The other day I leapt out of bed after seeing what I thought were flames on a mountain ridge in the not so distant sky. Luckily, I was mistaken. The raging fire I imagined was a harmless orange sun rising in the sky.
“I’m jumpy,” I told my husband. “I’m not used to being at the mercy of the wind.”
We’ve evacuated twice. Even though we’re back at home again, we’re mindful that a mandatory evacuation is still in force just three blocks away.
All of our important documents and treasured pictures continue to be stashed in our cars so we can run out immediately should the bullhorn screech “evacuate now.”
We count ourselves among the lucky ones. I know 10 people who have lost their homes, including an employee at Safeway. She burst into tears in the check-out line. A colleague of hers later explained, in so many words, it’s hell to lose your home.
I saw the scarred earth on Coffey Park in Santa Rosa where the houses were reduced to twigs, and the landmark Round Barn which now resembles a crater.
I find myself up at 2 a.m. writing this because sleep, for me, requires some semblance of certainty and it’s not afforded to those of us living in limbo.
I tell myself maybe I’m not coping as well because I recently lost my mother to a massive stroke. To be sure, it’s cruel to lose your mother and then find yourself immersed in a community besieged by a firestorm. But here’s the surprise. I’m coping better because losing my mother made me focus on her most important lesson — how to deal with a life and death calamity.
My mother taught me this lesson when we were en route to Bali on a mother/daughter trip and something dramatic happened — the plane fell 5000 feet from the sky.
There was sheer panic as the plane spiraled from wind shear, and I had what I thought was my last conversation with my mom on this Earth.
In that delirious conversation, I told my mom that my husband would do a good job of raising our four-year old daughter. My mom didn’t miss a beat. She told me to “snap out of it. Planes are strong. They are built to be buffeted. We’ll be fine.”
As I sit in my house, which may or may not be standing by the end of the week, I hear my mother’s comforting words, “You are strong. You’re built to be buffeted. You’ll be fine.”