Continuing my ongoing seasonal letters on pagan holidays.
Bonfires were a big part of Celtic harvest festivals, perhaps a historic precedent for our October fires in Sonoma county that now take place annually. As we celebrate Samhain, the third pagan harvest festival, our county is burning up again this year. A new element is Pacific Gas and Electric shut offs, induced by dry weather and high winds that take place in the fall. With little notice and less planning our power company did cut our power and threatens to cut us off again at any time. And it looks like faulty PGE equipment is responsible for our latest fire, still burning, called Kincade. Popular sentiment is angry, fearful (many survivors of the deadly 2017 fires suffer from PTSD), confused. Looks like PGE has more regard for its shareholders than customers. We want publicly owned power, and SF and other cities have offered to buy the bankrupt company but directors say it’s not for sale. PGE is responsible for the deaths and loss of property of thousands of Californians in recent fires and a deadly gas explosion a few years ago. We survivors intend to hold them accountable.
As I write this Gov. Newsom has declared a state emergency with the largest evacuation of Sonoma County residents in history. Much of Northern California is without power so folks in rural areas also have no water, which requires electric pumps. The fire started while we were vacationing in Kauai with Barb and Ana, our exes and besties. Holly and Ana had not been to Hawaii and it was at the top of their bucket lists. We flew out of Lihue and into Oakland Saturday night and stayed with friends in Berkeley thinking we’d drive back to Santa Rosa Sunday. Stayed up pretty much all night keeping track of the news. Holly’s 85-year-old mom was evacuated from her assisted living place in Windsor to Santa Rosa, then again to Scotts Valley near Santa Cruz. We haven’t been able to speak to her yet, but we know she’s in good hands. Holly did talk to a caregiver there who said they were all sleeping on inflatable beds that night. The poor workers at these places are being asked to take the job of first responders and work 24-hour shifts while their own families evacuate and they worry about their own homes burning.
Now we are camped out in my old home in San Francisco with air filters going. It’s still windy but air quality here has improved as the wind took a turn west toward the ocean. So now the Russian River towns and points west in Sonoma County also have been evacuated. I hope the fire can be stopped before Guerneville and the river area which suffered damaging flooding last winter and is just now recovering. Marin County and most of Sonoma County are still without power.
We will be in San Francisco on November 2 but not to celebrate the Day of the Dead procession and festival of altars in the Mission as usual. I’ve got a stand up gig! I’ll be telling a story in front of a live audience at the semi-annual MUNI Diaries Live event. It’s at a place Called the Rickshaw Stop near Civic Center at 6:30. Locals, do come if you can. Laugh at my jokes! Supply friendly support! Although some of my friends have told me they plan to come just to heckle.
Muni Diaries is the brainchild of two women. They are working to create a culture around public transportation and seem to be having a great time doing it. You can hear me read another story on the MUNI Diaries podcast to be published October 28. Just subscribe to the podcast or look us up at munidiaries.com.
Yikes! Now I’m worrying. I’m old and CRS. Must practice!
Sending Samhain love,
PS: Today, October 29, we have fled again, this time to Sacramento to stay with in-laws. We drove back to Santa Rosa to fetch a few things. The AQI there was 308. Who goes to the Central Valley for good air?! Just living as climate refugees day to day.
On the way out of town–unharvested grapes in the smoke and PGE crew repairing wind damaged power lines.