Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Firey Thoughts

This is what I saw as I was driving home on Monday. I knew that there was a fire on Park Hill road but I didn't, until that moment, know how close to our home the fire was. Mel had only a few minutes to grab the dogs, the cat, the computers and little else.

We were lucky. We had a place to stay and a place to board the dogs. But it was still stressful. Anxiety is an amazing animal and we were subject to its whims.

To start with, I had lost my wallet the day before. I had no ID, no ATM card, no credit cards and no way to access money because my checkbook was still sitting in its little niche in my loom room. I had no change of clothes. I was wearing flip flops and shorts and a summer top. No toothbrush. No meds.

But Mel had grabbed my CPAP machine. He had his priorities after all! ( he likes to sleep without me snoring away!)

I felt helpless when I was stopped on Park Hill and was told that the road was closed and I could not get to my spouse to help him get out. We were under mandatory evacuation orders. Yikes!

And here is the first act of kindness that occurred. We have a guy building our back fence. He has been clearing brush for us as well and generally helping out. His back story is full of success and defeat which makes him very human. His name is David.

He saw the plume of smoke from his home and called Mel. If not for that call Mel would not have had time to get anything packed or in the car or begin to think about being safe. And about the time that Mel is beginning to , well, not panic but become highly concerned, David shows at the front door and gets Mel, animals, computers and little else, into our truck and out of the area. Later David was helping others in the area (friends of his) when he got trapped by the fire. He got his friends (and himself) out of danger but, as he put it, "it was a hairy night". I can not thank him enough for his help and his friendship. Besides, he builds a really good fence!

After Mel meets me in Atascadero (the town where daughter lives about 20 minutes north of us), I take the dogs and head to Cambria. Because, while Mel was packing, I was calling our dog trainer to see if we could board the dogs there. He had a full house but he made room for George and Gracie. They stayed happy and safe through everything. It was Marty's training (Rajun Kennels) that made them obey commands to get in the truck and be calm. They slept.......
 Without Marty we would have been in a far more serious situation because daughter's house was not dog proof. (Damaged fence with lots of hidden places for dogs to use in escaping!)

But Marley the cat was with us. But we had no cat food nor a litter box. Solution? I stop at PetCo in Paso Robles on my way back from Cambria. Great idea for me to pick up the necessarys of cat ownership.

One MINOR problem. I don't have ID, ATM card, credit cards or cash. And my trusty checkbook is in my loom room. Solution? Daughter calls store and arranges to pay for items we need over the phone with her credit card. Perfect!

Except the store has just changed computer systems and the clerk can't override the computer's demand for a card swipe.

Imagine for a moment you have been through what has been described above. And you are now really flummoxed. And the clerk turns to you and says wait here. You stand in front of the register feeling completely out of control when the clerk, who really is the store manager, walks back up with a fist full of store gift cards. She runs them through the computer that wanted something to swipe. I ask her when she will be on duty next so I can pay her and she says that I have been through enough for the day and to take care of my fur baby. (Something to that effect. I really don't remember the exact words now cuz I was sort of overwhelmed by the sheer generosity of the woman and I had started to cry.)

One of my friends said, when I thanked her for her expressions of concern and willingness to assist, "it takes a village". So very, very true.

But it takes a kind village. Many of my friends and acquaintances offered assistance. One offered her 5th wheel, others offered their homes or funds to see us through. It was humbling and overwhelming.  You and the three people I described above, two friends and a stranger, made this journey through a wildfire an amazing statement of generosity and humanness. And I thank you all!

So my thoughts now turn to all the countries in the world and all the people in them that are faced with and deal with displacement. If I, a very comfortable white American, feel helpless and overwhelmed with a wildfire, what do the people of Allepo or Tikrit or Mosul or a hundred other places feel when they are forced to leave?

I have touched a tiny edge of what they feel. A tiny, tiny edge.

I am home and safe. The dogs come home tomorrow. My life will return to its very comfortable state. The people Allepo, Tikrit, Mosul or the hundred other place will not.