With the dawn begins a new day, and that is exactly what Tuesday, June 26, 2012 felt like when the beast roared down on us. Having been on voluntary fire evacuation mode since Saturday, 23, 2012, I had already experienced a surge of panic upon receiving the initial orders, then my mind settled down and I was able to put together my important documents, photos, and a few clothes and personal items, quickly settling into a routine. Initially, it felt like I could not leave the house for what if the orders came to evacuate and I was unable to get back for my precious dog! My mind quickly figured out the answer to this, I would just take all my worldly goods and dog with me wherever I went. Brilliant! Wrong! When it’s over 100 degrees for days on end you do not take your dog with you to sit in the car while you shop. Of course, an additional prospect dawned on me as well, you don’t take your most important documents in the car and park it around town as everyone in the ‘city’ knows many are either evacuated or on voluntary evacuation and the site of a packed car creates somewhat of an open invitation in such circumstances.
Monday, June 25 I decide I am going a little crazy between the television coverage and not being able to run. I have to get out for a while, so I preform the laborious chore of unloading the car and going about my errands. This works well, but what a task. On Monday it actually looks so good that I put back some of the things I originally packed thinking to myself how silly to have chosen them in the first place. It actually felt cathartic to put these items back, wow I thought to myself I could really live without these things. It is all just “stuff” I kept saying over and over, as did most everyone else who was on voluntary evacuation. Some even boldly declared they were not leaving if it came to a mandatory evacuation. Now, that was crazy I thought, putting some material things back was one thing but messing with your life, and/or the lives of the firefighters and police checking on you was altogether a different set of spots on the leopard. By Monday night I went to bed with a slightly different attitude and a little on edge, for the first time that evening around 10:00 p.m. I could see the flames above the ridge behind our houses. This was still a ways off, but it did not bode well, and thus I loaded the car again with my more compact grouping of ‘precious stuff’.
Tuesday, June 26, 2012 and the sky is actually blue, I can see the sunshine (which you could not on Saturday when this beast broke loose) and I am encouraged all is right with the world. I go about my day, tending to the necessary things for my brother’s upcoming wedding on the 30th. I am excited at the prospect of seeing my son and my family. I take the dog for a haircut at the groomers, and notice the smoke is really starting to kick up over the mountains, but it still feels a ways off. I take some photographs quickly with my cell phone and dutifully send them off to my family who has been telling me to vacate for days, be safe they all seem to be shouting. What they don’t understand is that no one has left in my area, and I am always a sucker for my own bed and pillows, my creature comforts. How quickly one tires of the mundane, for at this point I can honestly say it was getting old to have my personal things in a bag and be taking them out of the bag every day to put them to what I interpret as good use! Today, I will end the day grateful for this small inconvenience of the mundane, being once again reminded that it is all about the moment.
I am feeling so good about the day that I decide I will get a pedicure and manicure for the upcoming weekend wedding. As I am sitting there, reading my book and relaxing I tune back into the news coverage (which has been 24/7) and hear that we have now moved up to a pre-evacuation stage. This creates a very strange sensation in the pit of my stomach, my intuition is telling me to run home and pack more. I attempt to finish what would normally be a very relaxing experience with as much calmness as I can possibly muster. Finally, I am free and I go directly home. What a relief it is to get home to my dog, and to see the sun still shining and neighbors out in their yards casually performing yard work. I even get the dog and have a couple of neighborly chats, naturally about the fire, preparations to evacuate, etc. We are all fairly certain this is not going to come our way. What I should have taken more notice of was the fact that when I put the dog on the leash to walk over to visit neighbors, he promptly sat down at the end of the garage and would not budge . . . I had to pull him out! He was sounding his own intuition.
Returning back to the house, I realize I have not eaten since breakfast and begin to make a little something to eat. Midstream, my intuition nags at me and I make the decision to run down to the drug store to pick up my prescription for my miserably swollen and agitated eye (smoke/allergies). The drug store is approximately a mile away and this does not worry me for after all things are looking fine in our neck of the woods! As I approach the corner I see a whole new and very different world. The smoke from the fire has drifted down into this little valley and is precariously hanging on the ridges. I am not thrilled with this vision, and I know that tonight we will more than likely be evacuating. I get my prescription, take some more photos with my cell phone for my family, and hop in my car heading back up the hill to my home.
Once back home, where the sun is still shining, my neighbor calls and nervously indicates that she has heard from a friend who was ties with the police department that we must leave now. I ask her if we are still on pre-evacuation, and she says yes, but this is what she was told and she is going to leave. I say I will after my laundry is dry and I gather a few more things. I casually clean up my dishes, for I was eating a little something after all, and then get my personal hygiene bag from the bathroom and walk out to the car. As I lift the trunk and turn around I catch a horrifying sight behind me, a wall of flames racing over the ridge down by the drug store where I just visited minutes before. My neighbor was not exaggerating when she called, we must leave now! I get the dog, hastily throw in a few more photos, and feel that panic settling into my chest not altogether different than what I first experienced on Saturday when we heard the fire had broken out. My cell phone is ringing off the hook; text messages are coming in left and right, finally a reverse 911 notice that indicates we must leave immediately. I walk through the house for what may be my very last time ever, grabbing a couple more items, which now seem rather silly, to include a little heart shaped ceramic dish that contains the word happiness scrolled on its bottom. Going to need to hang onto that thought! I have some tears for all the years of raising a family in this home, and the times I put my son to bed with sweet whisperings, and so many more raw emotions I cannot put them to words. A couple of friends pull into the driveway, one to ask if I need help loading anything and the other to hug me and tell me she loves me and was sorry I was having to go through this alone. She drove up the hill just to give me this most precious and life-affirming hug, which I carried with me as I made the journey out of our neighborhood not knowing what the future would hold as ash and embers covered the cars and the daylight quickly turned to darkness. None of us know what the future holds, however, and I am trying to hold onto the words love and happiness now as I journey to my brother’s wedding out of state. Knowing at this moment my house still stands, but we are unable to return to our area of town as it is considered to volatile as yet. Some in this area of town already know their homes are no longer standing; some have lost their lives in this fire, and others are living like me, in the moment. Never underestimate a moment as everything changes in a moment.
You wander from room to room hunting for the diamond necklace that is already around your neck. ~Rumi