The Fires still rattle me. I haven’t written or painted since that first Monday night in October. We fled those 50-80 mph roaring winds. Pausing only in blackened intersections as we drove west, west, west. Watching sprinting flames devour whole ridge tops and valley floors in our sweet corner of the wine world.
Dean came home next day to save our farm. Hot-wiring the espresso machine and prepping Annadel with Farm Manager Chichio and neighbor “Big Swede.” Kids and I bunked with family and bounced around northern California for several weeks. So many of you wrote overwhelming notes of kindness, sympathy, and encouragement as our towns burned. Know it meant the world to us. Even now, I feel familiar tears of gratitude prick my eyelids as I write. So thankful the winds calmed so firefighters could save us when after nine days of fire? Winds returned, whipping flames black up but fighters doused them mere feet from our back property line.
Anni, Coltrane, and I returned home in a sort of suspension. We remain there in a “new normal.” Life continues beautifully on one hand: I’ve never been happier to cook and live in Sonoma County. Then sadness sharpens… Like when Ms. Jill talks of something to share with Coltrane’s Preschool class… only to stop short in tears; it’s gone. Or decorating the Christmas Tree when Lauren dropped by with his little man cub, Miles, who asked his Papa “when can we decorate?” Our first night home and as the sun set, I watched for twinkling street lights glow off in the Santa Rosa hills — but seeing dark swaths of nothing instead (that still gets me). Our first drive to school (and every one since) counting chimneys left on streets of melted homes (it’s now a game of “I Spy.”)
Some 46 real life friends, teachers, neighbors, and colleagues lost their homes. Each of them lovely, wonderful people. It’s heartbreaking, to say the least. And yet we all survived. Our town and region now woven closer than ever. Collectively thankful for the grace of God, tireless First Responders, and Lady Luck. Selfishly, I am grateful that Annadel stands. Even if just so we could feed and welcome evacuees and family from the Santa Barbara fires come December? Or comfort mudslide sadness and death in January? I don’t know. It’s still so much…
I think of myself as a generally well-adjusted, strong woman. Much of our region is cleaning and rebuilding! Baby grass and new flowers bloom! So I didn’t expect to still half live in this foggy place some four months later. I mean, we didn’t even lose our Home! Most nightmares have stopped. Our community works to recalibrate. School is back. Kids are laughing. Hugs freely given to the littles who are still moving around until their homes repaired or rebuilt. I’m even starting a Girl Scouts Troop with two mamas! (I’m so excited!) Cooking and happily learning all sorts of allergy free recipes. By all accounts, our routines hum back along.
It dawned on me this morning, that I need now to be braver than I have been. To choose to exit my fog. Because my Studio door has been remained closed since the Fire. See, I got back to cooking, menu planning, Mommy-ing, Wife-ing, and Friend-ing… But somehow, I’ve been at a total loss on what to write. What to paint. What to post. My Gallerist friend, Ellen Easton told me last month, “don’t rush it.” So I didn’t.
Until this morning. I poured myself a giant sparkling water and forced that door open. I scrubbed my Studio. I layed out a new painting (ignoring that it sort of sucks still but I can fix that). Organized my food history shelves to make room for Girl Scouts materials. And write this anxious, sad, relief sh*t OUT of me.
I needed to remember that I believe deeply Happiness is Always a Choice.
It’s been a long four months. But my door is open again. And I bet this Spring will be beautiful. God willing.