This latest video release from my husband Greg opens with a sunrise in Africa and moves to our town of Magalia with a message of symbolism and hope following our experiences in the Camp fire. Says Greg: “In August 2017, we had the good fortune to witness a rare event in Masai Mara, Kenya: a golden sunrise under the belly of a lion. Although this spectacle was filmed, I never shared it, waiting instead for the right context. The context has now presented itself: a catastrophic fire, the dawn of a New Year, and the message of hope that can be found in a sunrise.” I follow with some personal reflections, two months after the fire.
The fact that I haven’t written to you since reporting in the early aftermath of the Camp fire – as I did a few weeks ago in Life as a Refugee from the Paradise Camp Fire – doesn’t mean that I haven’t been thinking of you.
There are life-and-living logistics of two months as an evacuee living away from our home. We have now been able to get back up to our home for winterizing and for meeting with insurance agents for the post-fire cleaning that is recommended for ridding residences of post-fire toxicity.
Even though our house is not one of those that burned to the grown, the layers to manage are surprising. Most of our friends in town have lost their homes and are dealing with even deeper, far more painful issues. So any reports of hardship I have for you are of course considered with some perspective. That doesn’t make our difficulties not, well, difficult.
Three Personal Shifts
There have been bigger, decided shifts that this experience – the turning of our town to ashes, the displacement of so many, the ruin left behind and even officials scratching their heads about where-do-we-go-from-here – that has been my experience. My usual inspiration to bring news from the front lines of change in the mindfulness and vegan realms via writing, newsletters, and social media gave way to a different kind of connection. My interest turned to more close-quartered concerns.
Here are some ways that this showed up:
- I experienced a rejuvenated interest in cooking. I found myself experiencing renewed interest in preparing good food for others and my own family. It showed up initially in those first few days when staying with cousins of my husband Greg in nearby Chico. It seemed the way we could give back most (while they turned over a room of their home to us and our beloved ring-necked turtle dove travel companion Mr. Stubbs) was to prepare delicious yet simple vegan meals each night. As the holidays came upon us with Thanksgiving and Christmas, my usually lazy-cook personality became newly energized. Perhaps it is the immediacy of food preparation, the bringing of attention right into the present moment, which one must do when chopping and cooking. The presence of sharing and eating are powerful healers.
- I experienced a rise in the necessity of self-care for myself, my family, and my community. Eating well of course came along for the ride on this. So did daily exercise, always high on my list of must-do but it continued unshaken, even when we were advised not to go outside due to the air quality, even with masks on. Greg and I were usually the only ones in the park. Maybe we’ll pay a price for it later on, but we never suffered congestion or coughing as we paid attention to keeping the N95 masks on during walking and all points in between buildings and the car. Daily meditation practice continued and I was also able to attend more group meditations, due to my proximity to a meditation centers as a result of evacuation. Never doubt that these practices have beneficial effect for everyone in reach, from my husband to the person on the street- of which there are now a lot more. I found myself taking more items to donate at Salvation Army, giving cash for gas to a woman in desparate need without a moment’s hesitation, and handing out cookies randomly on the street. And just like everyone else, it seemed, patience and kindness rose to the surface.
- I experienced a decreased interest in anything to do with marketing. I have always had a love-hate relationship with social media. On the one hand, it has been a way that I have been able to reach more people than I could ever have imagined with the messages of mindfulness and veganism. And it has been a decidedly positive avenue for finding out about our immediate community and friends in the wake of the Camp fire.
But during this fallout time from the Camp fire, I became increasingly displeased with the down sides of platforms like facebook. In the light of the fire, observed superficiality and self-serving become increasingly illuminated. For example, as positive as it is that plant-based eating and vegan living have become more and more popular, many are eager to jump on the bandwagon of marketing a new challenge, a new year ‘cleanse’. It is not that these are harmful in themselves. They can be beneficial. But these endeavors seem to be marketed more and more (by some) with the hook of promising (even with imagery) of making you stronger, sexier, more attractive, and invincible. Even mindfulness is being marketed as making you more “productive” or as a tool for making more money to having better sex.
Do the ends justify the means? Are we appealing to the most egotistic, selfish elements of humankind to move us toward the deeper values of kindness for all beings, reducing suffering and scaling back our planetary impact? If so, where is it all leading? If we underscore being ‘more attractive’, sexier and stronger, then will that not perpetuate these same values more than any means we may attach to achieving them? Does this not give them a short shelf life when we tire of the latest trend and abandon it in favor of the next bright shiney object?
I do not mean to be curmudgeonly. Rather, I am revealing to you my inner response to conditions in our world that have been altered and refurbished in the way that dramatic events have a way of doing that. Running from fire is a life-changing experience. There is a values clarification that takes place. There are elements of grief that surge to the surface.
The questioning of the norm takes on a new urgency.
Greg’s video brings this all right into my lap again and again, each time I see it. I hope you enjoy it as a symbol, a touchstone for you to bring to the surface and clarify your most deepest values. May it be a means to elevate your highest aspirations of humanity, kindness and compassion, and joy in the simple things.
May your new year be filled with greater ease and happiness, and may we all be more loving and kind.