October 11, 2017 – Riding the currents

The trail streaked with orange light – sun shining through smoke in the air.

Listen to this post:

I woke at 4:30am on Monday morning and whispered to Joe that I smelled smoke.  He asked me:  inside or outside?  Outside, I smell wildfire.  A bit later I got up to go to the bathroom and check Marin County Fire’s Twitter feed.  No fires in Marin County, the smoke and ash were from the fires in Sonoma and Napa.  Poking around online I read the news – and two devastating days later it’s not getting better, more acres burned, more structures gone, more fatalities, hundreds more people determined to be missing.  We live about 30-40 miles from the fires and there was ash falling on our patio on Monday morning.  The winds brought the ash all the way to us and beyond – and they made these fires deadly. Another week, more death and destruction, and this time very close to home.  So, where does a return to beauty come in with all this going on?

I had to work in Joe’s office on Monday but the last two days I’ve had a hard time focusing.  I want to do something practical – I want to cook for people or give them a safe, soft place to express their emotions. I’m hearing there are already too many people showing up at the shelters wanting to help.  So I made a donation to the organization closest to my heart – Ceres Community Project – who are cooking for evacuated people in the shelters.  And I’m doing my best to just hold space for all that is happening – all the hard work, all the worry, all the grief, all the relief.  The best parts of me know holding space – being present to all that is going on is valuable, is needed, but it’s so much more satisfying to help in a material way.  It’s actually a privilege to do so – to make that kind of difference in people’s lives.

After preaching last week to turn away from the endless news of how people are suffering, I’ve been feeling sheepish about doing just that this week.  Even with that voice in my head, telling me to turn it off and go paint – or write, I couldn’t.  One of us in our community has a ranch that is close to one of the fires and I’ve been so distracted with following that fire’s progress; it’s not one of the big fires, so information has been hard to get.  Plus she has some art in a café in the Napa Valley that is under threat – these paintings are our babies and to think of them being incinerated is heartbreaking.  Another of us has a sister-in-law in the Valley of the Moon in Sonoma whose home and stables were in the path of the fire – I’ve been keeping tabs on that area too.  Last night I said to my mom, this could have been us – we live in an area prime for wild land fire like this.  We just never know.

This morning Bo and I went up the hill for the first time since Sunday.  It’s been just too smoky and not good for our lungs.  As we were heading up through a section of small live oaks I noticed the sun streaks on the ground were orange.  The sunrises and sunsets this week have had the sun a glowing ball of orange near the horizon.  But this was later – though the sky was hazy from smoke, the sun was white. How curious that streaks of light coming through the trees were October orange?

As we were cresting the hill I noticed a hawk floating above the ridgeline, just hanging there in the air facing into the cool wind, looking for breakfast on the ground.  I’m fascinated watching birds ride air currents like this – no wings flapping, not moving over the ground, still and aloft.  The hawk gave me my instructions for the day: ride the currents.  There’s no stopping the wind so find a way to ride it.  I have no idea what it is like to be in the situation that so many have found themselves in.  Life was normal on Sunday and just like that it’s not.  And it won’t be anything close to normal for a very long time.  All I can do is be with what is – my distractedness, my worry, my sorrow for the bad news and my appreciation for good news.  I just got a text that the sister-in-law’s place in Sonoma is fine as are her two horses and cat she had to leave behind in the middle of the night.

Beauty is here now, it is always here.  I found it in strange orange light this morning.  But in times like this beauty seems to show up especially vibrantly in how people care for each other and band together – the beauty in human spirit.  I’m going to end here today. And spend some time with my painting – really, I will.

With my love –


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