Sunday morning was as normal as any day in my life. My friend Nikki dropped me off in my driveway after our daily 2 1/2 hour walk around Spring Lake with her dog Beso. I closed the car door as she said her usual good-bye: “see you in the A.M.” Sunday night I went to bed around 10 PM, hoping to get a good night’s rest before repeating our daily routine on Monday morning. Now, that moment keeps repeating in my head! I just want to go back to that moment and have everything be different than how it has now turned out!
I was in bed no more than a few minutes when I heard a roaring sound like a train. Then I heard things come crashing down on my front porch. I opened the door to find all my huge heavy pots of podocarpus trees lying on their sides. It would have taken hurricane force winds to take those trees down, I thought to myself. Then I smelled smoke. I walked out to my yard to find the western sky red with the glare of fire. As I turned to the east I noticed the eastern sky was also glaring red. My worst fears were being manifested in that moment. My only escape route, highway 12 seemed to be on fire at both ends.
I got into my car and drove to each end of my village, Oakmont. There in the distance I could see the flames rising into the night sky! That was the precise moment reality assaulted every part of my being. That was the moment my body sent me onto shock in order to protect me. Everything I had practiced before, in anticipation of this moment, was disrupted by the sheer terror of the reality I now faced. I frantically packed my car then made my way down highway 12, in a dream state, feeling like I was being directed by some force outside my own body. The dark black smoke provided a canvas for the red glow of the now raging fires. Each time I approached the top of an incline, the fingers of fire revealed themselves, stoking a quiet terror in my core. I could see the trails of headlights slowly winding down the road like an iridescent snake. Everything was in slow motion, but with an unmistakable urgency. I was not patient because I was calm. I was patient because there was no other choice. I understood that I was living the reality of the fire drills of my school youth when the teachers would instruct us to stay calm and exit single file. But this was no drill. This was the real thing!
Tonight the humidity and the wind will return to dangerous levels similar to those on Sunday night. Those of us directly affected by this unrelenting nightmare must summon even more courage to face the unknown. I am safe in the sanctuary of my friends' home in San Francisco. My home is still standing as I write this. But there is no end in sight and there are no guarantees. I must simply wait while trying to find the ability to accept what I cannot change.