I've felt out of the loop since the North Bay Fires and wanted to send you an update. I'm very grateful for the support on Facebook and over email/text during the fires, and I want you to know it helped a lot to feel the love.
It has been many days since Monday October 9th, when we woke up to multiple wild fires in the Sonoma and Napa Valleys. However, the conversation still starts there everyday. Where do you live? Where were you? How did you and the family fare? Everyone has a story and here's mine:
My boyfriend Ed and I rent a duplex in Glen Ellen near Madrone and Arnold.
We got home late on Sunday and during our drive home we noticed it was very windy. When we got out of the car it smelled faintly of smoke. I checked Facebook and the neighborhood app called NextDoor (this app was very helpful while being away) and I knew a friend was evacuated due to a fire. I slept poorly and woke up at 5 am from people talking on the street outside. We live on a very quiet street so this was unusual. It also smelled like smoke in the house, and since I knew a little info from the night before I knew this wasn’t a good sign. When I tried to turn on the lamp on my night stand I realized we had no power, so we went outside and talked to the neighbors and decided to leave.
We grabbed a few things in the dark, got dressed and drove away. The plan was to go to Benicia to Ed’s parents house.
When we drove through Sonoma, there were already lines at the gas stations. We tried to take Broadway but had to turn around because the road was closed and we could see smoke, flames and fire trucks.
We turned right to take Napa Road and drove down a bit when we saw we wouldn’t be able to take that road either. We could see the flames on the hillsides.
At that point, I felt a bit panicky and we somehow managed to take a couple of back roads to get onto Arnold. When we got in view of Sonoma Raceway, it was also burning on the hill above. There were few cars on the road so we got on highway 37 easily. In my rear view mirror, I could see the fire as an orange snake on the hills behind me. It seemed to me we had escaped hell. As I later found out, this was nothing compared to what other families experienced that night.
We turned on the tv immediately and understood it was a really dire situation in Santa Rosa with multiple fires and a bit later that morning we got devastating news from Glen Ellen.
I didn’t anticipate we would stay away as long as we did, but we had no power until late Tuesday 8 days later. On Wednesday I went back home and cleaned the house. The air was really bad and I was wearing a mask not to breathe it all in. It was smelly and dusty. I felt simultaneously relief and comfort of being home but also replaying the events of the past week and taking in how close the fire really came to our neighborhood.
When they opened highway 12 a few days later I could see the destruction with my own eyes. It is a bit strange, because some areas look just the same, and some are burnt completely. The hillsides are black and bruised, but the vineyards are as gorgeous as ever. Another shock came a few more days later when they opened Warm Springs Road. That is the back way to get to Santa Rosa over the hills, which normally is one of the most beautiful drives I know. So much of it is charred with houses burned and fire retardant visible from the road. I want to cry every time I have to drive that way. It is unreal.
I feel grateful I could go back to my home and my place of work and that everything was still there. Thousands of people weren’t as fortunate. I can’t imagine the pain of losing everything- to me there is no divine reason this happened to so many people. It is not just losing a house or the comfort of a home, but the time that will have to be spent to deal with the aftermath of rebuilding and dealing with paperwork of all kinds. Nothing I write today will make that better.
The impact of these fires also stretch into many businesses. Most of the valley wasn't able to go to work for two weeks. Some people will or have lost their job. I know many of you want to help and have an impact and here's how:
- Come and visit the still beautiful Sonoma Valley which is currently in fall colors- if you need ideas of what to do and see, please let me know and I will tell you all my favorite places:) Golf+wine tasting is a delicious combo!
- Donate to the North Bay Fire Relief Fund by going HERE.
- Another more personal option is to help the Padgett's family who is part of our junior golf program by donating HERE.
Thank you so much!
During the fires, I learned:
- To keep a flashlight in my nightstand. I highly recommend this as it is hard to hold your phone as you are looking for things in the dark.
- What I’d take if I have a few minutes. Make sure you put on comfortable shoes that doesn’t give you blisters. And if you have time, bring underwear.
- That having renter’s insurance is at least a little bit comforting.
- A friend told me early on to be sure to take care of my nervous system while being away. This turned out to be very helpful advice. It is so easy to become frazzled and worried about what is happening even when all of it is out of your control.
- Suffering is optional. The more I thought about what I could stand to lose, the more I suffered. That’s basically hanging out in the future. When I thought about that, I forgot to eat and spent hours reading updates on the internet.
- That to minimize suffering, it’s best to spend more time in the present. When I did that, I realized I could go to the local gym, get a guest pass and move the anxiety out of my body. Yes, it worked at least a little bit.
- It is easy to feel guilty for enjoying the moment in which you managed to have fun when there is so much heartache around. But truth is, that's no way to live.
Sending you strength and energy for the rest of November!