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Sonoma Valley Fire Diaries: 10/9/17 (Friends)

Dearest Blog Readers,

Between October 9 and 17, I evacuated Sonoma, CA during the Sonoma Valley Fires. I experienced fear at the possibility of losing my home or friends and helplessness of not knowing how to help others who would lose everything. All I could do was wait. I felt stuck; not able to find creativity to write blog posts, not able to find the right words to help others, not able to sleep. But while waiting (and constantly checking the news and Facebook for updates), I shifted my attention on appreciating what I DID have in my life.

In the spirit and season of gratitude, for the next 8 weeks I am rolling out my Facebook posts during that trying time and each blog post will represent one thing I am grateful for.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. What are you grateful for? Have you experienced trauma or displacement? What did you do? Who supported you?


Monday, October 9, 2017


I woke up to the sound of sirens and to the smell of barbecue smoke. I knew something was wrong. During the night, I had slept restlessly due to the pounding of strong winds against my home. In my 3 years living in Sonoma, CA, I'd never experienced winds this strong.

I checked my phone. It was 6am and I had several missed calls and messages from friends. My best friend rarely wakes early, so I checked her message right away. I could hear the fear in her voice:

"Reneé, I hope you're ok. I'm not sure if you've heard, but we're surrounded by fires. I'm packing right now to get out. I don't know where to go, but I'm taking you with me. I know today is your first day of work, but I think they'll understand if you don't go. If I don't hear from you by 7am, I'm coming to get you. Call me back."

I called her back panicked and crying and we made arrangements. I took Nilla out to go potty and couldn't believe ash was raining from the sky.

I was fumbling for my belongings and that question I'd heard before entered my mind, "What would you take in an emergency if you only had 5 minutes to get out of your home?" I grabbed my gym bag and took my lifting belt (hey, it was expensive and already in there!), some underwear, Nilla's food, some jeans, important papers, my laptop and pictures of my family and headed out.

In a small town, there is rarely a line for gas, but at 7am, cars were lined up down the 2-lane street. I waited for my friend to get gas and told myself I could make it on 1/4 tank.

All of a sudden, I received a group text from another friend:

"Hi fellow yoga teachers. My husband, kids and I are headed to my in-laws in Petaluma. You are welcome to meet us."

I texted my best friend the good news - WE HAVE A PLACE TO STAY!

It took us 30 minutes to get out of Sonoma when normally it takes 10. It was painful to wait there in traffic smelling the BBQ, watching the ash hit the hood of my car, and watch the smoke seep in like a cruel fog.

We made it to Petaluma and were greeted with open arms. My friend's in-laws made us feel right at home, pets and all, with home cooked meals and smiles. There was a bit of ash still falling from the sky like snow, but the town appeared calmer. I felt safe for a moment.

Throughout the rest of the day, friends from all over the country texted, emailed, FB Messenger'ed, IG'd me to check on my well-being.

I'm grateful for my FRIENDS.