Pulling Up Cooking

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.

Day 8 & 9: Thank You Fire Fighters! Especially Chief Shubin & Chief Bellach

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.”)

We are the red heart.

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…

Fires rage down the mountains behind Annadel. Stopping mere feet from our back property line and inches from the neighbors. All were saved thanks to Fire Fighters!

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.

Never have I cooked more happily than I have for friends and family. (PC: Sarah Deragon)

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.

Where I work… Back at it as of today: February 3, 2018.

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.

Gratitude doesn’t even begin to cover how much we THANK YOU Fire Fighters, 1st Responders, and everyone who wrote to us!


6 thoughts on “Pulling Up Cooking

  • I didn’t even know you had a blog?!?! I think you’re incredibly strong and you’ve been through a lot with the Montecito fires too. And the holidays etc…I honestly think artists all have times where they just need some space from creating on a surface. I never do well in January, it’s like I need a self imposed break. You’re creating even when you’re not painting, remember that. I just started painting last week, did a studio cleanup first too. My first painting was a disaster and I scraped it. It’s OK, it was my transition back into painting. I admire how well you’ve held up and how strong and inspiring you’ve been to all in Sonoma/Napa.

    • Isn’t that amazing? I totally hate my first paintings back and scrape them too!How funny. And YES, this is my blog. (Although I loathe the word “blog.” I like online essays or something…) Have you had a chance to read my other posts? You of all people might really love them — about how certain Artists approach food. I’ve found (& am still working ahead!) that there really can be a correlation! I’ve done Frida, Monet, Robert Townsend, Florine Stettheimer, and working to finish Nicole Strasburg before tackling O’Keeffe.

  • I’m glad you’re painting again friend. It’s not easy going through what you did. We were evacuated less than a month after we bought our home in crestline in 2007 due to the fires that burned up a bunch of lake arrowhead area that year. Having to stay with family with the dogs, this was before Oliver so we didn’t have that at least. But having to pick what is precious to you and take it with you , knowing uo uwont get to be allowd back so you have to pack as much in the car as possible,hoping that your house makes it, all hinging on the health and work of firefighters…it’s not easy at all!

  • Abigail, your words so excellently describe the way I am feeling. Our home didn’t burn or flood, yet we are close to several people who lost homes. I have been mired in details since the fire began (and evacuated for days), and totally involved in trying to do whatever I can for friends in need. Yesterday and today I am concentrating on trying to get my own house back in order, so that I can feel creative. It’s interesting that we are on the same trajectory!

    • It really is! I was talking to another artist friend up here too this past weekend who feels adrift as well. Ellen emphatically advised not to force the creativity. I’m trying to paint but find that zen-zone comes in starts still… Hate wasting the paint as it dries (it is SO hot up here! 🙁 But so it goes.) Hugs to you both!

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