Dec 07 2017

Fire

 

Hello everyone. Thought I'd check in. Let you know what my life has been like the past few days.

My apologies that the podcast is late. I'm planning on having my podcast back on schedule next week. Thanks for your patience.

I was in the middle of editing it Monday night and the power went out. At first I was just irritated that the editing I had done to the already recorded podcast might be lost. Then I went outside and saw everyone had no power in my neighborhood. Totally dark. I live on a rise on a 12 acre horse ranch with a nice view. Only lights I could see were from cars on the highway some distance away. That’s highly unusual.

Even more concerning was the color of the beautiful full moon. Orange. Very slight smell of smoke. Went back inside, got online and our adventure began.

When you are near a burning wild fire, especially a wind-fueled, out of control fire that is threatening your home and everything in it, things happen.

Adrenaline gets going, creating stress. Well of course I was stressed out. The fire was out of control, and the red glow was visible.

Your focus narrows. I, my daughter and her boyfriend worked as a team, checking fire maps, sharing information, and beginning to think about packing. Our focus was everything we could find about the fire, contacting friends and giving a head's up to anyone we could think of who might be sleeping through the chaos.

In between periods of information retrieval, we began to pack, just in case. (That turned out to be a good idea.) Just going through the exercise of considering what you might take or leave can put you through some changes.

About one in the morning the kids (as I call them) went to sleep and I stayed awake, downing a few chocolate covered espresso beans to keep going.

Found a link to the live audio feed for the fire department. Listening to that is an experience all in itself. I was initially impressed how calm all these people sound, because I certainly didn't feel calm. I heard fire crews coming in from other places and reporting in, being assigned to different hot spots. I heard calm voices asking for more resources, structures being lost. I heard reports of no gas for fires trucks and at one point, no water in some of the hydrants. Doing their job. Assigning tasks, specifying locations, prioritizing. I don’t think I have ever gotten a real sense of how involved it can get, coordinating a fire fighting operation this huge. Complicated, of course, by all the other fires in the LA area at this time.

My phone began to lose charge, so I went out to my car and plugged it in. I felt unwilling to disconnect from the live fire audio feed, so I put on a warm jacket and stayed in the car. It was a cold night, and the fear in my body wasn’t allowing my usual level of circulation. The winds made it too dangerous for air support, they were expecting to start at first light, and I was waiting for that light anxiously. Meanwhile parts of Ventura were burning. Photos of fires at night lose perspective and the fire seems to look much closer than it actually is, much brighter and much scarier, probably fueled by fear of the viewer.

I got too cold, so I went inside, filled up my deep tub with hot water and sunk myself into it. I needed to get warm, and the hot water soothed my nerves. Once warmed up, I headed back out to the car to charge my phone again. I fell asleep for just a bit, and it was dawn when I awoke.

I headed in the house and woke one of the kids, giving them the update and went off to sleep. That was around 5 in the morning. Next thing I knew it was 8:44am. Grabbed my phone and saw an 8am text from my neighbor that we had evacuation orders.

We packed, hurriedly. My laptop and PC (what can I say, I am mid-transition from old PC to new laptop), important papers and journals topped the list, along with toiletries and clothes for a few days. I added some jewelry, but that was pretty much it, I was surprised to find. The only sex toy I took with me was the Le Wand (Alicia is going to be so flattered). No harnesses, no dildos, nothing like that. I even left my massage table behind, purposefully. All those items are replaceable, I thought. I had fantasies of the list my insurance agent was going to get for my renter’s insurance claim if it came to that. An eye-opening list, to be sure.

Perhaps I refused to pack all that stuff because I was in denial we might actually lose our home, and everything in it. Sort of a bizarre and illogical touchstone of sorts – if I don’t pack all the stuff, then it can’t burn…right? Interesting the choices one makes under stress.

I’d realized the night before that a big box of my journals dating back to when I was around 14 years old were in the garage, which was inaccessible because we didn’t have power, and the garage door is automatic. I know there’s supposed to be an override key, but who knows where that was – never got one when we moved in some years ago.

So when the power came back on while we were packing that next morning, I jumped into action, grabbed the remote and went flying out the door, successfully opening it and grabbing my journals. That felt good.

Before heading out, we took a few pictures (that’s one of them, above) and headed out at 10am with our 2 dogs and 3 cats.

The beginning of the trip to Santa Barbara was filled with far too many vistas of glowing ridges, (above) looking back towards home. They seemed to go on much farther than I imagined they possibly could have.

We arrived in SB at a friend’s home, who graciously took us and our critters in.

Step one, safe from the fire, accomplished.

And yet we could not disconnect. We felt a compulsion to stay apprised of the situation, keep talking to friends and just stay connected. I experienced that so intensely. The narrowing of my focus was not a choice, it just…was.Laptops and phones were indispensable and constantly in use. We shared current fire information, and friends we heard from. Sure, safe in Santa Barbara, but still very connected and helping with road closures, evacuation orders and locations of evacuation centers for our friends on Facebook and Tumbler. Little by little, we heard news coming in about those who had lost their homes, and hearing their heartbreak was difficult.

Until finally, my eyes wouldn’t stay open anymore. I slept hard on a comfortable couch with my dogs at my feet while the kids were ensconced in a guest cottage with the 3 cats.

I felt…stunned. Everything inside me pulled in a bit, and I was all in my head about monitoring the details and the communications, as if I monitored everything closely enough, all would be okay.

That next morning, I discovered that although I wanted to write about this, I didn’t have the band width, the focus. So many friends, fans, and family were all checking in to make sure I was okay, and then checking back for updates.

Were we safe?

Was the ranch safe?

Heartening, to hear from everyone, but time consuming. I started cutting and pasting my updates.

Because my focus on the fire was still so singular, normal communications felt almost inappropriate; this fire was my whole world. Sure, life goes on for everyone else, but I had no space to respond to anything not related to the fire. I even felt a bit of resentment that normal communications would even be sent to me. DIDN’T THEY REALIZE….? Upon reflection, the egocentricity of my attitude was a little silly, but regular emails still felt strange.

The fire calmed down in our area that day, and we decided to make a trip down there to get the few things we missed. My grabs were mostly for the dogs; their vitamins and doggie beds. It was great to see the ranch still there, the power on and everything relatively calm, though high winds were predicted in the following days.

We got a better idea of the scope of the fire during that trip, because it was already dark. Traveling the freeway from Santa Barbara to Ventura, we saw many active fire spots glowing red, fire leaping into the air, in the mountains off the coast. These areas were where no structures existed, and the steepness of the terrain prevented any firefighting. So crews were monitoring the boundaries; freeways and highways. There was one spot we drove past where it was burning right down to the freeway. The mountainside in flames and heat through the windows of the truck felt rather apocalyptic.

Back to the house we were staying at in Santa Barbara, where we ate comfort food and watched a bit of Star Trek Next Generation. But it was still difficult to disconnect, as now the fire started spreading. Not towards the ranch, but up the coast and down the hills towards the small town of Ojai 15 miles outside of Ventura.

That was last night. The herculean efforts of firefighters managed to stave off the flames and save almost all the structures. They are still doing that today, but more up into the outlying areas. They are doing controlled burns in advance of the fire when they have the chance, to deprive the fire of fuel. Still some wind advisories tomorrow, with Saturday now projected as the day we will be able to return home. All it takes is one change of direction of the wind and one ember to change everything. Residents are being asked to wait until then to head home.

I have not seen the devastation of the fire, yet. It was dark last night. I know when I do return home, it will be with some intense feels for the land, the wild animals, the devastation, all the loss.

As of this writing, there are over 2,500 fire personnel helping to fight this fire. 588 fire engines (Montana, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon), 32 fire crews, 12 helicopters, 26 dozers and 7 water trucks. 13 state and federal agencies are cooperating in this effort. The fire has burned 115,000 acres and is only 5% contained.

In the next 24 hours, it is very likely that I will be able to return home, and that I will have a home to return to, thanks to the efforts of all of these people.

Ventura nearly lost their city hall. Here's a before pic.

And here's one after the fire.

Weariness. It’s been a tough few days.

Gratitude. For the efforts of all first responders and supporting personnel.

Resolve. To get through this with grace, generosity and optimism.

Revelation. I don’t really need most of the shit I have. I'm mentally and emotionally preparing to do a big clean out when I return home. Time to get the things I don’t need/use back into circulation again.

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4 comments

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  1. Hope your house was spared!

    1. It was indeed. Whew!!!

  2. Scary experience. We’re glad you’re safe and didn’t lose much. California has really been hit these past few years – prayers for you all down there.

    1. Thank for your prayers. 🙂

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