definitely not getting the flu shot. Note to self: Stay clear of people. Going swimming before 8:00 AM...Bliss, the pool/hot tub are mine. Tourists are AWOL this time of year. It's a local's dream.

My Mediterranean-like heaven in autumn.
  • GET A MOVE ON: When I return home, I sense it's time to put up the storm windows (I took them out of the closets) for added warmth. And I will let the dogs, pup and senior, outdoors--and may let my young Aussie enjoy the treadmill before our afternoon walk. It is human heaven this time of year--less threat of big canines running loose. 
    These days, my lovestruck Aussie and I dance in the living room.
Working on the 2nd edition.
  • CLEAN PANTRY:  As I'm lost in Olive Oil Land (enjoying new oils arriving on my doorstep each week; will try and write up in my olive oil book), my kitchen pantry needs a clean-up ASAP. And, it's time to toss out some items that have expired and make it tidy but not as perfect as a Stepford wife would do it. So the 2nd edition of my olive oil book isn't due until the second week of January. That means I have time for enjoying olive oil from head to toe...Ah, and flavored coffee is en route from one of my favorite java suppliers! I vow to use the grinder (again) and love my coffee mornings. 
    My book The Healing Powers of Coffee was featured in Woman's World-last year's fall issue.
  • BAKING/COOKING. Today, for both the book and cooking column I pen weekly, I'll do a stir-fry with plenty of seasonal veggies and bake an apple pie with a special creative touch. The scent of fruit and cinnamon in the house will give me incentive to clean the fireplace--a place I will make my first fall fire, most likely within a week or two. So, as I enjoy the cues of the Mother Nature's finest season, it's time to get out of the toasty waterbed, and go swimming. Savoring warm and cooler weather morning and night is getting the best of both worlds. Fall has sprung and I'm loving it! 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Gratitude is Felt on Another Birthday, Another Day

Suburbs were not me; I chose to live in the mts. by a lake.
By Cal Orey

As a child to adult, I felt comfort amid trees.
As I am older, I still feel age is just a number.
Tomorrow, October 6, is my birthday. A baby boomer (1946-1964) I am. I recall many moons ago, people wore buttons "Don't trust anyone over 30"...  As time passed, 40, 50 and on just seemed like another number to me. Well, that's not true. When I was in my forties and saw all the candles on the birthday cake--I stopped celebrating the numbers.
A product of the burbs in the fifties.

Age is about a lot of things. It's about experience, wisdom, accomplishment, and compassion. These things come in time and can be shared with two-leggers and four-leggers. As a younger woman I lacked in all of these areas. But as time passed, during the best and worst of times (with tribute to Charles Dickens), I endured and grew up to be a more well-rounded, self-reliant woman. And I have no regrets.

I adore my senior dog--we get each other.
So, tonight I sit here alone with three fur children: a fun-loving 10- month-old Aussie, a strong 10-year-old Brittany, and a three-year- old laid-back Siamese cat. My boys, my kids. I am thankful for the unconditional love these creatures give to me--and I give it right back. I will not forget the surgery scare a few weeks ago--a positive outcome unlike last year when I lost my other Brittany, Seth--a dog dear to me who left this world too soon. 

I rescued Zen--he rescues me right back.
A little brother...a pic is worth a 1000 words.
I am thankful for my two loving siblings--one brother, one sister. These two mentors have been there for me in different ways and will always have a place in my mind, heart, and spirit. While my parents are in Parent Heaven, I can often feel their presence amid my surroundings in work and play
My baby this year.
and it provides comfort.

Author Steinbeck held up at Fallen Leaf Lake with 2 dogs.
A healing dog who helped bring life back into my household.
So, on Sunday how will I celebrate my birthday? I will wake up to three hungry critters and feed them. I will make homemade waffles paired with brewed coffee.

Later, I will savor another long autumn walk, like today, with my canine companions...after, the pool/spa will be the destination for early afternoon. Later, a veggie pizza should suffice. And I'll look forward to Monday, the day I was born and the day I will work on the 2nd edition of one of my Healing Powers series books; get firewood delivered; and my teeth will be cleaned late in the afternoon.  These are the simple things that make me smile and my tail wag.
I feel balanced as an author-intuitive at Lake Tahoe with a dog duo.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Smoky Skies: Yosemite Wildfire Personal Fallout

Northern California Fire Fallout
By Cal Orey

In the August issue of Oracle 20-20, my article “Western Wildfires…on the Rise” forecast came true. I sensed my town of Lake Tahoe could be next in line—and in a round-about way—it was affected. In mid-August, the sierras were surrounded by wildfires (more than one) burning out of control in Northern California. Here, is my up close and personal first-person account of what it’s like to cope with the fallout of being in the middle of multiple wildfires and surviving the eerie fallout.
The Rim Fire, Burning by Yosemite National Park
The wildfire ignited August 17 (caused by man), and spread to more than 180,000 acres. Smoke rising from the Rim Fire, had moved into the Lake Tahoe basin and surrounding regions, causing air quality to go south—affecting the health of people and pets of all ages.
Worse, as time passed, the Lake Tahoe area was tagged by authorities including NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the El Dorado County Air Quality Management “unhealthy for sensitive groups” to “unhealthy”! What’s more, areas in Nevada, including Carson City and Reno were facing “unhealthy” and “very unhealthy” conditions.  It was a time of uncertainty, a time of caution.
Smoke Ups Health Risks
As each hour and day passed, I watched in disbelief and past wildfire images hit my mind. This was like the 2007 Angora Fire—which I evacuated to Reno, fleeing the drama of helicopters, evacuation phone calls, dark skies, and falling ash. This time around, the gray air was spreading throughout Northern California and Northern Nevada. There was nowhere to run and hide.
I found myself scrutinizing reports of South Lake Tahoe’s Barton Memorial Hospital. It was unsettling. Officials were getting flooded with respiratory complaints and numbers of emergency-room patients soared.  We were told by NOAA warning advisories for people and pets to stay indoors, shut the windows, cease physical activities, and drink water to prevent hydration.
At first, I was affected by not being able to enjoy keeping my windows open (it was the warm summer), and taking my two active dogs for long walks. The pool where I swim was closed due to the unsafe air quality. People were wearing masks at stores—it made me think of SARS in Asia and the film “Contagion”.  In fact, one night I couldn’t sleep—I was busy plotting my evacuation. But note, I’d have to drive as far as Half Moon Bay on the coast to be able to get genuine fresh air like our mountains usually has plenty of for locals and tourists.
Sure, I am a senior, but I am healthy. I do not have heart disease, asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. But being advised to stay indoors was making me feel anxious, isolated, and trapped. Looking up at the sky at dusk to see a reddish sun with ash falling down on our trees, vehicles and to see a red moon late at night without stars was like a freaky nightmare—like the aftermath of a nuclear war.
By late August, some physical symptoms hit me. I was coughing, sneezing, endured a headache, and developed a sore throat. The cable guy told me every afternoon he was feeling lightheaded and ill. And, I received phone calls from my sibling on the Nevada side that the smoke quality looked worse than on the south shore of Lake Tahoe. He sent me chilling, eye-opening pictures via e-mail that were surreal looking. But that’s not all…

Long-Term Dangers of Wildfire Ash
Experts said ash falling into the lake can cause problems but we will not know until next year of the entire damage. Some wildlife is affected, too but the long-term effects on humans and their pets are unknown. 
In a poll created by the Tahoe Daily Tribune, residents showed more concern for their family’s health than not being able to play outdoors.This fact, in itself, made me feel like I was hardly alone—I was one of countless people concerned about the fallout that surrounded us from the fires that burned and affected our environment and health.
I dished reports via social networking, from my own experience. In one post I wrote: “It's like we're in off season. The store was dead tonight!  I crave swimming, long dog walks, clean air, and open windows.” And yes, the surreal nature of smoky skies brought back memories of the Oakland Firestorm—a horrific event where people and their pets died because there was only one road out and firefighters could not get in to rescue victims.
On September 1, the Rim Fire was more than one third contained. The day before, while tourists were less than more for the Labor Day Weekend, at times I could see the mountains across the Lake, I took the dogs for a longer walk, and I saw kids swimming in the water and adults on bicycles. But then, in the morning hazy skies returned. The NOAA advisories noted there would be waxing and waning of the air quality until the fire was contained, estimated September 20.
Fallen Leaf Lake...I can see clearly the fall.
So, this fire, one of the largest in California history, will not be forgotten, nor the last one. As global warming continues, the air remains dry and we get less precipitation, wildfires, say experts, may burn longer and may be worse in the years to come. But as I cope with the fallout from this wildfire of 2013, I will never take fresh air for granted.  It’s a precious thing that we need to survive.