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
Kelly came a week later and we enjoyed the abbreviated time we had 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.
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.
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.
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. 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  while forcing 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes. The Northern California fires have killed at least 42 people and hospitalized at least 185, making the week of October 8, 2017, the deadliest week of wildfires in California history.