I evacuated late, then snuck back into the Canyon as soon as I could. The day I came back, I woke up really early, stuffed five dogs and two cats in the car and headed for home. I had had enough. The 101 was blackened on both sides. Old Canyon was blockaded. Other secret ways up were blocked. I dreaded the idea of turning back with my menagerie. I was running out of options, but my one last path home was open. When I hit that dirt road, a sense of peace began to flood into me. Wending our way around, we finally hit the Boulevard, deep inside the canyon.
The air was perfectly clear and still. There was no wind. It was a sparkling, pristine morning. The peace. The peace. I will never forget that feeling. The screaming world was behind me. I drove slowly just absorbing the quiet.
Coming up our road, we drove past groups of lucky Topanga deer taking the opportunity to eat people’s gardens. It made me laugh. We pulled up the driveway. Home! The dogs were beyond happy to be back. The little puppy mill Samoyeds, still recovering from some tough experiences, couldn’t believe it, coming back to check in with me and share their joy as they re-explored their home.
I came in, made a cup of tea, then sat on the deck looking out at Catalina. The absence of population was so palpable. The solitude, the solitude, so welcome and appreciated. I will tell you, the next hours were some of the happiest of my life. Peace.
A little later, I went up canyon to my friend Robert’s house. He is our handyman, but also an artist and poet. I love him very much. I told him to come by later and I would cook him dinner. He and Raphaelo, an artist from Sleepy Hollow, New York, came by after dark, and we had a wonderful evening. Raphaelo looked and sounded just like Al Pacino. A very entertaining storyteller. The night was peaceful. Cold and clear…and that blessed quiet.
The days here in solitude have been magical. George found his way up last night. This morning I begged him to come outside and listen to the quiet, because it was soon to be over. We sat outside together and drank it in with our tea and coffee. I looked over at the ridge on the other side of the canyon where I know it is blackened from Malibu past the county line to Thornhill Broome, from the ocean through the Conejo Valley, to Simi, Agoura, West Hills. Eighty-eight percent of federal parkland in our Santa Monica Mountains wildlands burned.
I am looking at green space in Topanga. We are the last of it after that ridge. We are the edge of green.
I wonder if displaced wildlife will find its way here. National Park Service accounted for 8 of the 13 collared mountain lions*. I saw our deer this morning. I told the one with the mangled antlers how lucky, lucky, lucky they were…are…how lucky we all are in Topanga. The sun is streaming through the trees, backlit by the beautiful light caused by the particulate matter in the air. Such a beautiful, horrifying light.
People are coming back now. I went to the post office to pick up mail, saw a lot of neighbors I know. They look ragged, like I did the day I found my way back. They will need time to decompress. With the people, came the tension. OMG. You should see the hysteria/conspiracytheory/rumor/drama/assignation of blame and who must pay, posts on NextDoor. People are nuts. Gratitude is the shortest lived of all emotions. We are so lucky to have homes to come back to.
There is not very much fire news on now. It has had its fifteen minutes of fame. Jeez, Thousand Oaks had about a minute-and-a-half on the news about the shooting before focus was shifted to the fire. I am proud to write for the Messenger Mountain News. I think local papers are the only places people will continue to find out about the fire aftermath and be able to process the cataclysmic upheavals it caused.
I am glad I had my days of solitude here, of pristine quiet, me-and-my-dogs, paradise.
I am glad to say prayers of thanksgiving for being spared and prayers for those who were not. May God give all you beautifuls the strength you need to renew.
*Editor’s Note: At press time, all but one collared mountain lion were accounted for.