Grit, Determination and Hypervigilance

December was a tough month for everyone

Thomas Fire:  281,893 acres burned in Ventura, Ojai, Carpinteria, Summerland and Santa Barbara. 1093 structures destroyed and 280 structures damaged

Thomas Fire Map

Thomas Fire Map and Evacuation Areas

Hypervigilance

I live and work on The Mesa.  You can see on the map how the fire circled around downtown and the Mesa.  The Firefighters held the line along Mission Canyon and 192 to protect as many people and properties as possible.  They held a town hall briefing at 4:00 everyday.  We watched on Facebook.  All the agencies involved were represented and answered any questions the public had.  All the agencies complimented each other on how well coordination and communications were done throughout the emergency.  It was really awesome and really terrifying.

The outside air quality was anywhere from “unhealthy” to “not recommended for sensitive groups”.  N95 masks were distributed to the public, free of charge from a group called Direct Relief.  I read they distributed somewhere in the neighborhood of 300,000 masks.  We were cooped up.  I had not experienced that kind of cabin fever since the winter of 2013.  Where in Minnesota, there were 53 straight days of below zero temperatures.  But I digress, that’s what got us to Santa Barbara to begin with! Somehow during this time I caught a whopper of a cold which made is much easier to binge watch the news with minute by minute updates about the fire.  I went through two boxes of tissues, but I had my trusty dog by my side…

Then the rain came  

The Rain storm started about 3:30 am on January 9th.  I only know because for some reason Patrick got up, I opened one eye at the time and then went back to sleep.  The estimates are somewhere in the 1 inch per hour range for awhile and 1/4 of and inch per hour during the late morning.  Patrick was concerned about our new retaining wall, which fell during the winter storm last year.  Yes it held.

Then came the devastating mud slides.  I read that the burned chaparral caused a waxy residue to form on top of the charred dirt.  This did not allow the rain to be absorbed and caused the water to run down the mountains and pick up earth and boulders that eventually hit Montecito. 

You might not be familiar with this little Santa Barbara enclave, but you might know some if it’s residents.  Oprah moved in a few years ago.  So did Ellen and Portia de Rossi.  Rob Lowe fed Fire Fighters in his kitchen.  But my favorite is of course The Dude, Jeff Bridges.  I do have a six degrees of separation story there, but that’s for another time.  21 people died and I think 2 are still missing.  A few of these souls were in the voluntary evacuation area.  It’s difficult to fathom the terror they must have felt. 

This is actually the first time I’ve been able to watch any video of the damage,  it’s just too heartbreaking.

But I’ll always have my dog by my side

And as if this were not enough, the universe provided one last blow, my beloved rescue Berner Louie died after a very sudden and devastating illness.  The Saturday before Christmas, he started to limp and then knuckle his toes.  We brought him in to AVS to be looked at.  They took some X-rays, but the Vet felt that there was nothing really remarkable about them.  She mentioned the atrophy in his legs, but suggested rest, anti inflammatories and some pain management.  He got up under his own power and came home. 

By the Wednesday after the Holiday, Louie wasn’t able to get up on his own, and was unable to use his hind legs at all.  We went back to AVS and were told that there really wasn’t any hope.  He no longer had any feeling in his back legs and was unable to go to the bathroom on his own. Louie’s paralysis would most likely be progressive. We made the gut wrenching decision to let him go.  We try to reconcile our grief with the fact that he had an amazing five years with us and really became the dog he was always supposed to be. 

I guess that was his Karma.

Bernese Mountain Dog

Louie “Booboo” Kelly

Grit and Determination

It’s difficult to see the bright side in all of this, but some good came out it all.  Santa Barbara came together with grit and determination.  Everybody pitched in in one way or another.  Mira Bella Salon and Spa decided to give a Direct Relief donation in lieu of our holiday celebrations.  Direct Relief distributed masks, first aid and vaccinations for workers in the mud slide area.  What is not widely known is that the CEO of Direct Relief is a resident of Montecito and was personally impacted by the fire and the flood.

We were joined at Mira Bella by Patricia Noel Studio.  The stylists there worked with us for 10 days while Coastal Village Road was cleaned up and until it was safe to return to their home salon.  They are amazingly busy Hairdressers and brought a buzz to our shop we haven’t seen in awhile.  It was great to welcome and support our hairdressing community and lift the spirits and business of another shop during this really difficult time.  We’ve made some great friends.

The sunshine has returned and along with it some unusually warm weather.  Santa Barbara is healing from the fire and the floods.  We hug each other a little tighter and give each other the help we need.  I think that is the lesson I’m supposed to take away from all of this.  I’m not alone and it’s okay to let others lead and be strong when I just can’t.

Stay strong 805