Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away ~Mick Jagger & Keith Richards
This week wind’s continually enraged
local fires’ ferocious, insatiable appetites.
Heroically, domestic animals were rescued
and evacuated to the fairgrounds and other shelters.
I smile to your living, scorched fur presence.
Breathing in, through a particulate respirator
I calm my body, that you may feel safe
and cared for and can calm your precious body, too.
I somehow see in your eyes & body language
the sadness of being displaced & relocated.
The trauma of surviving, after witnessing
those who ran for shelter from smoke
& flames, but were consumed by the cataclysm.
Overhead a constant roars of helicopters
& air bombers carry water & fire-retardant,
fighting a real war of survival from above,
while hundreds of firefighters from all over the West
drain their sources to save people, animals & drought-ravaged forest.
Dozens already known dead, hundreds missing.
Over 5700 structures destroyed. It’s all beyond sad.
Humbling to be here whilst hillsides, valleys,
homes just 8 miles away were lost to the inferno.
South a short distance from where I now type,
hotels, business’ and entire neighborhoods, gone.
The local high school & college are shelters for newly homeless people.
Last Sunday I stopped to grocery shop at trader joes in Santa Rosa
after chatting about music while checking out,
headed back to my small Mendocino County town.
Later that evening Coffey Park & Fountaingrove neighborhoods were consumed.
Just a block from where I had stopped to shop.
Looking at news articles I happen to read about a musician
who fortunately heard the sheriff’s evacuation loudspeaker outside.
He & the girlfriend quickly packed up the guitar, the dogs and got in the car.
In the rearview mirror was a rapidly approaching fireball scorching Coffey Park.
Reading that he worked at trader joes, I recognized he was my cashier.
It’s heartbreaking to here, now whilst my hometown of Sonoma
& much of Sonoma County also continues to burn.
Breathing in, I feel mostly calm. Breathing out noticeable emotional overload.
May I live in such a way that honors those who are gone.
Gratitude, expressed in this song, for being offered shelter when needed.
As I sleep lightly & often use earplugs to keep from being awoken,
it could have been me. I likely wouldn’t have heard evacuation orders
as sheriff’s car drove past in the middle of the night.
When a feeling of sadness, despair, or anger arises, we should stop what we are doing in order to go home to ourselves and take care. We can sit or lie down and begin to practice mindful breathing. The daily practice of breathing can be very helpful. A strong emotion is like a storm, and when a storm is about to arrive, we should prepare so we can cope with it. We should not dwell on the level of our head and our thinking but bring all our attention down to the level of our abdomen. We may practice mindful breathing and become aware of the rise and fall of our abdomen. Breathing in, rising; breathing out, falling. Rising, falling. We stop all the thinking because thinking can make the emotion stronger.
We should be aware that an emotion is only an emotion; it arrives, stays for some time, and then passes, just like a storm. We should not die just because of one emotion. We should remind young people about this. We are much more than our emotions, and we can take care of them whether we are feeling anger or despair. We don’t think anymore, we just focus 100 percent of our attention on the rise and fall of the abdomen and in that moment we are safe. Our emotion may last five or ten minutes but if we continue to breathe in and out, we will be safe, because mindfulness is protecting us. Mindfulness is the Buddha in us, helping us practice belly breathing…
We are like a tree during a storm. If you look at the top of a tree, you may have the impression that the tree can be blown away or that the branches can be broken anytime, but if you direct your attention to the trunk of the tree and become aware that the tree is deeply rooted in the soil, then you see the solidity of the tree. The mind is the top of the tree, so don’t dwell there; bring your mind down to the trunk. The abdomen is the trunk, so stick to it, practice mindful, deep breathing, and after that the emotion will pass. When you have survived one emotion, you know that next time a strong emotion arises, you will survive again. But don’t wait for the next strong emotion to practice. It is important that you practice deep, mindful breathing every day.
– Thich Nhat Hanh