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Notes from Glen Ellen: Nov. 10

Firefighters from Cal Fire at the community dinner. Photos by BJ Blanchard.

BJ BLANCHARD,

We are changed. We have learned new words, like “re-populate,” “NIXLE” and “mandatory." We have met neighbors down the road we never knew existed. We’ve upgraded our fire insurance. And, we are grateful beyond words, for each other.

The theme in Glen Ellen these days is “community unity." Everywhere you look, there’s a party - street parties, church parties, porch parties, neighborhood gatherings. It’s as if a groundswell of gratitude for each other has emerged from a dormant population.

Hill Road, burned black at the top near Pat Smith and Mickey Cooke’s homes, came together Friday night for a giant porch party. The fire had been held at bay there by neighbors Scott Lindquist, Steve Lee, Neil Shepard, Matt Smith and others. At the first sign of concern that windy warm night, Neil loaded up his Clydesdales - Willie, Sunny, Gus and Max - and got them to safety at the Serres Ranch on Highway 12. He coaxed a couple water tenders from Serres and got someone to drive them up to the top of Hill Road where the fire was rapidly approaching the Jack London State Park from the south. These men, using shovels, chainsaws, rakes and hoses from the water tenders, stopped the encroaching flames from entering the park. Steve, on his motorbike, raced down to Arnold Drive to flag down the wailing engines, and then, as Shepard puts it, the Cavalry arrived. “Had the fire crossed the creek canyon” says Steve Lee, “it would have entered the never-burned SDC lands and spread unabated up Sonoma Mountain and across the hillside communities of Morningside, Sobre Vista and Diamond A.”

So Hill Road held a come-together celebration that raised $5,980 for nine friends who lost everything. It was, by all accounts, a loving, cordial party. People donated food, drinks, music, clothes, even a Porta Potty for the event.

On West Trinity, black and demolished except for burned out cars and dusty rubble, they held their own phoenix-like gathering of support and gratitude.

Garric Avenue held a “wine and nibbles” to thank Nils Derickson and his bulldozer for driving the firebreak along the ridge 40 feet from houses which kept the fire from entering the neighborhoods from the east. At that party, the young men who tend their newly-legal cannabis plants in secret places, and had grabbed shovels and rakes and hoes and dived on the cinders which continued to fly over the firebreak into dry grass. Those guys came to the party too.

Glen Ellen Community Church held a welcome back event in their historic Mayflower Hall as a “Welcoming Center” where people from surrounding communities came for comfort and camaraderie.

A huge gathering was held in the parking lot of the Garden Court Cafe at Arnold and Warm Springs on Sunday night. More than 200 Glen Ellen people, some burned-out, some singed, some not touched, came together in an open-air setting, ate, drank, hugged, laughed until the sun went down and darkness descended. Under strings of festive lights, right there in the center of town, neighbors and old friends shared their stories, again and again and again. It was free. It was not for donations or promotions. It was about camaraderie and closeness.

Local wineries, Benziger and Imagery, are hosting a “Rise up and Recover - Benefit for the Glen Ellen Community” with a special performance by the Transcendence Theater company on Friday, Nov. 10. 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.

We’ve been tested. And we passed. Glen Ellen, and all of Sonoma County, looked into the gloom and thought, “Can we do this?" And we did do it. We took care of our family, our neighbor, our community.