This article is dedicated to our Kenwood Firefighters, Cal Fire, and all of the Firefighters who risked their lives in order to save ours. Many thanks also to the Sheriff’s Dept. and all the other first responders who protected Sonoma Valley from further devastation. To Jeff Tyler, owner of Palooza Brewery and Gastropub, for opening his doors hosting the community to enjoy free pizza, beer, wine, and a place to hug everyone.
When my husband and I evacuated our home at 11p.m. on Sunday, October 8, it was two days before I really came to terms with surrendering and letting go of all our material things. A good friend invited us to stay in her home in Petaluma for what turned out to be a two-week visit. We were glued to the TV hours on end watching news to see if our small neighborhood was still standing. We experienced an overwhelming feeling of powerlessness.
For me, letting go and surrendering material things comes much easier when I know my things are gone, and it’s done. But being on an emotional roller coaster as we watched the news as one day hope is restored with more firefighters and bigger planes, then the next day taken away as fires merged and became exponentially bigger directly behind our home. We were on pins and needles, never knowing if we lost our house or if it was safe. That was the hardest part. Our neighborhood was directly in the path of destruction right along with the many surrounding neighborhoods.
In those few moments when I was able—physically and emotionally—to let go of my home and surrender, it felt as if I crossed a threshold and suddenly felt relief and had a new perspective on how my life was going to look. A place where inspiration and opportunity met. That surprised me! I’ve had opportunities before where one door closes and another opens, but never to this extent. I was about to lose everything. Where would the opportunities be next? Even so, it was a beautiful threshold to cross. My home was spared and I’m back; will my life be the same? How can it be?
As I look around there’s so much I want to purge and recycle, including parts of myself I’ve held onto so tightly, such as perfection and control. I’m humbled by the ravages of these fires, by their unpredictable, messy nature, without boundaries, jumping from one county to another, burning an entire street while sparing homes a few feet away. These lessons are hard but necessary for healing the deeper aspects of ourselves and our community. We’ll rebuild not only our homes but also our purpose, as the rising phoenix through the ashes.
Now the work begins helping the less fortunate to find opportunities and inspiration. In this season of thanksgiving, how can you live from a place of surrender and find new meaning to life? Start by seeing the beauty in everything, no matter how insignificant it may seem.
Here is a quote from John O’Donohue’s poem For Courage.
“…Know that you are not alone
And that this darkness has purpose
Gradually it will school your eyes
To find the one gift your life requires
Hidden within this night-corner.
A new confidence will come alive
To urge you towards higher ground
Where your imagination
Will learn to engage difficulty
As its most rewarding threshold!”