#firestorm

Meet Cathy

The portrait story project I’ve been working on these past months now has a name!

This is My Story: Women and Homelessness

and we’re already working on the book! as well as upcoming art show/events later this year to which you will be invited! The original art story portraits are now hanging on a rotational basis in the dining room at The Living Room (TLR),  so that the participants can get to see them and know each others’ stories better. They gather round in excitement when the new ones are hung!

I met Cathy first in the Meditation Group at TLR and instantly wanted to know her better. I’m sure you would too. Her story is directly related to the 2017 firestorms. I’ve had to abridge it to fit it onto the page, but here’s the gist of it.

Cathy

One part of Cathy’s story that I couldn’t fit on the art piece was what she said about her large extended family  in this area (almost all of whom lost their homes in the fire): “My upbringing was in an Italian immigrant family where, because of the cultural experience of loving, caring, and compassion, we made a solemn promise to never abandon each other, to always take care of each other.” And then the firestorm tested the human limits of that promise, though they are still doing their best.

Evacuation and beyond

Alas I had in mind the blazing colors of autumn growth when I painted this in Muse Group a couple weeks ago. The theme was the “tree of life” and we were painting on crinkled Masa paper. We’d had a lovely uneventful “fire season” at that point and even a few drops of rain. But by now you probably have heard about our massive Kincaid fire, evacuations, and lengthy power outages. The sentiment is strong here. . .oh no not this again!

treeoflife

acrylic and collage on crinkled Masa paper, 10 X 10″

When the neighboring towns of Windsor and Healdsburg evacuated and the winds were blowing our direction, we packed up our photo albums, hard drives and important papers and headed down to a hotel in Daly City, just below San Francisco where we figured that PG+E would not cut the power. There we stayed for four days, glued to the news and texts from friends, to await the terrifying spread of this firestorm.

evacuationday2

While our brave fire warriors battled the flames and thousands of courageous evacuees buttressed themselves against the sudden drop in temperatures without heat and power, we hunkered down in Daly City and made a hotel our temporary home. To manage the anxiety I sketched, starting on Day 2.

evacuationday3

On Day 3 we visited sketch buddy, Laurie Wigham and John, in nearby Bernal Heights. Laurie took me up the hill to enjoy 180 degree views of the city. In her good company and from that vantage point I could feel more philosophical about the possibility of losing our home.

evacuationday4

Daly City is well endowed with malls and access to a freeway that is a major artery to SF and the bay area. The eating establishments within walking distance of our hotel included Inn n Out Burger, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, Mr. Pickle and Miss Tomato sandwich shops. The waiting and constant attempt to get updated news was exhausting. We wandered malls to find dinner.

By Day 4 I decided to go for a nature walk around nearby Lake Merced. It turned out that the “trail” was next to rushing traffic, BUT the lake was teaming with birdlife! So I spent a delightful hour in nature therapy, listening to bird conversations and arguments. I couldn’t quite tell which they were.

I have no more illustrations for after that. The winds died down. The fire is mostly contained. No one died in this fire though around 87 homes were lost. We’re out of danger for now, though our hearts are now with southern California as the fire monster is not ready to rest yet. The population of Sonoma County is back home with electricity mostly restored, grocery stores at least partially restocked and air that so far is mostly breathable.

And now we know, that all can change once again. There’s not really a home free anymore.

Oh No, Not Again!

I was on the phone this afternoon with my son, paying only partial attention to the skies as they transitioned from bright sunshine to a peachy gunmetal gray, which worked its way up from the horizon until the entire sky was filled. Bob placed a piece of paper in my lap that said it was smoky outside. And the words came to mind, “oh no, not again!”

It took a bit of online searching and a leap of the imagination to believe that the smoke was blowing all the way from Butte County, where a new and fast growing firestorm was blowing through 15,000 acres with no signs of slowing, and 1000 ‘s of people were fleeing. Oh no, not again.

And I still thought that referred just to the fire.

ono not again

acrylic and cheesecloth texture on watercolor paper, 10 X 11″

Out in my studio  I looked around for a way to give shape to what I was feeling. A cheesecloth textured piece reminded me of a horizon in flames.  I knew I was looking for the faces of those who would be fleeing the conflagration.

We refer to a mask of fear, of sorrow, and this is what I wanted as a kind of prayer of solidarity. Yes, I was grateful to find out that the fire was not closer, at least not this time, but. . .I still feel the fear, and the loss.

And then I’m watching the evening news about the shooting in Thousand Oaks, a country western music night for young people, some of whom lost their lives and others who will never feel totally safe again. And then the news announcer uses these words, “people are saying oh no, not again”.