Celebrate Rosh Hashanah During the Bobcat Wildfire (9/19/2020)

We lived in the picturesque Altadena on the edge of the Angeles Forest National Park. A few days ago, it presented a scene like the “end of the world”, shrouded in terrifying orange color. The sun saturated Altadena was so dark, the APOCALYPSE was real. Besieged in the blazing California bobcat wildfire for more than ten days, I was very panicky while watching news updates while packing. The outdoor was very smoggy, the readings on “AirNow.gov” for Altadena has been over 150: VERY UNHEALTHY!

Scenes from our backyard

To me, Monday (9/14) gave me the most hair-raising experience. I almost stayed up all night, watching the thrilling scenes of more than 500 firefighters rescuing the famous Mount Wilson Observatory established in 1904 on Twitter. Only 500 feet away from flames.

The Mount Wilson Observatory (MWO) is an astronomical observatory in Los Angeles County, California, United States. The MWO is located on Mount Wilson, a 1,740-metre (5,710-foot) peak in the San Gabriel Mountains near Pasadena, northeast of Los Angeles.

Due to the inversion layer that traps smog over Los Angeles, Mount Wilson has steadier air than any other location in North America, making it ideal for astronomy and in particular for interferometry.[1] The increasing light pollution due to the growth of greater Los Angeles has limited the ability of the observatory to engage in deep space astronomy, but it remains a productive center, with the CHARA Array continuing important stellar research.

The observatory has a telescope with a diameter of 2.5 meters (100 inches) and a telescope with a diameter of 1.5 meters (60 inches), and a solar telescope with a height of 150 feet. In 1969, to commemorate the American astronomer Haier, Mount Wilson Observatory and Mount Palomar Observatory merged to become Haier Observatory. The Mount Wilson Observatory is currently managed jointly by the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Southern California. In addition, Georgia State University’s High Resolution Astronomy Center (CHARA) is also located here. It is also the signal transmission site of many television stations, radio stations and various network stations in Los Angeles.

(from Wikipedia)
I hike Gigi everyday, you can see downtown Los Angeles, in a good day, you can see Pacific Ocean.

Hats off to the brave firefighters, you are our heroes and role models! 💐💐💐👍👍👍

Our golden retriever dog Gigi has no sense of this apocalyptic scene. Every morning, as always, she was panting with excitement, “ready to go” waiting at the back door, can’t wait to listen to the sound of me holding the key, ready for our routine “morning exercises”. I heard from my neighbor the other day that the hardware store near our house was selling N-95 masks. I immediately bought 10 of them. Wearing an industrial mask, I took Gigi out walking. I met several dog-walking neighbors on the street, we exchanged information and comfort each other. The chayotes are running everywhere, Gigi was very excited and chasing them…

I remember someone said: “The reason why people live in California is because we have beautiful weather, beautiful mountains and beautiful valleys. Unfortunately, these are the factors that make it easy to catch fire. “Altedena’s winding streets, charming hills and lush vegetations attract people to choose living somewhat secluded bucolic area to avoid the hectic urban living.

Altadena is bucolic.

For 3 days, I had been trying to have a clear mind to think logically. I’m proud that I’ve finished packing 10 boxes, ready to evacuate at any time. Bill and my philosophy of life is: You can take money with you, life is above everything else. We have experienced many such emergencies, whether it is an earthquake or fire, I was growing in the Communist China, any personal properties was confiscated, a downright proletarian. We love California, no matter what, and we won’t leave California.

While Bill and Gigi were taking nap, I was nervously packing.

The wind is doing our favor, at least, we’re having sunshine came through, not like eerie environment days ago. However, we’re not out of woods yet, still on the warning list of evacuation. This week happens to be Jewish Rosh Hanahsha, and I’m inspired to write a food blog. I found that the best medicine for anxiety is “TO BE CREATIVE” to convert all the negativities into creative forces.

Bill is Jewish, and many of our friends are Jewish. They are super intelligent, I’m leaning so much from being friends with them. For Bill and me, cooking is our penchant, therefore our house is always full of friends. During this pandemic, we’ve been obeying the social distancing rule, but have not missed holiday celebrations since March. I love America because it’s multiracial country, we’re benefited to have more celebrations of native and all ethnic holidays. It’s international! Just following the calendar of all festivals, and take all kinds of opportunities to improve my cooking skills. Through festivals, l’ve learned various cultural heritages.

Bill was a little Jewish boy.

Bill inherited a set of hand-painted white rose and gild rims china which brings him a lot of childhood memories. I use this set of porcelain on all Jewish holidays in our home. The items bequeathed from the ancestors are the most precious gifts.

Rosh Hashanah, originated from Hebrew, meaning the beginning of the year. It is the New Year for people, animals and legal documents. Since the Hebrew calendar is the ecclesiastical year.calendar just like the Chinese lunar New Year, the days of Rosh Hashanah are different every year. Rosh Hashanah in 2020 is this Saturday: September 19th.

The photos was taken last year’s Hanukkah

On the occasion of Rosh Hashanah, the Jews will blow the Shofar. The ancient tone symbolizes that God has forgiven the Jews of their sins. People will throw stones or bread crumbs into running water to symbolize abandonment of sins. The Jews are reborn spiritually and welcome the new year.

I’ve finished the last movement of my summer composition Episodes during the Plagued Summer (for flute and piano), the 7th movement is about “Jewish New Year”:

Joan Huang: Episodes during the Plagued Summer (for flute and piano) No. 7 Rosh Hashanah

First page of 7th movement, celebrating “Rosh Hashanah”
Joan Huang: Episodes During the Plagued Summer

The following video introduces the food of Rosh Hashanah:

The custom of Rosh Hashanah is kind of similar as he custom of the Chinese New Year: it is somewhat symbolic. During Rosh Hashanah, people eat spiral challah, honey-dipped apples, fish heads and pomegranates, which symbolize sweetness and a smooth cycle of the year. Just like the Chinese New Year, the whole family gathers together to enjoy the New Year’s dinner. People will exchange New Year’s cards and New Year gifts to show good luck.

Apricot and Raspberry Tart

Misfortunes never come singly in the Gengzi Year (every 60 years in circle), that is the year of 2020. There is a Chinese superstitious saying: Gengzi Year is always eventful and disastrous.  Somehow that’s true: we are facing all sorts of unprecedented catastrophes politically, humanitarianly, psychologically from everywhere.  During the epidemic, the mountain fires near our home made it worse. I tried in my best to eliminate all negative factors. Good life should be cherished, festivities should be celebrated. Pomegranate is also one kind of fruit of “Rosh Hashanah” because pomegranate is full of seeds, eating pomegranate also symbolizes abundance. The pomegranate tree in the garden is full of fruits, and all the fruits show gem-like flesh. They remind me a popular children’s song Pomegranate Tree Blooming Red Flowers composed by my mother when I was a child in Shanghai.

All our bags are packed and placed at the back door, ready to evacuate. In any case, my brother’s family lives nearby, and many friends also offered to help. We’re very blessed that we have family nearby and very grateful to our friends who offered to help, which definitely give me a certain sense of “security”.

Suitcases ready to be moved at the back entrance.

The size of Bobcat Fire is huge, growing to more than 60,500 acres at this point. Under the circumstance of “unpredictable weather”, I’m trying not be pessimistic. Cooking is always the best way for me to adjust my mentality. This year our “Rosh Hashanah” menu is randomly and hurriedly chosen from https://www.chabad.org

  1. Round Raisin Challah with Sweet Crumb Topping

2. Fennel Citrus Salad

3. Miriam’s Melt-in-Your-Mouth Rosh Hashanah Brisket

4. Braised Rainbow Carrots with Tahini-Dill Sauce”Rainbow” carrots mixed with sesame sauce:

5. Sweet Brown Rice Kugel

I hope “Rosh Hashanah” will bring us “good luck”: drive away the Covid-19 virus, extinguish wildfires. Festivals and delicious food are always memorable…

Just returned from shopping at “Bristol Farm” and getting ready to cook the festival dinner. L’shanah Tovah! Happy New Year!

Just got the sad news that, on Rosh Hashanah, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed away.  She was a fierce fighter for equality.  Everything she did deeply touched me.  I loved the movie RGB, she had a lot of sense of humors.  On this Jewish holiday, we are mourning her passing, RIP, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  Her fight for equality will go on…

Published by Joan Huang

I'm a freelance composer living in bucolic Altadena, the suburb of Los Angeles. Besides music making, I love cooking, drinking wines with friends, gardening, hiking and traveling.

One thought on “Celebrate Rosh Hashanah During the Bobcat Wildfire (9/19/2020)

  1. Thank you, Joan, for this uplifting reporting of our past 2 weeks! Bill and I wish you and Bill a happy and healthy new year! You are a ray of golden sunshine in our neighborhood and I feel fortunate to call you friend!


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