With today’s new moon, I build a small, intentional fire, here in the wintery mountains of Tahoe. One to spark a light, to blaze a new trail, to restore + reclaim the home + life I’m here for. Because these CA fires? While wasn’t “technically” there – I am affected.
You see, early fall, the place in Ojai I was living in was being sold, and I was configuring to move back to NorCal, putting in place the necessary pieces. A sweet friend had offered me her family’s guest house to land in; and I was pretty excited to turn my sails back north. I stopped in Tahoe first, but the morning I was to drive down, I receive a text message from my mom:
“Stay in Tahoe for now.”
Fires were raging in NorCal, reclaiming homes and trees and anything else in its path in the very area I’d set my sights on. I sat in Tahoe, day after day on Twitter and texting constantly with one of my sisters about her place in Sonoma, talking with my mom, family and other friends, while hearing about other losses or near misses. My sweet friend and her family had escaped on that first night, and I was relieved. It wasn’t until later that week that I realized – acknowledged, really – that her home was actually gone. I hadn’t been able to take it in, concentrating instead on somehow willing the fires and the firefighters to not take my sister’s place as well. (Thankfully, it didn’t; bless the first responders, the second and everyone thereafter!)
As the aftermath for those in the immediate area began to be accounted for, there I was in Tahoe, now stunned to realize my own plans – ones I was looking quite forward too – had also been lost in the fires. Pivoting, I thought, well, Ojai had been my home since January, perhaps the Universe was nudging me to stay there, or in the area, and had a better plan for me.
I made my way back, regrouping while also packing up. I had a meditation retreat in Joshua Tree almost immediately, and took my questions, my confusion, and my shock to the heart fires of my practice. When I returned, I talked to everyone about my desire to stay, to find my next home in the Ojai Valley. I knew I had a place to stay in Tahoe again through the last day of December. So, a new move-in date of January 1st seemed about right.
I left Ojai, and set my sails for this new course, open to discovering what better plan awaited me. I arrived in Tahoe after Thanksgiving in the Bay, finally feeling a moment of exhale. But the very next morning new fires had begun to blaze, now in Ventura County and the Ojai Valley. I watched, shocked and horrified as these friends’ places were consumed, worried that maybe my things in storage there would be reclaimed with this round.
Thankfully that didn’t happen, won’t happen. But again, I have witnessed too many friends who have borne the weight of the immediacy of such a horrific experience. And, again, here I am, in Tahoe, wondering about my own next steps. Because, just like before, the thought of moving (back) there now seems wrong, somehow. Any available housing should go to those who’ve lost their physical belongings first, so says my mind. Because on the scale of tragic, my mind says, theirs far outweighs mine.
And yet, now, I too am without a home. And without a road map. I may have faith that the Universe has a better plan for me that I have yet to catch sight of, but right now, I can’t see through the smoke.
Fires can bring out the best in people – like the ones that rescue bunnies, or dogs, or others, regardless of the danger to themselves. Or those that immediately become point people for relief and recovery.
At the same time, fires change things. Forever. Because fires burn not only everything in their path, they change everything well beyond that path too, indelibly changing you, your family + friends.
I know because I am, in a sense, a child made from a fire. One that created the only world I’ve known. A fire that burnt down a house filled with children, with smoky and blazing flames that took the lives of all but one – my half-sister. I arrived on the heels of that.
When I popped out and met my parents, I didn’t meet typical parents in the thrill of stumbling through the making of a new family. I only met my parents as irrevocably changed humans, parents of a new family trying to find their way after such a tragedy, many months later. The intricacies of that story are for another time, but, I can tell you, that even today, that tragedy deeply affects too many people I love. Including me – who wasn’t “technically” there – such that these fires now affect me profoundly – even though I wasn’t technically there either.
So, what now? A deep transformation to be sure, as fires are good at inspiring. The phoenix’ will rise, are rising – I see it already. And while I don’t know what that looks like for me yet, I understand there’s grief process I’m navigating here too. For the loss of my siblings I never met on this plane, and stories my father may have shared but didn’t because it was too difficult for him to speak about. For the loss of lives that have happened presently, both human and otherwise. For the loss of things that are both replaceable and not, and the inevitable, acceptance that something new can emerge. And, for the possibility to dare to dream into the idea that something better can emerge. This too is part of the grief process, to have faith that it can unite, bring together, and rise us up, rather than shut us down, hollow us out, or make us give up.
I feel blessed, incredibly blessed; at the same time, I feel lost. Still, I grow resilient knowing I can actually move forward holding both ends of these truths, even with no clear path yet. Yes, the foundations I was expecting to start 2018 with are no longer there, and I’m not sure yet where to place my foot. But I will.
So today, I build this intentional fire, in hopes of igniting a new pathway with clarity and grace. And send a prayer that any fire in your life be a source of transformation, that ultimately brings you home.