Sonoma Valley High School, Tuesday October 10, day 2 of the fires. (Walt Williams)

Perspectives 2

8:11 am Monday morning 10/16. You can’t waste time in the morning. No power, no internet, no hour pouring over the New York Times and SF Gate and your two email accounts and Facebook. No Trump, no Gun Control, No Puerto Rico, just a quiet Monday morning with the sun streaming through your kitchen windows. There is a low haze again this morning that you now feel in the back of your throat like when you are about to get sick.

No new news from Nixle is a good thing. Your fire anxiety meter is about 2 out of 5. Better but not completely better. Facebook has become the best spot for information thanks to Jennifer and Sarah and Nicole and Rachel. 40% containment for the Nuns fire, no new evacuations, still burning around Oakmont, Sugarloaf and a few other spots. Calistoga has reopened, your wine tour company is planning on resuming tours Tuesday and businesses are trying to return to normalcy ASAP.

3 billion in damage, 41 dead, day 8.

Your issues seem unimportant but there’s really not much else to do. Get the living room carpet cleaned, file an insurance claim, and talk to a water damage company. You are concerned about mold and cleaning the yard but the air quality sucks which limits outdoor options and you feel like your minor water damage is insignificant compared to what others are experiencing.

You “worked” the 4-8-dinner shift at the high school last night. Not really work as it satisfied a need to help and do something. You made some new friends, talked to anyone who wanted to talk, moved donations, served bacon wrapped hot dogs to about 50 people still remaining at the shelter and felt connected to the community.

You love the stories. Fuddruckers and Cochina Volant and The Girl and The Fig and The Tri Trip Trolley feeding the masses, Roche winery cheering first responders as they drove by the tasting room, people texting pictures of wine drinking with the caption, “Doing my part to help Sonoma!” neighbors helping neighbors, volunteers and donations at maximum, pulling together. You are proud of your community.

But there are also problems. The chief of police explained that the SVHS evacuation shelter would be closing Monday at 6pm. People still don’t know the status of their homes, the lack of electricity is frustrating and no one is really sure what to do with the homeless.

But the overall feeling is amazing. You play Jenga with two 10 year olds, you see students like Victor helping with big smiles, and Sammi from your golf team proudly tells you that she saved her golf clubs when she was evacuated. There is not much difference between evacuees and volunteers, just people helping people making the best of a horrible situation.

“You just want to put your favorite pair of socks on.” This quote from Dennis, one of the evacuees, sticks in your head as exactly what you are feeling.

You meet your wife at the Sterling Bar where she has fled in search of power, companionship and Manhattans. You head to the Girl and the Fig for a little nosh and normalcy. Power is out and all is dark from 1st street West eastward but Steiners is jumping, as is the Girl in the Fig. Everyone is telling stories, connecting, just like at the high school.

You return to your home in the dark using camp lights to read before sleeping in your own bed for the first time in a week.

You spend Monday morning on the phone, calling cleaners, calling insurance and doing yard work. You make the yard and house as pristine as possible then head to the high school to charge your devices. You do this because keeping busy helps and it will make your wife happy when she returns from a hectic Monday of work at the newspaper. You stop and watch three helicopters dropping buckets on the Nuns fire. There is increasing smoke on the ridge above the SDC, when will this end?

You also come up with an idea for a Sonoma Promo video. Sonoma will need people, your Airbnb has had three cancellations (You title the promo, “Don’t let my Airbnb go Airb and Broke”). You write up a prospectus and send it to the mayor, Susan Gorin and the city manager. Why not?

5:10 Monday 10/16. Peace in the plaza. You listen to and watch two gigantic branches break off a tree 10 feet from where you’re sitting. You guess this is happening because the town is drying up like a sponge next to a sink. You meet your wife and head to dinner at Sonoma Grill feeling a little guilty at your eating out expenditures but needing to be where there is power. You’ve always saved for a rainy day and these days are pretty rainy.

You see the mayor getting into her car and head over to pitch your idea and see how she’s holding up. She has been touring burn sights for the last couple of hours and is exhausted. You chat briefly but can see that she needs to rest before her next meeting. “Remember to take care of yourself Rachel.” It’s the cardinal rule of Emergency Responders; you can’t take care of anyone else unless you take care of yourself first.

By Tuesday morning you finally feel somewhat rested. Power is on but cable and Internet are down because of an Xfinity outage. The morning newspaper is waiting on the front porch just like a regular Tuesday. You crank up the Clash on an old IPOD because your SONOS system won’t work until Xfinity restores service on Saturday.

You wash walls, dry out as best you can, the fires continue to get under control, 42 dead, you feel waves of powerlessness, guilt and gratitude.

Thursday morning 10/19, you return to work not quite sure why you need two days of prep but happy to have somewhere to go. You listen and tell stories with your colleagues, some feel guilty that they didn’t do more, it is what it is, we do what we are capable of doing.   At lunch you deliver some extra diapers to La Luz, leftover donations from the high school. The scene there is awesome, connected, and positive. You ask Marcel if he needs anything else, more diapers especially size 5-6, more water, more toilet paper, more. You post this on Facebook, sure it will happen.

You clean your art room (always kind of a disaster area), adjust your curriculum, make some plans for your students on Monday then head home to prepare your studio for a family displaced by the fire. Wag more, bark less. On the way out you stop by the tennis courts where the girls coach Mary Kate is sweeping ash. She has next week planned out, makeup matches, a senior presentation, practices, and normalcy.

Sonoma is strong.





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