For any of you who live anywhere near Santa Barbara, you know that this has not been a typical holiday season. Early in December, what has become known as the Thomas Fire began. It started quite a distance from here, but quickly spread. In a matter of days, people from Santa Paula, to Ojai, to Ventura, to Carpenteria faced mandatory and voluntary evacuations. As the winds picked up, the impacted area grew to include Summerland, Montecito, and finally Santa Barbara. It was a frightening time!
The worst of it now seems to be over. Sadly there were two lives lost, many homes destroyed, and property damaged. People had to gather their family and pets, their most important papers, photos, and possessions, and leave their homes, under evacuation orders. Our air became toxic with smoke and ash which we were able to see, and microscopic particulates which were invisible, but no less damaging. Our hazardous air quality necessitated the use of special face masks anytime we went outside. Small, local businesses, suffered a loss of important revenue during a normally lucrative time of the year.
But we, also, have so much to be grateful for during all of this! At one point, we had over 8,300 firefighters, coming from near and far, to heroically keep the fire from being even more devastating than it was. We had police and all types of rescue personnel helping wherever needed. Red Cross set up shelters for evacuees. Large and small animals and pets were rescued, and given shelter by various organizations. Local television and radio stations came on the air for amazing coverage to keep us all informed. People took to social media to share support and guidance.
But that wasn’t all! There were private homes all over the area being opened to friends, family members, and even new acquaintances. People opened their doors to those needing a safe place to be, and warm reassurances that we would all get through this difficult time. Many volunteered in all sorts of capacities, wherever help was needed.
We came together, and in that togetherness, we were incredibly strong! Loving hearts, caring spirits, and helping hands were everywhere. Prayers were being said, and positive thoughts were being held. Smiles, hugs, and soft words were shared with those who so badly needed them.
And now…the scary times are behind us! Most of us are free to start focusing on the holidays that are fast approaching. Even though many of the celebrations and festivities had to be cancelled during the fire, we can have grateful hearts for all that’s been accomplished. We might not have been able to enjoy some of the cherished holiday rituals we hold so dear, but we’ve had an opportunity to gain a special appreciation and deeper understanding of what’s really important.
If we choose to focus on what we’ve gained, instead of what we’ve lost, we will be able to step into tomorrow feeling stronger, wiser, and more centered. This time will not be quickly forgotten! May we learn from what we’ve experienced. May we be grateful for our blessings. May we remember to hold our loved ones close. May we reach out to those in need.
I wish you peace of mind, a joyful heart, and a gentle spirit in the coming days! Happy Holidays to you!
Until next time,
*Photo courtesy of my husband, Jerry Menesez. This was taken from our backyard, looking out toward the mountains, on December 16th, 2017.