Updated: Jan 17
In the early afternoon of October 9, 2017, I rolled into the driveway of some of the best people on earth. Two of my dearest friends whom are more like family to me....Nancy Irish and Doug Blumer. I'll never forget the look on Nancys face as I stopped the car, they stood in the drive, all eyes glancing to the contents in the car....Immediately tears fell from Nancys eyes as she noticed some of my paintings on board...when she saw them, it told her my house was standing and my paintings and contents hadn't perished in the fire that devastated 1300 homes in my neighbourhood.
This blog, though its not about live music...what it has evolved into (just for now), is a blog about my personal journey...ups and downs of my life since the wildfires.
Fast forward 79 days...Much has happened in my world. For the best part of those I have had the privilege of 'coming home' to Nancy and Doug, they have been my rock, and the only stability I have had recently.
During the past three months I have seen the devastation of my neighborhood and others unfold. The after effects of the fires have been life changing for so many. Then in November, I had an accident. Believe it or not, I fell out of a hot tub, face plant on concrete, which put me in an ambulance with a possible fractured skull. And sure enough Nancy and Doug showed up in the emergency room at midnight, ready to bring me 'home'. Huge lump on my head, and for the next two weeks we watched, as the colors of my bruising face were revealed. I lucked out only to be left with a black eye for a fortnight. I looked as if I had been in the ring with Ali! The CT scan showed, my skull wasn't fractured, though a few short weeks later it was my heart that had been broken. The timing couldn't have been worse for me. The holidays were approaching and this abrupt and completely unexpected end of a romance, left me with a painful absence of stability in my world, only adding to the displaced part of life at present.
Weekly visits to my home in Coffey Park were grim. I'm there a few times a week, to collect the post, meet adjusters, fence builders, painters etc...And every time I do, the grief covers me like a big dark black heavy wave, sometimes burying me for hours. Recently the floodgates for tears opened whilst having lunch with a friend, from all the grief and loss recently. The tears began to flow which may indeed be a good thing. Every time I enter my neighborhood my heart breaks for all of those who have lost everything. The area is so very dismal and depressing. From the outside, it seems that I got out unscathed. My house is standing, I'm alive, my paintings and photos have survived and I have people around me that have not abandoned me. The love that I feel from them is genuine and real! I am so deeply grateful for all these things. But just because my house has not burned down, doesn't mean my daily life hasn't been changed dramatically .
Which brings me to the upside...Recently, the children in Sonoma County made Xmas cards for the first responders....Hundreds of them!...The radio station I work for asked me to deliver one bag to the Coffey Park Fire station and one bag to the station thats even closer to my heart....Berkeley Fire Station No. 6.
On December 28th I had the pleasure of visiting my Berkeley Fire Fighters on Cedar Street. The first crew member that greeted me was Jonathan or 'PK' as he is called. I brought the bag of cards from the kids, and another bag, from me, filled with gifts for my heroes. Jonathan took me to the foyer upon entering the fire house. He wanted to show me the plaque I made them on my first trip to visit back in October, proudly hanging on the wall in a place of honour. I was deeply touched. They were too, apparently. PK said that the "grateful" plaque I had given them only a couple days after the fires started, had been proudly hanging there since that day back in October!
I keep in touch with Mike Shuken, (Mike is the fire fighter that shot the video the morning of the fires, and saved my home)...I was aware he wasn't working other than 'light duties' for the time being. But had thought it was for other reasons. Jonathan told me why Mike hasn't been working. He hadn't been working much since the fires, due to the fact that he and Cliff, (another member of that first team to Santa Rosa), had both been injured on the job saving homes my neighborhood. We never hear about that side of things. The after effects of our first responders. These guys are heroes...They are my heroes.
Getting back to my visit to the station, December 28...after a chat with the crew in the station, they asked if they could take me for a ride in the engine that had been the very same engine that saved my home. So the four of us piled into the engine, put our headsets on, and Stan, PK, and Cal took me for a spin round Berkeley. Whilst we were out, an emergency call came through. They said we hope you don't mind, but were taking you with us!....Yikes...I didn't expect this. I had a date waiting down the road for me, so I let him know I'd be late and Cal, the firefighter to my right, strapped me in. Stan, the driver stepped on the accelerator, put the sirens on and we were off to an emergency! I learned a ton about what they do. Apparently 80% of what they do are paramedic medical type emergencies...only 20% are fire related. If the call was fire related I would have opted out. So off we went to the medical emergency to Cesar Chavez Park. A woman had hurt her hip after being attacked by a dog. After the emergency was dealt with, and the woman was in the ambulance off to the hospital, we went back to the station...the guys said they have adopted me as an honorary Berkeley fire fighter. I feel so close to them as if they donated a kidney. And I am so honored to know them. They are truly going to be in my heart forever. That ride on December 28, in the very same engine that saved my home on Oct 9, was so meaningful (and fun). I felt like every six year old riding in a fire engine with the sirens on! :)
After I said my goodbyes to PK, Cal and Stan at the fire station, I was meeting someone on Fourth Street in Berkeley. I had no idea that this magical evening would only get better. As if I walked onto a movie set. Twinkling lights hanging from trees down the avenue. A tall, dark, handsome man was waiting for me, to sweep me off my feet. And he did! Like it was a dream...the whole night from the fire station onward. Thinking that nothing could top the experience with my fire crew and the engine ride. This turned into a beautiful ending to a truly magical evening. I dont know what the future has in store for me romantically, but what I do know is this evening has added a lovely page to the content and colour of my lifes journey. The 'ups' in my spectrum! When the downs get to me, I will always keep an 'up' like this evening in mind, and know that both the ups and the downs are the content and colour which fills each and every one of our lives.
As unstable as life can be for us all at times...(especially nowadays with a crazy person in the position of POTUS)...we all have our personal extreme ups and extreme downs. The feeling of overwhelm or as Nancy says, feeling 'whelmed' has been tough for me and many other affected by the wildfires. Tears, heartbreaks and loss of a life I knew it, in abundance, all crammed into less than three short months. But this ongoing story creates a stunning spectrum of what we call lifes' joys and sorrows. Lessons learned. If there were no spectrums, we wouldn't feel true pure joy and happiness. This night in late December has given me hope for the future. This is life! This is my journey. These things are what makes me stronger. We dont always know whats around the corner. Before the fires I was living in my own home. A couple of days ago I moved into an apartment. Somewhere I can be for at least six months. And at this point I'm unsure if I'll ever want to go back and live in my home again.
The part of my life including Berkeley Fire Station No 6, has given me a true feeling of what I would call 'a full circle'. Getting to know these heroes, these first responders, that saved my home, has been the highest honour and privilege I've ever known. Eternally grateful for them and for my friends who have stuck by my side, loved and cared for me, when I was on rock bottom. They didn't abandon me in my darkest times of need. I feel nothing but GRATITUDE in abundance. Thank you.