In Search of Equilibrium

front porch with pumpkins

Welcome to our front porch. There’s a beautifully embroidered welcome sign, a gift from Marlene, and a trio of home-grown pumpkins

It’s hard to comprehend the bleakest October in recent memory. By day I’m trying to regain my equilibrium.  At night, though, my body betrays me. I wake with my hands closed tightly into fists and I have to remind myself to breathe. It’s been surreal.

Historically speaking, October is my favorite month. It starts with my birthday and ends with Halloween, with lots of playfulness in between.

This year my birthday dawned October 2nd with devastating news out of Las Vegas. Another senseless act of gun violence, perhaps the worst in our troubled history. There are more questions than answers; more lives tragically destroyed. Worst of all, nothing seems to change.

I received lovely birthday greetings throughout the day from family and friends. I swung through highs and lows the strangest mixture of darkness and light.

My friend Kelly and her husband Jim were due to arrive October 1st from Canada. They got a nasty flu instead, and were bed-ridden for several days. Jim had to cancel his trip entirely. We were all disappointed to lose our long-planned week in coastal Carmel

Carmel, Calfornia

Carmel by the sea

Kelly came a week later and we enjoyed the abbreviated time we had together.

alys and kelly

Kelly and I took a card class together

The day after Kelly arrived, we woke to more difficult news. An unprecedented firestorm swept through Santa Rosa late at night, destroying an entire neighborhood and damaging businesses and a major hospital. Many of the older residents were unable to escape. The loss of life is devastating.

smoky skies

Multiple spare-the-air days

I’ve been mentally “gathering my people.” My friend Leslie moved to Las Vegas three years ago to enjoy the open space and mountain air. I couldn’t reach her by text, so it was a huge relief when she marked herself safe via Facebook.

My friend Marcia lives in Santa Rosa and plans to visit today. It’s been on the calendar for months, but given the devastating fires, it will be especially good to see her.  Marcia’s mother had to be evacuated from her care home as the fires spread. The quick-moving fire ravished entire neighborhoods. At the height of the firestorm, 100,000 people were evacuated. 20,000 remain displaced and 42 people lost their lives in the fast-moving fire.

Santa Rosa holds a special place in my heart. I spent three summers working at SRT, Santa Rosa’s Summer Repertory Theater. I wrote about my friendship with Marcia earlier this year.

SRT program 1984

Summer Repertory Theater (SRT) Program, 1984

My in-laws lived in Calistoga in their final years. Authorities evacuated the entire town of Calistoga for two days this weekend as the high winds constantly changed course. Mike feels emotionally invested in the well-being of their former home and ranch, even though the property has since changed hands. Authorities allowed residents back home on Sunday and as far as we can tell, the homes in that area are safe.


Extended family in Calistoga (Mt. St. Helena in background)

Throughout this unfolding drama, my colleague Ellen Hovey quietly lost her battle with cancer. Ellen’s strength and courage inspired all who knew her.  She’s survived by her husband and her 17-year-old son with Down Syndrome. It’s a sad loss for all who knew her. I can’t image how hard it must have been to say goodbye to her young man.

I’m craving a walk in the woods, alone with my thoughts. I have my fingers crossed that the long-term forecast is correct and that the hoped-for rain arrives on Friday.  It will aid the fire-fighters and at the same time clear our the dangerous, smoke-filled air.

Equilibrium will return. For now I feel the weight of the world.

In early October 2017, a series of wildfires started burning across the state of California, United States. They broke out throughout Napa, Lake, Sonoma, Mendocino, Butte, and Solano counties during severe fire weather conditions effectively leading to a major red flag warning from much of the Northern California area. Seventeen separate wildfires were reported at this time.[3] These fires included the Tubbs Fire (the most destructive), the Atlas Fire, Nuns Fire and others.

Due to the extreme conditions, shortly after the fires ignited on October 8 and 9, they rapidly grew to become extensive, full-scale incidents spanning from 1,000 acres (400 hectares) to well over 20,000 acres (8,100 ha) each within a single day. By October 14, the fires had burned more than 210,000 acres (85,000 ha), and destroyed an estimated 5,700 structures [4][1] while forcing 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes.[5] The Northern California fires have killed at least 42 people[1] and hospitalized at least 185,[6] making the week of October 8, 2017, the deadliest week of wildfires in California history.






38 thoughts on “In Search of Equilibrium

  1. Oh, my dear Alys, I’m so sorry to know the heartache wrought by this wretched Oct. Thank you for, as always, candidly sharing your experience with us, that we may all find some solace in not being alone. I, too, have special ties to Santa Rosa and the other vicinities of the fires… Friends and family evacuated, but fortunately safe. But there were tragic losses, weren’t there? It’s very painful to bear witness to such profound tragedy; all the world seems in chaos. Even the sage wisdom of Fred Rogers’ mom, to “look for the helpers” only affords small comfort. But thank goodness for those helpers! They’ve fought valiantly, and saved many, despite the devastating losses.

    My heart goes out to you in sympathy on your friend Ellen’s passing. Tragedy upon tragedy. I can’t imagine how hard her departure must be for her family, especially her son. I wish you all strength to persevere.

    I’m glad you had a little levity with your all-too-brief visit with Kelly. And I’m impressed by your pumpkin harvest, and the cheerful look of your front porch. I hope by the time Halloween arrives, lighter spirits will prevail. Ah yes, wouldn’t a forest bath be a luxurious and grounding respite…. Find peace where you may till equilibrium returns. And please know that the weight of the world on your shoulders is shared by mine.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alicia, I know you care your own heavy burdens. And I know now that your cousins lost there home in the fire. I’m grateful the house was empty at the time and that no-one has been hurt, but the loss is profoundly devastating nonetheless. I’m excited to hear more as your cat sanctuary develops. You’re almost there, almost free of your extra burdens to the island. You’re the best.


  2. Today, it is Diwali.”The significance of the festival is the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. ” I have a candle lit beside me. I am sending best wishes to you as you search for equilibrium.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I wish I could take the weight of your world off your shoulders; I know how that feels. My fingers are crossed that the rain will come today and ease at least one burden. Enjoy your visit with Marcia; it will be a good distraction.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It certainly has been a trying month. I share your funk. What Mother Nature doesn’t destroy, some idiot human comes along to pick up the slack. I have to believe we will recover from all of these disasters. So sorry this happened during your favorite time of year. Hang in there Alys.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It has been a trying year, that’s for sure. I think any of us with a degree of compassion in our souls are feeling worn out. We must all take care to feed our souls regularly, in whatever way works best for us. And now I must go take my own advice…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Arms around you, Sue. It has been a trying year, and it seems to refuse to let up. I’m escaping as much news as I can now, gathering friends, and family, cats and art, gardening and volunteering and doing what I can. How are you managing?


  6. Darling Alys – the world is a harsh and bewildering place right now and your sensitive and loving heart is feeling heavy and overburdened. I have been thinking of you and the many kindnesses you do even while you suffer. Please do breathe – deeply and slowly and take that forest walk and reconnect with that which is also real – the peace and calm and sanity that lies beyond this overlay of crisis. I am so sorry for your loss. Carry your dear friend in your heart into the woods and listen to her sing. All life must pass, but love never dies. Sending you warm love and hugs my dear and I wish we could have a chat right now xoxo

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I’m so sorry about your dreadful (so far) month. Sometimes it really does feel as if our capacity for love, generosity, hope and pain is being tested by the lives of men and the life of the planet. With you, I know the test will be passed with flying colours, but it’s such a painful and draining process. Be well, my friend and may peace return to your soul. Oh, and your pumpkins are beautiful 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  8. My dear Alys, let me add my voice to the others who have written so eloquently. As you can tell there are many hands supporting you and Mike in this trying time. If you can’t walk in the forest, maybe carving pumpkins and watching the cats at play can bring you some of the solace you crave. Peace to you my friend. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve been thinking of you daily, knowing you were going to be so very stressed about all that is going on. It’s been a lot to take in and then to lose a good friend on top of it all can be almost too much. I too, agree with Pauline. Sometimes, a ritual can ease the pain of loss. I spent a lot of time watching news these last few months. We had our own wild fires but they were nothing like what your area faced and I can not even imagine it. I’m the person that avoids news because it’s just too painful. But this was just so hard not to watch. I’m glad you at least got a little giggle time with Kelly. Life has it’s ebbs and flows and we have to float with it or be broken by it. I know you are a floater. Obviously, you’ve weathered so many storms already. We are all going to see a change soon, I hope.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. My brave Cali-girl, arms around you. Here I am walking on air for my time spent with you and your heart is feeling blue for all the worries of the world. This is why so many love you ((Alys)). Your compassion knows no bounds. I’m glad you’ve had time to revel in the calm with walks alone. It’s hard to be a hostess while so much is on your mind, yet you made me feel so loved and welcomed Thank you ever so much for having me stay. All the outings were brilliant and I loved hanging at home just to chat, watch TV or videos and generally chill. I know Jim’s very keen to plan a Carmel deux, we’ll get there yet.
    Being alone can be very cathardic. I actually crave it sometimes. Time to think about loss but also renewal too. When I’m blue, I like to think about what’s around the corner. A time when worries will be lighter. Nature is a good salve, just the sound of a bird enjoying the day can melt away a little anxiety. While things have been (and may always be) crazy, there’s a lot of goodness and gracious acts of caring going on too to balance it all out. Embrace the latter if you can dearest, the sunshine is just around the corner. You are so loved xoxo K

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Jeez, Alys–I can’t imagine how you must be struggling with all this. Those fires have terrified me, a country away, and to be close to them, to have friends there, must be just paralyzing. And it isn’t just the fires. The horror of Las Vegas, the loss of a friend, the wholesale nuttiness of our world and ravings of the lunatic who shall not be named . . . I’m sorry for it all. I hope you’re finding small ways to soothe yourself, to remember you’re loved, to see the good . . .

    Liked by 1 person

  12. First of all, my condolences at the loss of your colleague, Ellen. I hadn’t heard about the fires but the gunman I had. With so much dreadful news, I hope you are finding some space to look after yourself, Alys. Big hugs from across the Atlantic x

    PS I hope you will still enjoy Halloween.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Wrapping my arms around you, dear Alys! The past few weeks have been more than our caring hearts can hold. You have felt it even stronger with your loved ones so close to the dangers. Take extra good care of yourself. I know that you will feel your equilibrium return slowly as you soak in Nature’s beauty. create art, and plan special times with those you hold dearest. This post truly touched my heart, Alys. Sending warmest birthday hugs, my friend! ♡

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Alys, I’ve had you on my mind and in my heart knowing how the devastating news the morning of your birthday, and then the fire have impacted you. Little did I know that so much else had piled on, too. You made a comment on my blog last night about feeling like a slouch, and I thought “if there is anyone that should NEVER feel like a slouch, it is Alys”. If I’d as much impact in my life as I’ve had in yours, I would not be able to keep up the schedule. I fear that I am the slouch for not being there for you.
    To everything there is a season, and sometimes a season can be a day, a week, or a month. A month that means so much to you was irrevocably changed. It just pulled the rug right out from under you.
    Take that walk in the woods and breathe deeply. If you should ever doubt the good that do in this world, and the positive impact you make, just read through the loving comments on this post. You are loved immeasureably by many, including me ❤

    Liked by 1 person

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