It’s coming up on the year anniversary of the Thomas fire, then considered the worst fire in California’s history. And now on the eve of remembering our beautiful city, Ojai, and all that was lost, she is weeping for her neighboring cities that are burning. And crying for her northern California cities that are burning. This photo captured my aching heart and I needed to share. As the overwhelming destruction continues, we are hoping for containment, for the winds to stop, and for rain.
I wrote this a year ago, when my home, my entire city, was surrounded by fire.
I just want to cry to relieve this ache in my chest that feels like my heart will burst. The Thomas fires have devastated parts of my town, peoples’ lives, animals’ lives, and left us remaining in an unrelenting hill of toxic smoke. We evacuated for 5 days and upon returning are pretty much home bound with our HEPA filters running day and night. Masks don our faces when we dare to venture out into the ash falling snow. I’m fixated on facebook where reports are posted and networking occurs. It’s here during this time that we are experiencing the best of the human condition: the heroic firefighters working round the clock; the selfless people reaching out to strangers albeit neighbors in this small town to help in any way they can (giving money, clothes, food, opening their homes, etc.); acts of kindness large and small that leave me breathless. And we see some of the worst of the human condition: looting, employers firing their workers without cause, etc.
Last night I saw a woman post something on facebook in one of the network groups (there are many) that her husband lost his job and they have four children with nothing to give them for Christmas. She left her phone number. I phoned her, mentioned my name and said I’d like to give you some money for your children for Christmas. I told her we don’t have children and I’d like to adopt them for the holidays. She, her husband, and the four adorable young ones came to our home last night and we handed her an envelope and all of them chocolate bars we had in the house. The kids were quiet to begin with but by the end of the evening they were running around the entire house in circles, giggling and playing. Then the spontaneous hugs and kisses came. The littlest girl grabbed my legs in a hug before she left. I can still feel the warmth of that moment. I can still feel the love we shared with complete strangers who for a brief moment in time became family.
The fire still surrounds Ojai in parts and ash filled smoke lingers in the air as the flames move up the coast toward Santa Barbara. My heart still aches and I still want to cry for all of those impacted and suffering, despite their smiles, despite their incredible resilience, despite their best attempts to rise up in gratitude for being alive because underneath is the lurking impact of the trauma we all share.