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Tanya Starcevich Banner

Humor is a Funny Thing 

Blistering heat baked much of the West over Labor Day weekend. Temperatures at the beach reached an almost unprecedented 102 on Sunday morning at 11 a.m. Beach parking lots at Zuma and Westward filled to capacity by early afternoon on Labor Day, resulting in major traffic congestion on Pacific Coast Highway. 

On the Woodland Hills side of the Santa Monica Mountains, the temperature rose to 112 on Labor Day and stubbornly refused to drop past 90 at night.

Slightly cooler temperatures this week were a relief, despite being unpleasantly hot, but even 98 degrees seems a pleasant change after days of 105-plus. 

Residents of the Santa Monica Mountains are grappling with mandatory new water restrictions that prohibit all outdoor watering for 15 days, beginning Tuesday. The prohibition was implemented to allow the Metropolitan Water District to repair aging and damaged infrastructure, but the timing couldn’t be  worse for gardeners trying to cope with the fallout from a week of blistering high temperatures on top of prior drought restrictions. Water officials recommend keeping buckets in the kitchen and bathroom to put under the tap while waiting for hot water, but that isn’t going to go far for people with many plants to water.

There’s a chance relief could come from an unexpected source, but this might be a case of being careful what one wishes for. All eyes are on tropical cyclone Kay this week, and this massive storm system heads up the West Coast of Mexico.

Observers say this storm is closely following the track of the devastating 1976 hurricane Kathleen, that dumped as much as a foot of rain on some parts of California and Arizona, but this cyclone mercifully shows signs of running out of steam. With any luck, by the time this paper is in print, Kay will be just a remnant of her current ferocious self, although rain is potentially in the forecast for the weekend—just not 12 inches of it at one time, we hope. And if nothing else, the aftermath of Kay will be welcomed by surfers as a potential source of big waves.  

Hurricanes are unusual in our part of the Pacific. The winds and currents tend to move them west, where they dissipate, running out of energy and the warm water that powers them, but things change in early autumn. Tropical cyclones like Kay form in the warm water off the coast of Mexico, where the shoreline can direct them up the coast. With a boost from a trough of low pressure, that air mass can end up hitting California. It’s rare, but with warming ocean temperatures, it could become more common. As an added uncomfortable reminder of the impacts of climate change, there are currently four tropical storms on the edge of becoming hurricanes, Kay is the little sister of massive tropical systems forming in the Atlantic and Indian oceans. 

There are other changes underway this season. New legislation is being signed into law in California, as the Legislature closes out its season in a frenzy of activity. Political campaigns, large and small, are amping up as the November midterms approach. All of those things will impact aspects of our lives, some may even have the potential to accelerate or slow climate change—who says you can’t do anything about the weather? 

Here at TNT many of us are grappling with another sea change: the challenges that come when loved ones have died or are downsizing and moving on from family homes to a place with more care and fewer memories. In this issue we’ll be sharing our thoughts on what TNT contributor Saori Wall calls “how we leave.”

There’s an ancient Egyptian hymn known as the “Song of the Harper”, c. 2613 BCE, that comes to mind: 

All who come into being as flesh pass on, and have since God walked the earth, 

And young blood mounts to their places.

The busy fluttering souls and bright transfigured spirits who people the world below, 

And those who shine in the stars with Orion,

They built their mansions, they built their tombs, and all men rest in the grave.

So set your home well in the sacred land that your good name last because of it.

Care for your works in the realm under God that your seat in the West be splendid.

The waters flow north, the wind blows south, and each man goes to his hour.

So, seize the day! Hold holiday! Be unwearied, unceasing, alive, you and your own true love; 

Let not your heart be troubled during your sojourn on earth, but seize the day as it passes!

This eloquent translation is by J.L. Foster, from his book Echoes of Egyptian Voices. I read it at my father’s memorial in 2017. It’s been in my thoughts as I finally work to clear out the last of his things. These are words that still resonate and have the power to bring comfort nearly five milenna after they were written. 

Stay safe, be well, and seize the day as it passes!

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