Friends, dear friends. I started this blog post on Saturday in the beautiful kitchen of our friends Joan and Floyd in Mill Valley. I’m finishing it Monday night from my beautiful Danish desk in my home office in Sonoma. We’re home.
Just two days ago Russ and I woke up in Mill Valley doing what we’ve done every morning: study the fire map to see how close the fires are to Sonoma and hoping for evidence of containment of the fires all around us. On Saturday Sonoma was in the greatest danger. Fires had come down from the hills and were heading into the east side of town, coming to within five blocks of the Sonoma Plaza. How do you even wrap your head around that?
The answer came to me today in the most lovely email from Anne of Kyneton, Victoria Australia. (Thank you, Anne!) I’ve read it aloud to several people. She speaks of her own experiences living through bushfires. She says, “I know how it feels to watch the horizon from safety wondering what’s left of home and community.” I don’t think I’ve heard a more perfect sentence to encapsulate that feeling of waiting, watching and wondering.
Getting out of the house to think and to write
When I left Joan and Floyd’s house Saturday morning to go down to Equator, my adopted coffee shop in the center of Mill Valley, I already knew that the fires had taken homes on streets where friends live. The windy conditions and the direction they were coming from were not in Sonoma’s favor. Helpless, all I could do while waiting and watching was what I do most mornings from home: have an Americano and write my three pages of gobbledygook. By the end of those three pages I generally feel calmer and have the strength to meet the day. I certainly needed more calm and strength.
They make delicious food at Equator. At home I have steamed vegetables and some protein for breakfast, like eggs or a bison burger. I ordered their Farm Board.
I sat at the long group table that was empty. Soon two friendly faces sat down near me: Luke, who turned four along with his twin sister Kate on September 10th, and his dad.
Luke was eating that donut with sprinkles I was telling you about in my last post about leaving Sonoma during the fires. I wanted to show you those sprinkles so I asked Luke’s dad if I could take a picture. Soon we were sharing twin stories and I showed them a picture of my twin brother. When Luke’s mom arrived (who has an identical twin sister) we talked about that unique experience of being a twin. These people were so kind! So sweet! So just what I needed!
And then, a smiling, familiar face appeared five inches from mine. I leaped from my stool and into the arms of my oncologist, Dr. Jennifer Lucas. We have quite the love affair. Hugs, kisses and I love you’s are expressed at every appointment. As you know, we’ve had a project on our hands recently. We talked about the fires and the fear. She said, “Brenda, you’ve faced tough stuff. You’ll face this, too. You’ve got the strength.”
When my new friends and my old friend left, I was sitting there in a bit of a daze. I’d met the owner, Helen. She was so attentive. We’d already learned a few things about each other. “I can fill that cup for you if you want,” she said. “Really? Do you mind of I just hang out for a while longer?” “Not at all,” she said. “And if you want some quiet time, head up to the library. It’s peaceful there.”
The music being played kept me glued to my seat. I was listening to all my favorites; songs by Mark Knopfler, Phil Collins, Marvin Gaye, the Cars. And then came one of my all time favorites: Steve Winwood singing Higher Love. I used to play this song in my car, on a cassette, really really loud, while singing along at the top of my lungs. Let me share some of the lyrics with you.
Think about it, there must be higher love
Down in the heart or hidden in the stars above
Without it, life is a wasted time
Look inside your heart, I’ll look inside mine
Things look so bad everywhere
In this whole world, what is fair?
We walk blind and we try to see
Falling behind in what could be
Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love
Bring me a higher love
Where’s that higher love I keep thinking of?
Worlds are turning and we’re just hanging on
Facing our fear and standing out there alone
A yearning, and it’s real to me
There must be someone who’s feeling for me
There have been many “someones” who are feeling for me and for all of us who live here in the Wine Country. The shared words of concern, love, and friendship through these trials has been overwhelming. That higher love Steve Winwood sings about is right here in these counties and all around us.
I walked outside and took a stroll around town. I spotted this poster stapled to a post. In my home away from home, this town was saying what I was feeling. Love is all around. As my friend Joan said when she saw it, “Amen, Sister!”
I have immense gratitude for Joan and Floyd who invited us into their home and cared for us so gently. I thank everyone who offered their homes to us. Amazing! Thank you to Richard and Veronica who invited us for a lovely home cooked dinner in their Mill Valley home. It was a perfect setting for an evening of storytelling, laughs and tears. Thank you to my incredible family who dropped everything to help us get out of town with the things that were irreplaceable. Thank you to the world wide web of love that has nourished me; that’s you and you and you and you and you. You know who you are!
I’m forever grateful and only hope that I could be as great a friend to you in your time of need. Thank you!