Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Wednesday Vignette: The Marine Layer

The marine layer is a key component of the climate here.  When it's present, it keeps temperatures within reasonable bounds and, when accompanied by fog, it adds moisture to the air.  However, until we moved to our current location, I didn't appreciate the mystery it adds to the view.  We sit over 700 feet above sea level, overlooking the Los Angeles harbor and, when the marine layer forms overnight, it pulls a veil over the harbor.  In May and June, the marine layer may persist until mid-to-late afternoon but, during the height of summer, if it forms at all, it usually clears much earlier.

The marine layer deserted us during last weekend's heatwave but I was delighted to find it back in place this morning, making it a good candidate for a Wednesday Vignette, the feature hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.

In this photo, taken just before 7am, the harbor is invisible and even the city below is hard to make out, although palms and trees stand out


This afternoon, facing in roughly the same direction, all is revealed.

That dirty gray smudge on the horizon has been with us for months, a sign of the worst smog Los Angeles has experienced in years 


The change shows up more sharply here:

7am view (left) compared to 4pm view (right)


The morning light had a magical quality at 7am and I snapped a couple of wide shots of the back garden.

View from the path in front of our backyard hedge looking west toward the street

View of the backyard borders looking north


Sadly, although the air was cool, it was anything but fresh.  There's another fire burning, this one in San Bernardino County, 2 to 3 hours to the east.  It started yesterday but it's moved fast, consuming 30,000 acres by this morning and prompting the evacuation of 82,000 people.  Current reports still show zero percent containment.   Fires are a fact of life here but they seem all too frequent - and large - this year.   Fire is hard enough to accept when it's touched off by natural causes like lightning but even harder to take when arson is involved, as appears to be the situation in the Clayton Fire, still burning in northern California.

Our house is also located in a high fire risk area so the fire news always makes us jumpy.  My husband's parents lost their home in Malibu to fire many years ago, which contributes to our reaction to these events.  We've had first-hand exposure to the trauma associated with losing a home to flames.  I still have vivid recollections of returning to my in-laws' home after the fire in the hope of finding some part of their lives there intact.  But there was nothing.  Yet they were among the lucky ones - they got out alive and had the luxury of 2 hours notice prior to their evacuation.  They loaded both cars and, that night, I came home from work to find both those cars in our driveway.

This morning, my husband announced that we should be better prepared than we are for that kind of eventuality.  He reminded me how his parents rued their failure to pack up this and that for years afterward.  So, he's put together a draft plan, based on different evacuation timetables: immediate, 10 minutes, and 2 hours.  It's a scary thing to consider.  Other than the cat, a few mementos, and the paperwork necessary to ease a transition in the worst case situation, there's not much in the house that I'd mourn losing.  I would grieve the loss of my garden but that can't be packed into the back of a truck or the trunk of a car.  My husband's list did provide a moment of comic relief, though.  He included "library books" on his 10-minute list, which gave me an attack of giggles (and I don't often have helpless attacks of giggles).  I had him move that item to the 2-hour list.

Visit Anna at Flutter & Hum to find more Wednesday Vignettes.


All material © 2012-2016 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

29 comments:

  1. Library books? Oh, that IS funny! Seriously, you have been in my thoughts all day, after I saw news of the fire with the 80K+ evacuees. Glad to see your Vignette, and to hear you're okay. Your husband is a wise man. That top photo is incredibly beautiful with those roses in the foreground and the faint silhouettes in the distance. Lovely, but if I hadn't read your title first, I would probably have gulped, thinking it was smoke! Again - glad you're not in San Bernardino.

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    1. The fuzzy focus provided by the marine layer misled you, Anna - that bright red color just beyond our hedge in the first photo is provided by a giant Bougainvillea. I'm glad I'm not in San Bernardino too, although my heart breaks for those in the path of that fire, still only 4% contained according to the morning news reports.

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  2. Your garden looked magic in the morning light. A great Vignette.

    Meantime, summer drags on and on...

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    1. This morning brought a good bit of fog along with the marine layer here but it's already burned off. The temperature is in the low 70s, though, which is much appreciated but I'm still doing supplemental hand-watering in one area or another most mornings. Our water restrictions have been relaxed but not eliminated.

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  3. I've been thinking about my California garden blogging peeps because of the fire news lately and am relieved that y'all are safe and sound! The marine layer and the morning light are magical.

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  4. We get a marine layer of sorts here to. Frequently I wake to a blue sky (7am) but by 9 it's clouded over and doesn't burn off until midday. It's more frequent this year. While it does keep the temperatures down it also makes me just want to crawl back in bed!

    Your marine layer photos are beautiful! And library books (?) or no I think having a plan is a very good thing. Fires are nothing to mess around with.

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    1. I love the soft glow of early morning sunlight too but, during the summer months here, the marine layer and any fog it brings with it is invaluable in the long run. Morning is also the best time to get anything done in the garden in summer so I have to get moving.

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  5. We sometimes get morning fog here in August, that burns off by afternoon. We live on a ridge, and sometimes when I drive Nigel down to the train station, the fog looks like a lake below us. I've often wished I could stop and photograph it, but it's a very inconvenient hill for stopping the car. Your marine layer is beautiful, and I'm glad it sometimes gives you a respite. We have a volcano here (Mt. Rainier), which we really should make an emergency plan for.

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    1. I have a similar problem photographing anything along the road that takes us down our hill - stopping to take photos is virtually impossible. I keep saying I'm going to hike the route one day with my camera but that still hasn't happened.

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  6. I thought of you this morning when news of the latest fire reached the British news pages. I'm glad it's so far from you but likewise very sorry for all those people affected.
    The back garden is filling out so well in spite of the drought.
    I'm quite sure my husband's list would produce some equally giggle worthy things!

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    1. I'm just glad my husband didn't get his nose out of joint when I burst out laughing at the "library books" provision. On the flip side, he was very sweet about identifying things that might have sentimental value for me.

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  7. I so envy your marine layer (not to mention the view). Nothing but endless blue skies here, and temps in the 90s. I'm so ready for a change!

    I'm in awe of your state of preparedness. I must admit I would have no clue what do take in case of immediate evacuation. We have a small fire safe with our most important documents in it, but do these safes really survive a major fire?

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    1. We have fire safes too but, if the temperature gets too high, the contents will burn. Off-hand, I don't know the upper limit but, in a fire of the intensity of the recent ones in the news (and like that my in-laws faced), we'd probably be out of luck so, time permitting, you probably want to take the contents with you.

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  8. Radio conversation here a few years ago said photos.
    But I guess yours are all efficiently backed up?

    By the time we have fought Thomas into his travelling box ... the rest of the list would be history ;~)

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    1. Thankfully, the vast majority of our photos are stored digitally, although now that you mention it I have one small box of old, old photos we ought to scan.

      Yes, there's always the problem of getting the cat (or cats) into the carrier. My husband and I discussed the strategy for capturing Pipig in the event of an emergency but, if immediate removal were necessary, I can imagine we might have time for little else.

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  9. I'm sorry your family lost their home. It must have been very traumatic. Fire, hurricane,tornado, flood-this country has it all. It does pay to be prepared but how many of us are. I think we are pretty safe from flood but we did worry about fire when we were in a drought. Our lot is littered with the burnt out stumps of trees from fire in the 50s. We tend to think that the fire department would be here to save us if it actually happened. But of course sometimes they can do nothing. Our friends in Fallbrook have indoor sprinklers. I think it was the law. Meanwhile our fire chance are diminished for the moment with endless days of rain.
    Yes, I remember the marine layer well. Would drive from Irvine to Laguna Beach and end up sitting with towels around us as we waited for the marine layer to burn off. Sometimes it didn't! Stay safe.P.S. Your garden does look lovely.

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    1. We're lucky that the fire department is less than a mile away from us but, while that's helpful in the event of a localized fire, it might not offer much protection in a massive fire where fire personnel are often redeployed. Raising the consciousness of the residents around the area is probably the best preventive measure. Every 4th of July, I'm reminded how foolish people can be in high fire risk areas like ours.

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  10. Kris, I'm another big fan of the marine layer. Nothing finer than hearing the fog horns with morning coffee! Love seeing your new path in that beautiful light.

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    1. I think it took just one summer here for me to fall in love with the marine layer, Denise!

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  11. I love the marine layer. It's a big part of why I want to move to the coast someday. Morning sun can be beautiful, but I find just as much beauty in being surrounded by a blanket of fog. It makes things mysterious and intriguing, but also cozy. And, of course, it keeps things cool! Where I live, if it's present in the summer, it usually starts to burn off by 10am. I'm really missing it right now.

    You and your husband are so smart to be prepared. I have an aunt and uncle in north central Washington, in an area that has experienced especially bad fires the last two years. Many of their neighbors lost their houses, but because they worked so hard to reduce the fire danger around their house, it's still standing. It pays to be prepared.

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    1. I avoid planting anything known or suspected of facilitating a fire's spread but I can't say I've actively made preparations of a preventive nature. Local fire department personnel walk through annually and comments on anything they see as particularly troublesome but I don't think their evaluation extends to fire retardant planting. My MIL did factor that into her landscaping for the Malibu house but, sadly, it wasn't enough. Interestingly, the red apple succulent (Aptenia cordifolia) - despite top level burning - did survive the fire even if the house didn't.

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  12. The soft light of the marine layer is beautiful but the smog must be terrible for people with breathing difficulties.
    I thought of you when I read about the terrifying fires in the newpaper. Living in a small country it is difficult for the mind to grasp the sheer size of the fires. Your husband' s library books made me chuckle too.

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    1. I was amazed that the poor air quality had such an effect on me given that we're more than 100 miles away. I can't imagine how tough it must be on people in the midst of it. The US does seem plagued by disasters right now (and that's not even factoring in the current presidential campaign).

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  13. Adding library books to the list is a good deal more conscientious than I would be, I'm afraid! I know what you mean about not knowing what to take; we made a lot of those decisions in a very slow, deliberate way when we downsized and moved after my dad passed away. So many things just seemed pointless and were eliminated, but I'm glad of the things I kept as they help me retain ties to precious years and people.
    Love your shots of the marine layer! Just this evening I was thinking how nice a good coastal fog would be... ;-)

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    1. I cleared out a lot of "stuff" before our last move but I can't say my husband was as thorough. I've become more and more of a minimalist about household goods over the years but I can't say I carry the same mindset into the garden.

      I heard that there's a chance of rain in the desert areas here within the next few days - I hope you get some too, Amy!

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  14. I can't imagine having to be ready to evacuate on such short notice. It must be nerve wracking. I expect the examination puts to light what is most important in one's life. I would go for pets, documents, photographs of the kids as babies, my laptop and probably in that order!

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    1. Hopefully, we'll be prepared should we ever have the misfortune of being confronted by a fire. This area burned 8 or so years ago but it was quickly controlled.

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  15. What a difference the marine layer makes between photos 1 and 2!
    And the easy morning light casts such a lovely glow over your garden, which is truly a work of art.

    Here we are in a tornado prone area and have been hit by one once. It was in the middle of the night and we had no warning at all. The house was heavily damaged but not destroyed. The yard was devastated, but out of that came my current garden. I think fire would be much worse. I can't imagine being in your position. It must be extremely difficult facing that possibility, but I think you are very wise to make a plan. I have followed the California fires on tv and wondered how close to you they are. I hope your fire season will be over soon!

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