“What a week!” my Santa Rosa son Sam said.
In the dark about 2 a.m. on Monday, October 9, he and his wife Sandra were wakened by shouting, “Evacuate now!” They grabbed their passports, other documents, and loaded the two horses in to the trailer. Sandra drove the truck/trailer while Sam drove the dog in the car as they fled to the huge open parking lot of the Sonoma County Fair Grounds.
About nine o’clock that morning, in the main exhibition hall, they found me among evacuees from Spring Lake Village. I count that as the miracle of the day. Not that they found me, but that we were all at the Fair Grounds. Later, after a pasta and salad lunch, brought by Community Services, I looked up to see Sam’s brother John and his wife Holly striding toward me. We drove carefully back to SLV to retrieve my car and gather address books, the laptop, some clothing, vitamins, and my hair-dryer, and headed to their home in Los Altos, two hours south of Santa Rosa.
Sam and Sandra had taken the horses and Bubba the dog out to friends who board horses on their ranch near Sebastopol and slept three nights there.
More than 1,700 homes are lost and 17,000 acres are scorched. It is a tragedy beyond comprehension.
During the week of October 9 to 16, the daily Facebook updates from Spring Lake Village continued and I clung to the human interest stories. One was of the 11 cats still wandering around SLV. They were being fed, watered, and petted. Dennis, head of the maintenance department, had taken a pet bird, Felix, in his cage, with his cover, home with him.
During the early part of the week, I noticed I couldn’t get warm. My hands, feet, and ears were cold even though I had plenty of clothing during the days and warm blankets at night. You know how older people are often cold and keep their homes too hot. I wondered if that was happening to me. Then, later in the week, I realized the weather had not changed. but I was warm again. “Must be that you were in some shock, Donna,” a friend surmised. Maybe so.
I was sleepy every afternoon and hardly awake enough in the evening to put on my pajamas. But in bed, I was restless, unable to sleep well. By Saturday, I was back to alert days and drowsing nights. What was that all about?
A smart friend asked me for details of the fire. I talked and talked and talked and finally apologized for rattling on so long. She shook her finger at me, “You must talk about this. This is a trauma that you must heal and talking about it is an important way to do that.” I asked if that could explain the veterans of WWII having always to talk abut The War. “Absolutely!” she said. So whenever anyone has asked, I have talked about the fire, the smoke, the uprooting of 450 elderly residents of Spring Lake Village, some in their bathrobes.
After a few days in Los Altos, I drove over the hill to Aptos in Santa Cruz County, to visit son Matt, his wife Joan, and their James. Each morning I assessed the clarity of the sky and found that the color blue had never been more lovely. No wonder the Virgin Mary wears a blue gown. The air quality in Sonoma County is being compared to that of Beijing, the worst in the world.
At noon one day, I met Joanie to have lunch and to talk about how the Santa Rosa fires have affected us. Joanie is a friend whom I met when I lived at Friends House. She and I have traveled to Cuba and Iceland together. We are dependable friends. When I saw her crossing the street to meet me, my heart swelled. My 92-year-old friend with her handsome cane and brightly flowered vest saw me and smiled her wide smile and we talked for three hours! Mostly we appreciated our good fortune in the midst of devastation: our residences are still standing and we have loving supportive families. We compared our evacuation experiences, recent sleep patterns, tensions, blood pressures, and emotional states. We both admitted feeling guilty, but decided “we can’t help anyone right now but we will when we return.” I came away from that conversation feeling much more grounded.
Yesterday Sam. called. When he asked what I was doing, I told him I was sitting in my car in the parking lot next to Tonic Salon in downtown Santa Cruz and, “I just got my hair cut.”
“Me, too,” he chuckled. “I guess things are getting back to normal.”