At 11:02pm, October 8th, 2017, I answered my landline.
“THIS IS SONOMA COUNTY SHERIFF EMERGENCY COMMUNICATION – EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY – THIS IS AN EVACUATION CALL – THIS IS NOT A DRILL – EVACUATE IMMEDIATELY – THERE IS A WILDFIRE AND MARK WEST SPRINGS ROAD MUST EVACUATE”.
I don’t remember the exact wording, but that robo-call really wanted me to wake up and pay attention. I had already been patrolling my driveway for an hour. There was too much smoke, thick, choking smoke, although I could not see fire anywhere. I have chronic asthma and I am always alert to such pollutants. My husband and son were traveling out of state, so this was a solo evacuation; I was on my own.
October 7th was the annual California QSO Party. My friend had travelled up from Fresno to join me for a well needed, laid-back contest. We weren’t running numbers this year, just having fun. Her husband had gone Silent Key in July. This was the CQP to have fun. We made just 90 QSO’s in 24 hours. No rush, no worry, no sweep. At the end of the contest, for the first time in my ham life, I sent in our log before shutting down the computer. Good move. Several hours later, my house was vaporized. But I digress.
My dad moved to a skilled nursing facility in 2006. I moved his ham radio equipment to my household knowing “I can listen, but I can’t press the red button”. Darn it! After 50 years of avoiding his ham overtures, he’d finally caught me. I earned my tech license in 2006, earned my Extra in Oct 2009 and was granted his call on December 23, 2009. I had a new addiction – contesting and net control. I joined the ACS (Auxillary Communications Service), got my Sheriff’s volunteer ham radio operator ID, trained in traffic control and emergency services, and learned how to stay safe in an emergency. This saved my life and those of my immediate neighbors; who knew?
After I sent in our log for CQP 2017 and sent my friend on her way back to Fresno, I settled into my evening routine. After nightfall, I started smelling wood burning smoke, and too much of it. I had feeds for the sheriff and City of Santa Rosa Police notices forwarded to my cell phone. My memory is rather blurry, I’m relying on the official sheriff and SRPD published feeds to confirm times. At approximately 10:45pm, I received a feed that Porter Creek had received evacuation orders – at which point I put both cats into their carriers and “staged” them with my briefcase, purse, phone, Rx bag, and power cords at the front door. My dog was passed out on the bed. I walked to the top of the driveway and watched the full moon go from crimson red to completely blacked out – not good. At 11:02, I received the EmComm call on my landline. I raced over to the closest neighbors and woke them up; and phoned the further neighbors, rousing them – FIRE – GET OUT NOW – EVACUATE NOW!!!
After loading both cats, my luggage, and my very old, slow walking dog into my car, I went back into the house for food. As I reached for the dog food, I heard in my head “NO!”, so I moved away towards the front door. I asked “what do I need before I leave?” and heard in my head “YOU NEED TO GET OUT NOW! LEAVE NOW!” It was actually more expletive, but you get my drift. I grabbed my flashlight and sleeping bag, locked the front door, got into my car, and drove away.
At 11:26pm, I left my driveway, two-tenths of a mile north-east of Riebli Road. Driving down Mark West Springs Road was surreal. I knew there were fires at Riebli and Sky Farm, visible from the road, but all I could see was dark smoke, like an inverse valley fog. There was no one on the road with me till I got to Old Redwood Highway where the sheriff had set up a road-block. I drove south on 101, again finding no one on the road with me heading southbound. I was in a between-evacuations bubble, for which I am grateful. Emergency vehicles sped north on 101. I drove to our shop in Roseland where I spent the night watching the emergency feeds, talking with various friends “yes, I am safe”, helping other friends figure out what was going on. What a crazy night that was. How thankful I had my office in Roseland with both cats and the dog.
Fast forward to November 18th. My friends have put my family and pets up in their home in Penngrove while we search for our new home. We are safe, we are loved, and my pal and I are working single station multi-op for North American Sweepstakes – it’s a perfect book ending of ham radio; how it keeps me happy as a hobby, how it prepared me for this emergency. Thank god for ham radio.
I am also grateful to my quilting guild, synagogue and temple, RSCDS, the greater Sonoma County community, and my dear friends who we were staying with over the holidays while waiting to close escrow. I used to think I had too many hobbies! Thank goodness for them all. It takes an extraordinary community for such mega-disasters. I’m also grateful for my studies in Kaiju. This fire definitely qualified.
Here is my house several weeks after the fire. How the hell the antenna stand and rotor are still up I have no idea. The pole the rotor is attached to was stainless steel, but the chimney cap was aluminum, thick aluminum, true, but it should have melted! There are rolls of LM-400 coax in the backyard – they shrunk by about 400% and shattered. Weird.
I’ve been in a closet. I’ve had a secret few know about. I need to write my way into some kind of acceptance, and come clean to my loved ones.
For the past twenty-five years, I have been trying to manage chronic depression. Most of the time it rides just below the surface, always there as an annoyance, but not taking over. It stays put until I experience one of those bumpy things that happen in life, and then rises into something which takes over. During those periods, there is little to do but ride it out, and reminding myself that it will pass.
The clinical checklist for major depressive episode includes experiencing symptoms for two weeks or more. The side dishes include being unable to get out of bed, feeling exhausted, self-loathing, and self-isolation.
Social anxiety is also on the menu. As episodes have increased over the past several years, my world has become increasingly small. I’ve lost the ability to sustain relationships. My true friends can be counted on one hand. Even so, I don’t want to bother them. The effort involved feels immense.
Between episodes, cognitive therapy helps. In the middle of an episode, nothing helps much. You try different medications which lessen the episodes and frequency somewhat. You remind yourself with constant mantras that there are people who love you, to whom you matter. But in the middle of the darkness, you have trouble remembering this. You forget that you are highly accomplished and educated. That you were born with prodigious gifts, and have contributed greatly to the world. You forget how much you’ve enriched others lives. You forget that people are depending on you to keep your shit together.
I’m weary. I try to be graceful and grateful. But I seek grace most of all.
A major depressive episode means you’ve got your head up your ass, and can’t get loose.
So many wonderful lyrics and wonderful music Tom Petty left us. My heart is sore.
I’m watching the water, watching the coast
Suddenly I know what I want the most
And I want to tell you, still I hold back
I need some time, get my life on track.
I know that look on your face
But there’s somethin’ lucky about this place
And there’s somethin’ good comin’ for you and me
Somethin’ good comin’ there has to be.
And I’m thinking ’bout mama and about the kids
And the way we lived, and the things we did
How she never had a chance, never caught a break
And how we pay for our big mistakes.
I know so well the look on your face
And there’s somethin’ lucky about this place
There’s somethin’ good comin’ just over the hill
Somethin’ good comin’, I know it will.
And I’m in for the long run wherever it goes
Ridin’ the river wherever it goes
And I’m an honest man, work’s all I know
You take that away, don’t know where to go.
And I know that look on your face
There’s somethin’ lucky about this place
There’s somethin’ good comin’ for you and me
Somethin’ good comin’ there has to be.
Musical Milliner offers her kind regards to all of you who have hung in there with her the past five years as she has been circling the Inferno that was her life. She’s/I’m (changing tenses here) glad to be alive, and pleased to tell you that despite dedicated and focused attempts to dismantle my psyche and resources, I am well.
On this lovely atumnal equinox, I feel…balanced.
My sons are thriving. I am rebuilding my business, and I am experiencing one of the most productive phases of my life in music.
Socializing is still a bit of a challenge. Ever the introvert when not performing, but I am taking steps to improve.
Here’s the thing: I recently heard a song which reminds us that after so many years on this journey we all share, comes a time to lose some of the load. Keep what you need or want, and continue in a leisurely stroll toward the sign marked “exit.” It takes so much effort to keep track of all the emotional hording, and is so unnecessary.
Who knows, I may even write an upbeat lyric or two. God bless the lot of you.
The destruction of a long-term relationship, leading to her hitting rock bottom. She is sometimes delusional. In her addled mind, she sometimes believes she’s lost all of her friends, most of whom were mutual friends of the partnership, her in-laws, her community.
This delusion is the result of wrong thinking. When she has a clear mind, she sees all the people who really care about her, and have been there all along, some since childhood. Once again , they are in the foreground of her life, reminding her of her value as a human being, as a friend, as a mother. Yes, she has lost some friends in the war. Friends who were there for a season, and have moved on. It’s not a bad thing. It just is.
Back to the delusion, she knows it is all her fault. Of course it is. That is what he says. His mental illness, his failures, all bad occurrences and recurrences would never be, but for her decision to recind the contract. She has ruined his life. Forever. That’s what his family takes as gospel. It’s a family of enablers.
But it’s not all her fault. Get real.
His mother prayed for the demise of his son’s marriage to this unsubmissive woman, this vegetarian, teetotling feminist who breastfed her children forever, and didn’t change her name at marriage. A woman who took off to one of the top summer opera Young Artists Program for 12 weeks months after her wedding, and the following two summers, and weeks periodically for the rest of the year.
In other words, she was a bad wife according to the mother-in-law, and she fed that narrative to her son, the husband.
Among tha many gems uttered by his mother was the following: “There is nothing wrong with my children, it’s just the people they married.”
Do you get that?
Aren’t we, as women expected to keep our marriages together? If they fail, is it not, by default, we who are to blame?
Do you get that?
The meek little wifey model disappeared decades ago. It’s still practiced in fundementalist cultures all over the world, including the United States. Society has evolved and expanded, and some people aren’t able to stretch their imaginations and adapt. They refuse. The in-laws close ranks and believe whatever it that their son or brother, her husband, tells them. And it’s always the kids who suffer from the disconnection. You shun the mother, and wonder why the children will do anything to avoid spending time with those people. The children are loyal to their mother. They observed firsthand the abuse over the years, and how their father’s family did nothing to help.
The same woman once said, “I like my children. I just don’t like other people’s children.”
Does she get that ? Skilled dispensor of passive-agression, her mother-in-law?
Does she wonder why her grandchildren are not in touch? Does she understand they why don’t come around? Of course, that is their mother’s fault. Never mind the children are adults. That is their family culture. Submit, conform, or you can’t play with us.
What am I talking about? I am trying to reconcile how I went from someone with a good education, a prodigious talent, a career, self-respect. A singer with big competition wins A confident woman who collapsed into a beaten down, humiliated, & depressed woman in a violent marriage. How did that happen? I need to check in, look into this hatbox which I shoved up on a high shelf, and check my compass. I hate thinking about all of this. But I’m stuck again. What’s working? What’s static?
I am ready to write about these things now. My children are all adults. This is also their history.
In high school, I discovered hatha yoga, which led me to the writings, and eventually the lectures of Ram Dass (Dr. Richard Alpert). I consider him my first spiritual teacher. He popularized the phrase “Be here now,” which later became the title of a fascinating book. Some recent drama has called me back to these teachings.
This excerpt is from a 1988 interview in The Vegetarian Travel Guide.
Ram Dass: “…that’s (suffering) the one that is hard for this society to recognize. That is one of the highest mystical teachings, that suffering is great. But who wants that? To hell with that…later, baby.
VTG: When one is suffering, it’s very easy for the heart to close down. In my own life when I’m hurt or feeling angry, it’s often an automatic response. What do you tell your own heart when you feel it closing down, when the stimulus is just too strong and you’re ready to run for the hills?
Ram Dass: When my heart starts to close down, first of all it’s incredibly painful because you get addicted to having your heart open and staying in that kind of liquid space of just being in love with the universe, like the divine beloved is just everywhere. When it closes down it hurts. What I do is I sit with it the way it is. I don’t try to push away my closed heart, that just closes it further. I just say, ah ha, my heart is closed, and I realize that what is closed will open and what is open will close so that I start to have a little patience about it. And then instead of trying to open my heart by thinking loving thoughts, usually what I do is go back into my breath because the thing that closed my heart was a thought that I had. It was nothing out there.
Nobody did anything. They just do what they do. It was my interpreting what they did that closed my heart. And so I can see that what I’ve done is get stuck in a thought form. And what I can do now is go directly into my mind and go back into the rising and falling of my breath until I get to the point where the thought dislodges and I’m just with the thought of the rising and falling, and then at that moment that whole constellation of thought that closed my heart isn’t around anymore.
EJR: Do you actually identify what the thought was?
Ram Dass: I used to do that. I’m an old psychotherapist so I would say, “why are you unhappy?” or “why is your heart closed and what caused it?” Now I’m not so interested. When you go into the causes then you move into the psychological reality. You’re treating it as real. That’s one strategy, but it’s only one strategy. Sometimes treating the psychological as thought and going back behind it is a much more efficacious manner to get on with it. It is a bottomless well of trying to figure out why it is you’re angry, why it is your heart closes. It just never ends.
This is an informative article from a teacher’s blog. Lots to think about. The art of singing involves so many inter-connected systems. One’s psychological and spiritual state is a huge part of the equation, and technology is giving us answers as to how the musical brain functions.
Mostly, singers are bat shit crazy.