Living here, I’m used to being on the opposite end of the spectrum from my old haunts and old ways in California.
Running hot water used to feel normal, now it feels like liquid gold.
When taking a walk I used to watch out for other humans, now I keep a watch for bears and I’m surprised if I run into another living soul.
Some days, the entirety of my waking hours are taken up by chores that in my old life never even existed.
Just keeping a fire going when it’s 30 below can be a full-time job, akin to, I assume, midnight feedings (and 2am and 5am and…).
It’s a place where for days I forget how different my old life and my new life are, for weeks I forget that it used to be strange to me to haul every bit of water I use by hand. Strange to even know how much water this aquababy has used. And then, when the last bucket runs dry and it’s 8pm and I’m tired and hungry and the last thing I want to do is to suit up to spend 30 minutes walking 40lb. buckets up and down our Ramp of Doom until we are re-supplied, then, I remember.
When it’s 40 degrees here at night in the Summer and 80 at night in California, I remember.
When it’s slush is the Spring without a flower to be found and lush as can be in California, I remember.
I remember my old life and I feel grateful for the contrast because the difference is what makes me grateful.
The contrast was always one I appreciated, until recently.
This last week, the town in which I was born went up in flames. In this frantic Fall of natural disasters, it seemed that there couldn’t possibly be more devastation to come. But, come it did.
Fire after fire tore through even the most industrial of locations and raged in wind-driven fervor through the counties where I spent my first 28 years. My Mom was close to being evacuated and had to sleep in shifts (alternating with her neighbors) in order to make sure she would hear the notice to get out. People I know and love had to run for their lives. People I love lost everything.
And here I sit, in a place where fire is constantly on my mind, a place where I’ve joined the fire department to ensure I know how to help. A place where we all worry about fire, we all watch for smoke and suddenly, it has struck in the place I least expected it and I am nowhere near it to help.
I never expected it.
And so it continued. In the week of the worst fires my area in California has ever seen, in a week where I could barely breathe because of the panic I felt, the first snow of the season fell.
Fire and Ice.
As I walk outside I breathe the fresh air of an area relatively untouched.
As my friends and family in California go outside, they don masks to protect their sweet lungs from the deep, heavy smoke.
As I look out my window I see a flurry of fat snowflakes.
As they look out the window they see the falling of ash.
As I build a fire to stay warm, they fight one to stay alive.
The contrast has never felt stronger or stranger and being so far away has never made me feel so out of control. But, with two tickets already purchased months ago, I wait.
In two weeks, we leave for California. The tidying here has already begun (and failed some too, foiled by the 6 inches of snowfall) and the three-day process of leaving will be here before we know it. And although it will be heartbreaking to witness such devastation, I am eager to get to my first home and become part of the amazing relief efforts that started on the dawn of day 1.
The firefighters and emergency response have been tirelessly working around the clock, taking mere cat-naps to make it through and the outpouring of love and help offered up by the community has been amazing. People have collected blankets, food, found others housing, taken in families, rescued animals, distributed face masks, offered pampering in a time of panic via massage and haircuts and counseling. While it’s been absolutely awful to read story after story of loss, it’s been uplifting to see the love that spills over this pain. I’ve seen countless pictures of a poster that’s been put up all over the county that reads:
The love in the air is thicker than the smoke.
It will be good to be a part of that love.
Stay safe all.
California, I’m coming home.
If you would like to help relief efforts in California the Redwood Credit Union is a wonderful local branch collecting funds for neighboring counties in the Bay Area. I’ve been told it’s the best place to donate to and 100% of the funds go to relief efforts.
Anything and everything helps. Thank you.