The sun is out, the air is clearer, but our Saturday drive to the duck pond? No ducks. Our three mile walk? No walk. Yes, the pond is calm, but the small garden structure is now roofless, and all around the hills are tarnished with soot and burned vegetation. A group of firemen are cutting down a burned tree. As we drive, we find the wide expanse of the park is still green, but any part of this open space that touched the hills are scarred by fire.
This is the Woolsey Fire. It missed our home, our neighborhood of fifteen buildings. But this is a fire that scarred land all around us, that burned along the road that abuts our neighborhood–Kanan Road– the one you can drive all the way to the ocean. The fire sped that way, changing the topography of Malibu, burning vineyards and homes to the Pacific Coast Highway, famous for creating a border between homes and ocean. Zuma Beach? That’s famous for bathing beauties and life guards, but quickly became home to animals: ponies, horses and dogs, who ran from the fires and found safety on the sand.
The development where we live, where from some of our windows we can see the low hills of the Santa Monica Mountains–our view is changed. We now see dead vegetation, soot-colored shavings, charred shrubs. It will grow back. In spring there will be wild mustard parading up and down, but there will also be the threat of more fires.
Today, we also drove down the street we had seen on LA’s Channel Seven last Thursday night. A corner house, burning. We had watched the fireman trying to keep it from spreading to neighboring homes. From our view today, the firemen were successful. But other homes have broken windows, damage that only licked the side or back of a structure, yet still not habitable.
So what are the people of Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills and Oak Park, California shouting out this season? THANK YOU.
All the political signs from the election are gone. Now there are THANK YOU SIGNS jammed in the ground at the entrances to neighborhoods, BIG SIGNS with pictures of fire trucks so that no one will mistake who is being thanked—our firemen and women, our first responders. They saved our homes, they saved lives.
FIRE AND STORIES
People are amazing, resilient, their humanity stretching and growing in a crisis. A waste collector up near the Camp Fire (a second fire that has taken many lives) had decided to turn his truck and leave the area, when he came upon an elderly woman standing on the porch of her small home–she alone, in danger, the Camp fire swirling around them. He helped her into the cab of his truck (which he told a reporter is against business rules) and drove for another hour or more to safety. But all the way, the women chatted with him about her life, told him stories. When he had left her at a rescue center, and encountered the reporter, he told this story remaking, “That was the most amazing conversation I’ve had in a long time.”
Yes, I’m sure it was. The adrenaline of life or death can bind humans together. Its what we need to remember as we move toward Thanksgiving.
NONE OF US WOULD BE HERE, NONE OF US would be enjoying the fruits of our democracy if our founders had not talked and worried, argued and compromised, made decisions both good and bad. Through courage, tiring work and hope–they brought us to where we are now.
Let’s not forget our beginnings. Let’s stay open to those around us.
Yes, I get angry about ideas and words, actions and decisions I don’t agree with. Just look at my Twitter Page. But I also, sometimes, remember to stay silent. So, when I heard a statement that I believed to be false or exaggerated or just plain out of line, I stayed silent. (This at someone’s house for a dinner.) I couldn’t change that person’s mind in a five minute argument. Better to have her remember me as kind. Then, if she reads this, she just might decide I have good intentions. For good intentions can open hearts and minds. At least, there is always hope that they will.
And to end, I present this again, a lovely thought from author Marilynne Robinson: taken from her novel HOUSEKEEPING
“There is so little to remember of anyone – an anecdote, a conversation at a table. But every memory is turned over and over again, every word, however chance, written in the heart in the hope that memory will fulfill itself, and become flesh, and that the wanderers will find a way home, and the perished, whose lack we always feel, will step through the door finally and stroke our hair with dreaming habitual fondness not having meant to keep us waiting long.”
Thanks for reading, HAPPY THANKSGIVING. Stay safe. Stay sane.
Photo: Barbara Carroll on flickr THANKS.