Evacuations, Gratitude, & Community

My little community is tucked into the mountains of California, just outside of Yosemite National Park. And unfortunately, fire season has begun.

We all feel that we’ve just recently survived the fires that scarily swept through our town last summer. What? It’s that time again? Yes, yes it is. Yesterday afternoon I got the alert that my father was under mandatory evacuation so without hesitation, I change into worn jeans and running shoes, grab some water bottles, and away I go.

We went through this several times last year…we know the drill.

Can’t get ahold of dad but I figure he’s scrambling around. I text him that I’m on my way and to let me know if he leaves. I make my way up the highway where the smoke looks like a tornado and the planes are circling and dropping. (pic #1)

The roads are crowded with lookie-loos, trying to get a sneak peek at the fire. I get it, it’s a natural reaction, but for goodness sake, some of us are driving to help evacuate our loved ones. Pull over!

Eventually I reach my dad’s neighborhood where I grew up. My family roots go back on both my mom’s and dad’s sides for many, many generations. I love it there. Even just the scent of the trees and creek and soil are distinct and different. It’s a special, magical place. My family owned the railroad that was there at one point in history. And now, families use the community for both full-time living and summer cabins. There’s also now a camp up the canyon near the old mill pond.

Magical.

So I reach dad’s house, zip around quickly and calmly, then I run next door to my great uncle’s house, whom we all call “cousin Terry” for some reason, and can’t find him anywhere. I even go into his house and yell for him. Nothing.

I worry about his beloved dog so I head back to dad’s, call cousin Terry, and still can’t reach him. Leave him a message that we’ll take his dog with us—can’t even fathom leaving the poor little darling alone. Finish loading up dad and head over with a sign and tape. “Dad and I have Bootsie.” (Which, in retrospect sounds like a ransom note.)

And…yay! Cousin Terry appears so we make sure he and Bootsie are packed up and headed out as well.

All good. We meet in town and dad wants to make another trip to get another vehicle. (He’s a retired race car driver…to say he loves cars would be an understatement.) So, ok, we head up to get one of his Harleys then return to town.

And he wants another trip so we head back up, passing through smoky skies, sad residents, and confused, panicked tourists. While we’re doing this, Cal Fire is working very hard on the ground and in the sky, and law enforcement tries to evacuate 100 kids with NO TRANSPORTATION out from a campground in the forest where the fire is headed.

That news is tough to listen to without being in a position to help. Phew. I say a prayer and send sparkles then carry on, evacuating dad with several more trips.

The last trip up, we chat with a CHP officer who is blocking the road off in front of dad’s house— people no longer allowed to pass by. We get updates from him, I get mosquito bites and wonder, briefly, why the mosquitos haven’t evacuated, then I take a quick pic of the charming community where I grew up. (pic #2) Hearing the birds call out while they swoop through the smokey air is eerie to me. They know something is happening, danger is in the air, but they stay.

I don’t want anything to happen to this community—nature’s animals included.

We head to dinner and both dad and I scarf down our Mexican food. We’re both clearly on an adrenaline ride.

Fire is still being battled but dad and cousin Terry and Bootsie are all safe and sound and back in their homes. The campers and kids all make it out as well.

The DC-10 plane showed up today from Arizona to help fight the fire, even while other fires broke out around the town. We now have five fires burning in the area.

This is a tough season and it reminds me, a homebody who sits at home in front of my computer all day, to connect with community during tough times like this. And this community is an amazing one with which to connect.

Peace and Love and Safety,
Isla

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