Photo by: Daniele Ferlito, used with permission.
I sit on my back porch, one week after the Wine Country fires turned my world upside-down. A porch that for days, I didn’t know whether it was standing or not. I look out to a hill, sporadically dotted with ruins of homes.
Sadly, I can’t help but remember the image of said hill aflame in a blaze unlike anything I had ever witnessed.
A helicopter flies by with a bucket, sending my heart into overdrive. But I remain perched here, a tad paralyzed, but also not jetting out. Because no new Nixle alerts have come through. And I’ve learned to rely on Nixle for all the things related to danger.
I write and try to make sense of the week. I say thanks (and immediately feel guilty) that the charred and decimated condos (which are a mere seventy yards from me) are hidden due to how they were designed. Hiding the hell of last Sunday and the fury of the Atlas Peak Fire.
Hiding the horror, like my emotions seem to be hiding from me. They are there, but not yet ready to be examined.
I was lucky. I am lucky. As my neighbor pointed out, “We ran for our lives on Sunday.” But not like some. Not through actual flames. Our flames were just very, very close. And we got out safe.
My neighborhood is calm, despite the aircraft overhead, as I write this. It is the first night I will stay here in a week. I type these words within a beautiful gem of a community. One you probably don’t realize you’ve watched on national news. Her scars on display for all to see.
A neighborhood that is actively being patrolled on foot by National Guard.
A neighborhood where there is one police cruiser or power truck for every civilian car. One that was official escort, and ONLY for pets and medications, until this weekend. Whose residents wear masks when the smoke gets bad, atop expressions of utter disbelief.
A place that was lucky enough to have had her grand dame of a stately mansion survive, amidst so many homes being lost. And in surviving, can offer a beacon of hope and a touchstone of good.
I reflect on the week and say more thanks to everyone.
Those who saved lives, those who fought to tame the fiery monsters that popped up everywhere, and those who returned our power and water. Who are watching out for us even now. Those who called, who prayed, and who sent messages of support. To all who cooked and opened their homes, their wallets, and their hearts. I thank everyone who gave their time and lent an ear.
But despite being so very grateful, I am struggling. I have faceless neighbors that my heart cries for, even when my eyes cannot. People who I will do all I can to help. But nothing seems to be enough when these individuals have lost so much.
My own trauma from the Wine Country fires seems so trivial when juxtaposed next to those near me. Maybe this is why I have yet to have a breakdown.
I recognize that I experienced trauma. I know it was mere luck that a missile-like ember didn’t ignite my roof, as well. That in those first hours and days, we were all feeling much of the same anxiety. My story simply ended better than others.
So now, I vacillate between telling myself to “Stop being a snowflake” and to “Give myself grace.” I don’t believe I’m alone in these feelings.
Because of this, I wanted to share my story with you all. I also want to provide some resources on trauma that were distributed earlier this week from St. Joseph Health Hospice Grief Services.
I will continue to remain #winecountrystrong, and we will continue to embrace one another to provide comfort. I welcome you to share your own story of being #winecountrystrong with all of us here.