Saturday, July 13, 2013

Bear Hug

I love it when current pop culture, or a sweet Public Service Announcement, reflects the values and intention of my fictional work. Sometimes I find a direct connection.

My (and my characters') love of forests and nature play a big part in my last novel, Every Time I Think of You (set in 1979-80). A new clever series of ads conveys a similar love and respect of nature and our forests.

The history of Smokey the Bear is fascinating, going back to World War II. The purpose of his creation related to potential fires set by anti-American saboteurs. Since then, the anthropomorphic ursine character has focused on everyday fire prevention for the thousands of tourists to our state parks. You can see the evolving imagery of Smokey on the official website (linked above).

Here's one of the new short PSAs. A few others are in the sidebar on YouTube.

Smokey even makes an appearance in my last novel.

Here's a short excerpt from Chapter 29 of Every Time I Think of You. It's summer 1979, and Reid is working at Allegheny National Forest in northwest Pennsylvania. He sends a series of affectionate letters to Everett (who is in a rehabilitation facility in Pittsburgh after his lacrosse accident).

June 28


Well, the kids’ talk went really well. I was nervous at first, wondering if I’d run out of things to say, but they have so many questions! I mean, it’s amazing. They’re so curious! Of course, I got totally upstaged when Rick, this guy with the fire prevention crew, came by in a Smokey the Bear costume. He does these appearances for the kids’ groups, and can’t really talk under his bear suit. So I kind of interpret for him. It’s hilarious. The kids all want to hug him and we take their pictures with him. It’s just so great knowing we’re teaching these little kids to love nature and respect da erf, ya know?

Actually, knowing there’s a cute guy underneath the bear outfit makes it kinda hot.

Yes, I am a total perv.

Yours in arboreal affection,

Ranger Reid

Here in California, wildfires are a common summer occurrence, reported with the same regularity as the weather.

Over the July 4 holiday weekend, I enjoyed a relaxing few days at WindTree Retreat Center up in the Santa Cruz mountains. An organic "off-the-grid" farm with various cabins and a full kitchen, plus goats and chicks and a few evasive yet cute cats, the venue hosts workshops like one organized by the Center for Non-Violent Communication.

Here's a blog post by another visitor, with some nice photos.

Five years ago, a forest fire devastated a stretch of forest. Nearly all of the retreat buildings and property were saved by the brave firefighters who doused the buildings with water.

My hikes around the facility displayed a fascinating landscape. Along with the sweeping views, the stark blackened tree trunks were countered by the five years of growth after the fire. 

Obviously a metaphor (and realistic example) of natural renewal, the setting offers a tempting parallel to include in my next novel. In one chapter, my characters Reid and Everett go camping with two friends in Western Pennsylvania. While it might be a bit forced (their lives are far from devastated at any point in the book, for now), such loss and regrowth are inevitable.

But since I already used the image of a baby evergreen as a main metaphor (and the cover image), repeating it might be a bit much.

Still, being able to watch the sunrise from my upstairs alcoved bedroom was sweet. My brave (or foolish?) attempt to the spend the first night under a single meshed tent on an inflatable mattress and in a sleeping bag in the groovy Peace Pavilion left me exhausted from sleeplessness.

So remember; whether you go camping in a cabin or a tent, with or without bears (of the human kind), only you can prevent forest fires.


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