Evacuation advice from an expert
EDITOR: As I wake up for another morning in someone else’s house, a week after evacuating our Sonoma home, I reflect on the generosity and love of family and friends who have taken us in.
Evacuating our house and deciding what to take and what to leave behind, perhaps to become ashes, was interesting to watch, and I learned a few things.
Beyond the necessary laptops, phones and financial, legal, insurance, identity documents one has (if you get enough time to take anything besides what you are wearing as you flee the fires) the negotiations with the others you live with are your chance to be flexible and accommodate each other’s very different priorities, sentimental attachments and symbolic objects.
Some people want the photos, others the guns, some their mother’s ring, others their favorite tools. This is a time to say, “yes, and…”, not to challenge each other’s emotional attachments to particular things. I’d say the main limits are how much time you have to pack and how much you can get in your car!
Stress also shows up in a lot of ways. Some of us withdraw and need to isolate a bit, reducing the stimuli. Some become irritable, easily triggered to frustration. Anxiety, “spaciness,” forgetfulness, depressed mood, impatience are common stress reactions. Some people are very sensitive to any infraction of rules, as they feel the chaos of the fires and evacuations on our lives. Some get a bit obsessional, and try to control small things, as they cannot control big things. Some get physical symptoms, headaches, poor sleep. Breathing all this smoke only makes physical problems worse. Try to wear a mask as much as you can. Just don’t go into a bank wearing one!
Remember, we can all react differently and unexpectedly under this much stress, but usually we go back to our “normal” selves after the crisis passes. Try to be patient with other’s and don’t hesitate to say “I’m sorry” if you catch yourself having a stress reaction. Reach out to others, volunteer as we have, at an evacuation center.
Get back into a routine of exercise, eating well. If you find yourself worrying about things you can’t do anything about, keep your focus in the present and on taking care of those around you.
We’re trying to stay out of our host’s way. We go out during the day to give them some time to connect, and have some normalcy. We try to live up to their standards and routines, and to contribute food and household supplies. We try to be “low maintenance, low impact” visitors to show our appreciation.
Don’t be shy about accepting help. Know that if the tables were turned, you’d make the same offer to those reaching out to you. Let the love in.
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Memories, all alone in the Valley of the Moon
EDITOR: My roots in Sonoma go way back. I was born in 1943 at Burndale Hospital in Schellville and I can say that I spent the happiest years of my life in the Sonoma Valley.
My grandfather, Allan Bell, built, with his own hands, two houses near the end of Seventh Street East, under that hill that looks for all the world like a big green Faberge egg. I used to ride my bike on Lovall Valley Road, through the Sebastiani vineyard. I went to grammar school and a bit of high school with Bill Lynch.