Firefighting agencies say there are over 1,000 wildfires burning in California right now. About 800 of them started last Saturday and Sunday as dry thunderstorms swept over the northern two-thirds of the state. We're a long way from any fires here. There's a big one burning about 125 miles north of us, near Clear Lake, and two very large blazes in the mountains that rise up from the Big Sur coast--maybe 150 miles south-southwest of here. Still, the smoke is everywhere. Morning, noon, and evening, the sun shines with a filtered light, and the acrid smell of scorched brush hangs in the air. The picture above is out in front of our house at 7 a.m., after the sun had been up nearly two hours. I've been here long enough that I can spin graybeard yarns, but still it's true: There's been nothing quite like this here--this pall of smoke that just hangs here day after day--in the 30-some years I've lived here.