The past month in this year of the pandemic has been the most trying. Since the unprecedented dry lightening event of August 15th, 2.5 million acres have burned in my beloved home state. Today marks the 26th straight day of the worst smoke and air quality the Bay Area has ever seen on record. This past weekend, Napa spiked to 109 degrees (an all-time record), and my power was shut off twice–albeit briefly. (I don’t have air conditioning, by the way, so it was extremely uncomfortable to try and get any relief, even with a fan.)
The smoke has been so awful and thick and frankly, choking, even the birds couldn’t fly. These turkey vultures just sat on my neighbor’s property on these young vines trying to find some relief. I put out several five-gallon buckets of water at my place for them.
Add to this that I was also under a “red flag warning”…meaning in addition to the threat of power shut-offs, high temps, and smoke that was as damaging to your lungs as smoking 20 packs of cigarettes a day, Napa and the Bay Area were under a high wind warning. High winds + high temps + existing fires + dry brush (fuel for future fires) = we were all ready to evacuate. Napa and surrounding counties have been extremely on edge and always on alert, all hours of the day.
This past Tuesday, the smoke was so thick at my place it never got light out and my flood lights stayed on all day. I snapped this at 8:30 in the morning:
If the pandemic and the fires/smoke didn’t feel predatory enough, I also have an unwelcome neighbor–a mountain lion. I caught him on my camera this past winter hanging out on my art barn porch around midnight, but he’s been a more frequent guest, and has been hunting/killing domestic animals in my immediate neighborhood. Here he is caught on camera on my neighbor’s patio this past week. He is truly a beautiful, magnificent animal, but we are hoping Fish & Game will safely trap and transport him to another, more rural locale. (And given the unhealthy air plus this threat, my animals have been inside for over a week and only go outside for supervised bathroom breaks…they are so bored.)
So…the stress of this time of unprecedented fires–which the entire west coast is experiencing right now–has got me thinking most especially about trying to find the positive in the negative. Because there HAS to be an end in sight after what has been an exceptionally trying year psychologically, financially, and socially.
If there was any year to try your hand at art journaling and trying to figure out how to manage your mental health, I think 2020 is calling. A couple of months ago I was trying to brainstorm with Gina Lee Kim an art journaling class for Craft Napa, because she is really excellent at art journaling, and using art and imagery to work through problems. I loved this art journal page she made that she shared during a FaceTime brainstorm session:
The movement in this…the tension between the up and down, the light vs. dark, the interplay between the two…I thought this would be a great class for Craft Napa to help people process all they are feeling this year.
So with that in mind, if I was to make a little Highs & Lows, an up/down journal right now, the positive that is rising above all of the stress I have listed above would be counterbalanced by the beauty and benevolence of the following:
• Kindness of neighbors. There is a gentleman in Napa by the name of Scott Sedgley. He is a retired fire fighter and fire captain, and is running for mayor for the city of Napa. He knows I don’t live in the city limits and can’t vote for him but he heard I was having problems hooking up Maybel to my car with the threat of evacuating, and he told me next time I have problems, just call him and he will come over and help me hook up. How kind is that?
• Next Door App– A lot of people lost their homes on the other side of Napa in the Lake Berryessa region. They are looking for clothing and furniture while displaced and now temporarily renting rooms and apartments until they get on their footing again. Everyone is pitching in to help give them things. It feels good to help pitch in and feel useful during a time that is so isolating.
• I am very grateful to Jim…who flew out this week and helped me through what’s been a pinnacle of this pandemic with the fires and smoke. When it got so dark and smokey, he remarked that if I had texted him how bad it was here, he wouldn’t have believed me. Since he’s been here he helped me daisy chain the generators to Maybel for power, as well as manually cleaned the inside of my car of all the ash (which is everywhere here). I didn’t ask…I just woke up and it was done. 🙂
• I am grateful for work that is gratifying: the Craft Napa website for registration goes live on Tuesday! It has been wonderful to be focused on work–a good kind of work that I love to do–and take my mind off of what is happening outside and beyond my control.
Wishing everyone–especially those up and down the west coast–some peace and that we can all collectively breathe easier very, very soon.
Hi, Pokey. I’m grateful that I live in New Zealand where the pandemic has been fairy well controlled. We are just coming out of winter so are not in fire season yet, but I understand how trying it is. I have family in California and Oregon, so I’m watching the fire stories with their welfare in mind. Even though New Zealand has coped well with covid, it has been a trying year. A highlight has been listening to your instagram stories and feeling like I am part of a large group of caring people. Keep up the good work, and I hope the mountain lion is safely transported somewhere away from people and pets.
hang on to your gratitudes! things are absolutely unbelievably terrible. we appreciate your news, your honesty and your encouragement, and are thrilled you have done so well to keep yourself as safe as you can. very glad Jim can help you!
Oh Pokey, I’m sorry to hear all that you’re going through. I’m glad to hear that you are handling it well, as challenging as it all is. I love the journal idea for lifting you up. Hugs.
Gratitude, by it’s very nature has a way of taking us into a bigger picture, without denying or resisting what is happening or what we are feeling. Before reading your story today Pokey, gratitude came up in two conversations today in relation to life situations.
It can be an invitation to be lifted by the frequency of gratitude into the larger realms.
Thank you for sharing
All well said Pokey. I live in Half Moon Bay which is 20 miles south of San Francisco. Fires on the coast and all parts of California have impacted so many lives in tragic ways. Finding the positive can be a challenge. It is important to find the balance even in the what seems like the worst of times. Thanks Pokey for helping everyone see there is good and always things to be grateful we have in life.
💗 and 🙏🏻
the fires in Colorado are devastating but NOTHING like what California is going through. I am a native CA, but left over 30 years ago for the very reasons that are plaguing it now. I must admit, the epicenter from the earthquake 5 miles from my home were the ‘push’, but the fires and drought and (fill in the blanks) validify that choice to move to Colorado. Now many are in Colorado are facing the same as fires run rampant in No. Colo. I wish you safety and you obviously have perseverance, which I’m pretty sure I would have given up on and moved “outadodge” with your last brush with wildfires.
STAY SAFE! You’re obviously prepared but in these times trust your gut. TAKE CARE, BE SAFE!!!!
Thank you, Terry. I honestly don’t know where is safe anymore. I know of what’s happening in CO and hope you are safe as well. The record-setting heat in the southwest…the hurricanes in the south and the Gulf. None of us are free from the wrath of Mother Nature.
Sending you love, Pokey! Stay safe and let me know if there is anything I can do from here ❤️
Just keep posting Kevvy pix on IG. What a cute baby. A true McClelland–he’s growing quickly.
A well written review of life’s challenges these days with a hopeful finish❤️. Thank you for keeping it real and encouraging us to look for the Light at the end of the tunnel🙏🏻.
I’m trying. 🙂 Hope you are well, Jollyne and hope that this air quality improves this week. We need this!
Thinking of you XO
I am devoted Californian and am lucky enough to live near the coast with no fire danger. My heart and prayers are with everyone in danger and the constant worry of what’s next. Our pastor (online of course) spoke this AM about finding joy in the midst of it all and reminded us that ‘love thy neighbor’ is a a powerful way to joy. I am so glad you have neighbors and loved ones bringing a bit of joy to your uncertain days.
You are very positive in a very tough situation. Praying for every one dealing with those unrelenting fires.
You will be in my thoughts as this historic situation challenges everyone’s ability to accommodate. Praying for rain and relief for all of you.
2003, British Columbia CANADA, was the worst forest fire season ever recorded. Several small communities were completely destroyed and no longer exist except as place names on a map. The Okanagan Valley which is BC’s wine growing region, suffered serious damage, millions of acres of wilderness, gone, animals and people homeless. M husband and I were in the thick of it as we owned a wilderness tourism business. The fires started in July and didn’t ease up until we had snow on the ground in December. There is little to nothing we humans can do about events such as Covid, hard to social distance when you’re fighting the elements. All we can do, is whatever we can to help ourselves and our neighbours,and try to be kind to all the creatures whose homes are gone but who still need food and drink.
Winston Churchill who was in the thick of the German bombing raids on London, said that “when going through hell, the only thing to do is to keep going.”
Pokey, I’m so sad to read about your personal account with fire, smoke and mountain lions. I understand what you’re going through since I live in the mountains of N. Colorado near Red Feather Lakes.
Unfortunately, we had to evacuate last week, the fire had quadrupled over Labor Day weekend and our neighborhood was in immediate danger. It was such a scary experience! My husband and I, our cat, our neighbors and their pets and livestock are so grateful to be safe, but there was always that thought that our homes may not be here when we returned. We were saved by a freak winter storm that dumped over a foot of snow on our area. We went from 85 degrees to 20 degrees in one day. Thankfully, our neighborhood is fine for the time being, we are home, but the fire is far from contained.
One son and his family live in the San Francisco Bay Area and the other son lives in Oregon and we are worried about them too. What a year!
We are so grateful to the firefighters from all over the country and Sheriff’s office that are working so hard to keep us safe.