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Dawn Patrol...

Just back from Lake Tahoe and out with the dog on dawn patrol. The sun rises over the Diablo Valley at 5:52, blood-red, obscured by the smoke from the wildfires. The entire valley looks like... Beijing, and it smells as though the most enormous piece of toast in all the world has just met its maker.

Closer to home--in the thicket where the spring lies a fifth of a mile from home--there is quite a party going on this morning: four crows are harassing a red-tailed hawk up above, while six turkeys gobble in the trees. Two does with their fawns crash through the thicket wanting to put more distance between themselves and the dog. A small grey fox scurries across the road in the dawn, also anxious to put more distance between itself and the Labrador.

But the striped skunk does not. It waddles up the hill from the spring out of the blackberry thicket onto the road, and looks at us from twenty yards away. God! It's eyesight must be absolutely awful!

It raises its tail...