EASY Christmas Shopping

I think having been through a big fire, I still have PTSD. Seriously, every time — but especially this time of year which is a couple weeks after my dogs and I finally got to come home after being evacuated from the Cedar Fire — if there’s a big fire anywhere, but especially CA, CO, MT or NM, I’m a wreck.

You don’t forget what it feels like to see a huge wall of smoke and flames crest a mountain that’s between you and your house, or finally to be released from the Red Cross shelter, or where you’ve been waiting (in my case it was both a shelter and a park), and told you can’t go home, but you can drive on the freeway to friends in another town, if you have any.

In 2003, I was lucky to have friends living near the beach. I drove west on I-8 with fire to right, left and in the median strip. The fuel was mostly gone, but some of the flames were high.

Safe at my friend’s, I waited constantly for word that my town and house were OK. The smoke still shrouded my mountains and phone service was sketchy. I was in a state of shock and anxiety.

I was (obviously) very lucky, but it was terrifying. When I did go home, the fire wasn’t out. It had just moved on to where there was fuel. Ash and smoke were everywhere. The road to the north was closed due to fire for six more weeks with firefighters from all over the US battling the fire in very rough terrain. At night the flames were visible. The firefighters were trying to encircle the fire and get it away from the two towns higher up CA 79, Julian and Lake Cuyamaca.

At the time I had four dogs, and they were all freaked out from the experience we were sharing. We lived in a rural area, so naturally, at the Red Cross shelter, were people who’d evacuated their farms and ranches, taking what animals they could with them. Imagine a flat-bed trailer pulled by a pick-up on which were strapped cages of chickens, ducks, rabbits, two sheep and a goat, horse trailers and livestock trailers filled with animals and feed. Horses tied to light poles at the high school parking lot, their trailers too packed with possessions and food for anything other than a brief, necessary ride. I overheard conversations, “I couldn’t do anything with the cattle. They’ll have to fend for themselves,” and “I just turned the horses loose. I don’t have a trailer. Nothing else to do. The Lord knows if I’ll ever see them again.” A little girl at the high school that was the Red Cross shelter was especially taken with my pitbull, Persie. It turned out they’d had to leave her dog behind when the fire hit Alpine, and they’d had ten minutes to get out. The little girl was devastated, and somehow Persie helped.

SO…I feel especially for the animals affected by the fires in California. 

Yeah, I know the comparative value of human life, but I think there are more resources for helping people. I’ve found a couple of organizations that are working hard to help animals who’ve been lost, burned, left homeless. These organizations are caring for the animals and trying to find owners who might be dead or disoriented or injured themselves. So if you’re so moved, North Valley Animal Disaster Group http://www.nvadg.org is one very active rescue that could benefit from your help. It has literally rescued more than a thousand animals left behind from the Camp Fire and the town of Paradise. Other agencies are helping them that could use your help too.

I don’t have a lot of people on my Christmas list, but this is what they’re getting from me. 

25 thoughts on “EASY Christmas Shopping

  1. I love hearing about your life. Today’s word prompt was “change”. You’ve lived a life of change and survived it all. I hope you write a book about your life and all the changes you’ve witnessed. It’s fascinating, scary, real! Honest to god, it’s amazing!

  2. The fires are REAL! They are scary, and it’s not surprising that you have a case of PTSD after being evacuated from a fire. I feel sorry for all the pets that had to be left behind — and for the wild animals whose home burned as well. Your idea of a gift for them is an excellent, feeling idea.

    • Thank you. I really fall apart. People during and after “my” fire were so changed. One woman where I was having my haircut had lost everything, her house, car, dog, flattened in Alpine. She’d been staying with her sister. We got rain that fall and she went back to her property to see what shape it was in and her roses had come up through the black earth. She decided — seeing them — to rebuild her house. I still can’t see a “thank you firefighters” sign without crying. ❤

      • I’ve never had to evacuate because of a fire, although my elderly mother was in evacuation zones a couple of times in Santa Barbara. But the photos are enough to trigger reactions for me. I’m not sure I could rebuild if my house was lost in a wildfire — too scary that there might be another! And I understand your reaction to the ‘thank you firefighters’ signs (it’s similar to the fact that I still can’t comfortably talk about 9/11!). The fires in CA are still burning, and projected extinction date is now 11/30, but they are burning in areas inside the containment lines and no longer threatening homes. It’s cloudy today, and we are expecting rains tomorrow night and Wednesday!

        • P.S. I don’t talk about 9/11. My feelings are too conflicted and the whole historical moment changed our country. It’s just an unspeakable thing for me. I don’t comprehend it so…

      • I, too hope the rain will be gentle and soaking, but they are saying there could be heavy rains overnight! I’ll see when I go to Santa Barbara on Friday, and hopefully get some photos.

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