Last year about this time, I wrote a post entitled “What’s Really Important.” That post has been repurposed in my upcoming book “Lessons of a Wayward Yogini,” due out this spring? I’ve been known to run a bit late in life. My next post will address my book delay, but for now, I will rope in my ADD and stick to what’s important! This post is What’s Important—Part Two, with new lessons learned. (I’m feeling a bit dizzy from the circles I’m spinning here.)
A year ago I came home to a smoke plume close to the house which looked awful close, but as it turned out, it was far enough away, and our beloved first responders and firefighters were able to keep us from harm.
This Wednesday as I began to travel down through the canyon on my way home from Auburn, I could see a fire off in the distance. It’s so challenging to place a smoke plume on the horizon in terms of its location. I did think to myself though, that looks like it might be in Cool. My heart sank, and I stepped on the gas a bit harder, loving my little Audi taking turns with ease down to the river. Crossing the bridge, I snaked up through the hills. Some twists would offer no glimpse of the smoke, and a few turns later, I would see it again, more significant and closer, and yes, still looking like it was in Cool.
We live in an area called the Trails, a homeowner’s association. There are three gates into the trails. Typically, I don’t like to go through gate 1, the only entrance with a guard, because it’s still another eight miles once through the gate to our house. The association is strict with the 25 mph speed limit, and recently they purchased a portable speed camera that they position at different locations throughout the trails. The homeowners at first, were completely up in arms when they began receiving tickets because of this device. They nicknamed it Waldo, and people now send out messages in the Nextdoor.com asking where Waldo is on any particular day. It seems it would be so much easier just to drive the speed limit. But then again, the speed limit is the reason I like gate 3, which leaves me only a few blocks to drive to my house, as opposed to eight miles.
When I finally arrived at the top of the hill at our only stop sign in Cool, I made the left heading down to the Trails. I could see then that this fire was directly in line with our home, still guessing, but becoming extremely concerned. I could see Highway 193, a two-lane road, was in complete chaos with cars stopped ahead of me and fire engines and ambulances traveling behind me, so I entered at gate 1 to make my way home. If any day was hard to observe the speed limit, this was it. I thought to myself, maybe they wouldn’t enforce a ticket under such circumstances. But that’s just the kind of thinking that wreaks more havoc, so I kept it slow.
Again, the twists and turns of the tiny road leading to my house would only offer me sporadic views. But by the time I was within a mile of home, I knew for a fact that this fire was extremely close to all that I call dear (apart from loved ones.) I was literally holding my breath as I finally rounded the last bend that would allow me to see the corner of our cul-de-sac. The tears streamed down my face when I could finally see our home intact.
With that said, the corner half a block up the road was completely filled with smoke and black smoke at that. Knowing our house was safe for the moment, I continued driving on to see how close the fire actually was. My answer was about a mile at the most, in an extremely wooded residential area. Not good. I had seen a large number of cars and horse trailers (we live in a large horse community) passing me on my way in, each of them on their way out. By the time I returned home, many streets close to us had been ordered to evacuate, but our cul-de-sac was still okay.
I watched our neighbors trying desperately to load their panicked horses into their trailer. That alone was upsetting as one of the horses was spooked and not cooperating. Man, those are big animals.
I returned home and tried to calm myself. My mantra became, “It’s calm out, no wind, thank you, God.” Just last week my umbrellas on the deck kept blowing over with the gusts of wind, what a difference a day or seven can make. I tried to concentrate on work, but couldn’t, so I kept making my way up the hill to see how things were going, returning home to pace. About an hour later, I saw a sheriff’s car driving down our driveway. I knew the verdict before we spoke. It was time to evacuate.
He assured me I wasn’t in immediate danger, but the decision had been made that we should evacuate. He also mentioned that if the winds picked up, it wasn’t going to be pretty. I already knew that.
I went back inside, made a few calls to Rick and our neighbors who I knew were not home, and summoned my memory for that list I made a year ago when I wrote that blog about what’s important. Our minds are incredible, really… my list was there just waiting.
I had been lucky enough this day to catch a yoga class at lunch, and perhaps it was that energy still flowing through my body, but I moved through the house in short order with a strong but peaceful strength grabbing important things, passports, lockbox, all things banking… and then I started on the things that are most important to me. Rick’s wedding ring which he most days does not wear to work as it’s too big and has been known to fall off when he’s working with his hands, our artwork, two small frames with pictures of me as a baby with my parents, a plate of my fathers with a tiny violin, a number of other framed pics of Rick and I and the kids, our recipe books (between us we have three) and a few of our pigs. We collect pigs. Since we have a fair amount of artwork, that took some time. But when my car could hold no more, I put my sweet kitty in her travel bag and considered myself packed.
The list turned out to be precisely what I envisioned a year ago, with a few new items. I hadn’t thought of the recipe books before, nor my jam pot which hangs on the wall in our kitchen, a treasure left to me from one of my dearest friends, Julie. My car was packed with memories of a life filled with love, and that would be enough to begin building a new home if that was my fate.
As I stood on my porch not knowing if it might be my last time, I again let myself cry. I actually had packed without crying, which for me is saying a lot. I looked around at all my beloved plants and trees and flowers and said a silent prayer that our creation would still be here when I next returned. I climbed in my car, thankful for the hour I had to plan and pack. Some people had only five minutes. And I headed back over the hill to Auburn to meet Rick and my son for dinner. My quiet mantra remained a constant, “it is not windy out.”
A lifetime seemed to pass in an afternoon; just a few short hours later, we drove back over the same canyon, not even knowing if we would be allowed home. But we had heard that the firefighters had done a great job of stopping the forward progress of the fire and that the trails were out of danger. They had stopped the air attack, which was a great sign. We decided to try our luck and return home.
As I drove over the same road I had so anxiously traveled over that afternoon, with new adrenaline flowing through my body which was filled with complete gratitude, I began to put together a new list of what’s really important, with a fresh perspective from the benefit of this experience.
Seeing the numerous emergency vehicles passing me by on their way out of the canyon, their hard work done for this day, Cal Fire, Sheriffs, Highway Patrol, all of the first responding angels, my heart went out to each of them. Such reliable people who put themselves in harm’s way to help others, not to mention the mental toll it takes to witness the sadness and devastation of their victims, day in and day out, what would we do without them?
My mood was lifting with each emergency vehicle passing by me, which left me open to experience more of the important things. Gate 1 was the only way home this night as the fire was on both sides of Highway 193 leading to gate 3; the fire had actually jumped the highway. As I drove through Gate 1, I waived at our guard with such gratitude in my heart for him, and even for that damn gate. I felt like I was floating. I welcomed the eight-mile drive… how quickly that slow-moving 25 mph ride had turned into a blessing.
A way down the road I was delighted to see the horses in their pastures again. A cat was lying in the grass unaware of our human drama, just waiting and surveying her little domain. A mile or so from home, exchanging a greeting with the highway patrolman waving us through telling us we were free to return home. And lastly, driving down our long driveway back to our beloved home containing all the memories we’ve managed to create in five short years. Breathing in the trees and plants as I got out of the car, waiting right where I left them.
And maybe the most beautiful part of the day was laying our heads down that evening on our own pillows… a blessing that most nights we take for granted. Not this night. As I let the thoughts of the day quiet down, which actually took hours, I also sifted through my gratitude for our friends and loved ones who are always there to encourage us and lend a helping hand. I may, at times, feel fear and discomfort, but I never feel at a loss when it comes to the angels that surround us. They buoy me in times of trouble.
There are a lot of lists in life. I’ve been known to worry about some very insignificant and admittedly silly ones. The further along I get in this human race, I realize that the secret of life is about enjoying the simplest of things.