Carolyn Wing Greenlee

Valley Fire

Dear Friends,

On Saturday afternoon, winds started ripping through Lake County. The little fire that began at about 1:40 quickly devoured 10,000 acres. We could hardly believe it.

On Sunday morning, my phone rang at 6:30. The automated message informed me we were on Advisory evacuation. I began packing. I knew the fire had been many miles to the south last night, but I wasted no time. It took longer than I thought. The next call said we were on Mandatory Evacuation. I packed faster, but not long after that another call came. Back to Advisory.

Dan also got a call, and he packed all the hard drives and computers. He didn’t take many clothes. I didn’t either. Mostly took teaching CDs and DVDs to study while at a shelter, and my supplements and all the essential oils in case people were injured or anxious. I also took my microcurrent machines, which are irreplaceable, and a few mementos—a small print of a brush painted horse given to me by Gracie Hatanaka, who was my second mommy; a LeTourneau tee shirt from my son, Thomas; some dressier clothes for the presentations I’ll be making in October for Women Writing the West; a few colorful scarves from family and friends; research books; my Amplified Bible; my guitar; and the stuffed donkey from my childhood. Oh, and two boxes of CDs of my new album, and all the cool wrist band flash drives with the songs and all the cover information and pictures inside.

Funny what we take…

Two different friends called to ask if I needed them to come with trucks to take precious larger items to safety. I thought about my keyboards, priceless original paintings by friends such as Milford Zornes, books that are out of print, rare Chinese antiques, my beloved baby grand. It was overwhelming. Elizabeth assured me she would help and she would make it work. But I couldn’t chose. Also, I felt the Lord was saying we wouldn’t have to leave.

People offered places to stay. It made me feel so loved! Many called and emailed to see if we were okay. We had not lost power or water, so I was able to send out a few communications and was not sitting in the dark, though I didn’t have all the addresses and couldn’t let many of you know what was going on.

We were on water conservation for a while because our water plant was not operated while the water master was evacuated from his home in Clearlake Riviera. Mail was suspended. Many neighbors fled to clearer air and less uncertainty. It was strange here indeed, a sense of urgent waiting, if that makes any sense. Friends in the disaster areas lost their homes. At the hospital in Clearlake, 147 employees were evacuated from their homes, and 20 of their homes burned to the ground. They are looking for places to rent.

My friend, Lynne, was in two fires when she was young. She didn’t even have a bed, she said. It marks you. And even though we never did have to leave, we are derailed. What should we be doing now? Today, we finally began unpacking. Putting things back in place. That’s what I’m doing. Contacting you. That’s what I’m doing.

For hundreds, it will be a long haul. They will have to rebuild from the ground up. And yet, listening to local radio KPFZ, I was amazed at the resilience and fresh inspiration that seems to be the attitude in Lake County. One said fire fighters commented on the outpouring of help and compassion that is flooding in. He said he’s fought hundreds of fires, and never has he seen anything like this. Three different callers were talking about reseeding the land—maybe in native grasses and plants—to bring green with roots before the rains come with mudslides that will add to the devastation. They’re already thinking ahead, though the fire is still only 35% contained. Many who called in said they were proud to be from Lake County.

Today is gorgeous. The sky is once again unbelievably deep blue. The air is clean and invites deep breaths with lots of oxygen to cleanse and heal blood and brain. For years they had been telling us that the fire danger was worse that year than ever before, yet, we went on into winter without a puff of smoke—until this year when we made the national news more than once. It isn’t exactly how I’d like Lake County to get attention, but I, too, am proud to be from here, and wild flower season next year is bound to be glorious. Here in Lake County, I have always thought of us as wildflowers. It’s not an easy place to live for many reasons, but this time of crisis has shown me we can celebrate roots that hold, and the green that is still yet to come.

Carolyn, Hedy, and the kitty Hope

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