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The Wildflower Sisters 

The second week of the new year brought another massive increase in COVID-19 cases in Los Angeles County. Local governments and businesses are scrambling to cope with the massive surge driven by the highly contagious Omicron variant.

Although there hasn’t been an official shutdown yet, many government agencies are temporarily closing their doors. Federal jury trials are on hold in Los Angeles County for at least three weeks. Libraries are switching back to curbside pickup, or “grab and go.” Educators are grappling with testing requirements and rising COVID cases, while UC Los Angeles and UC Channel Islands have announced that they are shifting to online classes for at least the first few weeks of the upcoming spring term. And if that isn’t enough, flu cases are also increasing. Everyone is advised to wear a high quality mask in public and avoid large  gatherings. 

Viruses that attack the lungs aren’t the only things making it harder to breathe. A new study published in the journal Science finds that “wildfires and meteorological conditions influence the co-occurrence of multiple harmful air pollutants including fine particulate matter and ground-level ozone. The study concludes that, “Our results suggest an increasing potential for co-occurring air pollution episodes in the western US with continued climate change. Read the paper at www.science.org

The recent rains provided a temporary reprieve from the windblown dust and ash of recent fires. It’s amazing how persistent that ash is. Anyone who lives near or in a burn zone, whether the massive Woolsey Fire or last year’s Palisades Fire is reminded of that every time the wind deposits another layer of gritty gray residue on windows, floors, furniture, and cars. 

Topanga received considerably more rain during last month’s deluge than surrounding areas. The Fernwood neighborhood recorded 16.65 inches of rain so far this season, The Woodland Hills side of the hill had a total of17.39 inches, while the coast received slightly less than 12 inches—still more than twice last year’s total. 

More rain may be on its way by the end of the month, but the forecast is dry for the next week or so. The December rain has already brought welcome renewal to the mountains, and it has generated a wave of new green growth in the Santa Monica Mountains, and many creeks are still running, a sound canyon residents have missed during the prolonged dry spell. A friend calls it “nature’s reset button.”

In that spirit of renewal here at TNT we are introducing a theme for the year: Changemakers. Over the next 12 months we will be featuring some of the people and things—local and global, large and small—that are making a difference. We’re starting with a look back at the life of the late journalist, novelist and screenwriter Joan Didion, who helped put California on the literary map, and whose courage in writing openly and honestly about previously taboo subjects like drugs, grief, loss, and mental health continues to influence the American discourse.

Also in this issue, historian Jimmy Morgan shares some thoughts on another American changemaker, singer songwriter and activist Bruce Springstein, while contributor Claire Chapman talks with the Wildflower Sisters—Claire and Lily Andrew—and their new film Max and Me. We also take a closer look at one of the first real wildflowers of the year:  the ubiquitous, pestiferous but beautiful oxalis (we know, it’s not a native, but it is one of our first harbingers of spring in Topanga).

The “Wolf Moon,” the first full moon of 2022, arrives on January 17. The old calendars are down, the new ones up and the resolutions made. The new year is fully underway.

Stay safe, be well. 

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