Sunday night in Wine Country was divine. Russ and I had spent the day putzing around the house and decided to have dinner out at Boon Fly just near the Napa/Sonoma County line. I was sporting my J.Jill quilted jacket (a gift from the company) as the evening had a chill to it. I felt cozy and warm. Little did I know that this jacket was going to be my security blanket for the rest of the week.
I’d worked on a blog post Sunday afternoon that was almost ready to go for Monday. I decided I’d finish it Monday morning before leaving for an out-of-town client appointment that would take me away for two days.
But when I got up early on Monday morning, there was no power, the house smelled smoky, and when I opened the door the smell of smoke was ten times worse. I had no idea what was going on and even now, these many days in, things keep changing all the time. State and local officials have given us a guarantee: things will get worse before they’ll get better.
Only now, with my computer, mouse, and keyboard in the same place, am I able to give you, dear friends, an update. I want you to know that Russ, Bella and I are safe. We are staying with friends in Mill Valley. Our family has been reunited and under the same roof since Wednesday. What I know for now is that the next two days will be particularly critical as the Diablo winds are moving back in. The danger is that embers can go anywhere to start new fires and the fires that are already raging can get worse. Sonoma itself is evacuated on the east side over by Lovall Valley Road and Castle Road. I know three people in that neighborhood.
Part of dealing with the ever-changing conditions is that the mind floats from being worried about one’s home but so quickly it moves to thinking about friends and clients and desperately hoping they are okay. You’ve met Sallie. She helped me help demonstrate for you how to build a beauty bundle. She fled in the middle of the night with her husband Rob and their parrot Chester when the fires started in Santa Rosa. Remarkably, her whole neighborhood (about 300 houses) went to ash except for five or so houses that were left standing. Her house is standing.
My cousin’s son Michael and family weren’t that lucky. They fled from their Santa Rosa home with the clothes on their backs and their home is destroyed.
We evacuated by choice. There isn’t a mandatory evacuation notice in place for our neighborhood however many people have left. The thing is, the air is so bad. On Wednesday my twin brother came up with masks for us all. My daughter Caitlin came up from San Francisco along with and her would-be brother-in-law (if he and Erin were married but no pressure) Mike. My daughter Erin was at the hospital with her dad who was having a surgical back procedure.
We spent about 60 – 90 minutes packing up four cars and one SUV with things I wouldn’t want to lose: Pictures, paintings, metal tables made by my artist friend, Carl Dern, my files, clothes/accessories/handbags, letters from Mother, Mother’s ashes (ironic, huh?) and her Bible, my button bracelets, my rosemaling art pieces that I bought with her in Minot, North Dakota at the Hostfest. Other things too, but I can’t think right now.
Hearing from family and friends
I’ve been so moved by the number of people who have contacted me through social media, texts, and emails to find out if we are okay. Your grace is amazing and comforting.
I’ve been in touch with my brother Kirk and his wife Wendy. They’re traveling in an RV and are in Texas right now. Kirk said, “I can be there in two days. Just give me the word.” I love his intentions but I wouldn’t want him breathing this air. “You don’t want to be near California,” I said.
I asked him yesterday how it feels being outside of the situation but knowing his family members are in it. He said, “It’s tense.” Good word!
Trying to find words
Words are hard to come by to describe what this feels like but when I hear a few, I’m so grateful. A client who’s invited Russ and I to their home for dinner tonight said their friend in Glen Ellen described himself as feeling exhausted yet restless. It’s so true. I feel exhausted, yet on alert; facing the situation head-on some of the time and some of the time I want to close my eyes and cover my ears. It’s too much to take in.
And then there are times when words don’t work at all.
Yesterday I went to Equator Coffee in downtown Mill Valley for coffee and a chance to do some morning writing, first time since Sunday.
I went to the coffee shop alone as Russ was still sleeping at our friend’s house. I was standing in line with several people ahead of me. My emotions were feeling pretty slippery. By the time the thirty-something person with warm brown eyes said, What would you like?, the tears started running down my cheeks. This was not eyes-filled-with-tears. This was waterfall crying. I couldn’t talk. I wanted somehow to explain why this sixty-something woman had lost control ordering coffee. “I’m from Sonoma,” I managed to say. Very gently she said, “I’m glad you’re here.” Her kindness was touching and the tears kept coming. With a shaky voice I said, “I’d like an Americano.”
This morning I went back to the coffee shop to have coffee and do my morning writing and I was a real pro. No tears, blending in with other morning people, people on the go or friends visiting with each other or moms or dads having breakfast with their young children. I was entertained by three little girls in their pink hoodies. “What is that that you’re eating?” I said. “These are doughnuts with sprinkles,” one of them said. There were colorful sprinkles attached to vanilla frosting on a fat doughnut. I was amazed they could get their little mouths over that thick dough with each bite. Watching them was healing. I was reminded that there will be ‘normal’ again, sometime. I soaked up all the ‘normal’ that was going on in the coffee shop and let it calm my nervous system.
While the condition of the fires are erratic so are the emotions.
Thank you for being you and supporting me during this scary time. Writing to you is one of my normals and it’s great to be experiencing this time with you!