We Californians are used to fire.
We watch the news and our hearts go out to the firefighters’ seemingly impossible task of containing a fire that rages through acres of uninhabited forest.
We hold our breath when fire rips through a wooded area where homes are tucked, and we grieve for the residents.
But we who live in Northern California have yet to get our arms around the tragic firestorm that recently leveled entire communities, took lives and displaced so many.
Where we live is sacred to us, no matter how small. “Home” isn’t just a place, it is also a feeling. We always assume “home” will be there for us at the end of the day. It is a place where we relax, find comfort, and feel safe. It is our anchor. How often do we say to ourselves, “I can’t wait to get home?”
This morning I read Francis Weller’s post, “Everything is Burning.” Francis is a Northern California therapist who lives Santa Rosa – one of the communities that was engulfed in flames. He writes beautifully about the “soul-shaking” trauma that hit Sonoma and Napa counties, and he suggests how to cope with what we can’t control. Take a few minutes to allow Francis to open your heart.
These last few weeks have seen radical changes in the physical and psychic landscape of Northern California. The fires that began late Sunday night, October 8th, quickly engulfed homes and dreams, woodlands and security. Many of us awoke in the middle of the night to the acrid smell of smoke, sensing that something was wrong. Only later, with the dawn light, were we able to see the extent of this disturbing truth.
The German word for trauma is “Seelenerschütterung,” which means “soul-shaking.” Clearly, our souls have been shaken by this catastrophic event. Everyone has been affected, whether we lost a loved one, a home, a beloved pet, our place of employment, a trail that we cherished or simply our sense of faith in the ordinary assurances of daily life. No one in our community has been spared the sorrows that have fallen upon us like ash. We are living in a collective field of sorrows that will take a long, long time to metabolize.