Animal Survivor’s & Evacuee’s Shelter from Firestorm

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

gimme shelter: caring for horseys ~d nelson

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.

gimme shelter: relieve my saddness ~d nelson

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

105 Replies to “Animal Survivor’s & Evacuee’s Shelter from Firestorm”

  1. David, it was with a heavy heart I put a like to your post…with such devastation, loss and trauma my emotions become a whirlpool of sadness. Your post is excellent at portraying this catastrophe which only seems to be briefly on the news. The photos give a real sense of the force of destruction, the might of the fires. I am so sorry to hear how close the fires are to you, good to know you’re safe. As always it is inspiring to learn how everyone pulls together to help…still unbelievable apocalyptic images. Wise words at the end of your post and interesting how he describes how we are like the trees in a storm…warmest thoughts and prayers to everyone caught in this disaster. xx

    1. i’m grateful for your kind reflection, Annika!
      while it is the main news around here, i realize that what is happening close to home makes local news. a smile to your heartfelt, supportive words for those effected by the fires, which have not all been put out. πŸ™‚

    1. gratitude for your calm, caring chant, dear BART Station Bard! i read that so much smoke choked out the bay area. may you breathe with ease and those without homes be welcomed in. yes, i’m encouraged that it will rain again someday soon. πŸ™‚

  2. Im so sorry! My brother is on Atlas Peak, so the stress, devastation and sadness is resoundingly similar. We, are sending you lots of support as you the get the all clear to go back and begin to cope with the carnage. Im so glad there is a strong community and the firefighters are heroically doing their jobs. Take care and keep us posted when you can. ❀️

    1. thank you for your kindness, Alexis! i’m saddened to hear of your family, along with so many others in napa who are effected by fire. i’m still awaiting hearing from my brother who lives in the Sonoma hills. much gratitude for the army of fire & rescue workers working here and there. πŸ™‚

    1. thank you for sharing your kind reflection & sad memory here! i’m happy you survived to tell the tale and we can humbly continue sharing our experiences now πŸ™‚

  3. A very strong, accurate and poetic account of the terrible events in California. Your sadness shines through it :” Breathing in, I feel mostly calm. Breathing out noticeable emotional overload.
    May I live in such a way that honors those who are gone.”
    I quote from you. Wonderfully said and meant.

    1. thank you for kindly breathing along,
      supportively, with me, miriam!
      the air is less smoky this morning,
      so i can get out for a walking meditation.
      wishing you a happy day, david πŸ™‚

  4. Dear David,
    Sending loving thoughts to all affected. Here in Oz we are familiar with the devastation – physical and emotional – from bushfires.
    After the fires, new growth.
    But also grieving.
    I am glad your home is safe.
    Sarah 🌱

    1. thank you for your kind wishes & understanding, dear Sarah!
      fortunately there will be
      new growth,
      in due time.
      may all be well
      and supported
      with patience πŸ™‚

  5. Thank you for sharing on-the-scene wildfire observations, and for your help on calming – something to practice anywhere, anytime – to deal with panic or grief. Stay safe.

    1. smiling to your kindness, JoAnn!
      while fires continue burning an hour or more away
      it’s clear and the air almost clean, here.
      may you be well, also πŸ™‚

  6. HI David, I had to read your post a couple of times. Your heartfelt post is truly touching as devastation continues. Thich Nhat Hahns wise words provide refuge. I breathe in and out alongside. Loving kindness meditation towards all affected.
    Be Safe.Be Well.

  7. Dear David, my heart is heavy with the tragedy you describe so compellingly, and humbled by the resilience and caring of those in the midst of disaster. I send loving thoughts to you for your peaceful presence and message, and to all those who are suffering.

    1. i’m grateful for your generous kindness & compassion
      towards me & the many so effected by fire, Carol.
      may we be resilient & with support
      of others, near & far πŸ™‚

  8. Dear David – This week I have thought about how you were upon hearing how devastating the fires are.Thank you for sharing this very personal testimony. And though I’m glad you are personally Ok, I know that the suffering from the area you live in, affects us all. In dealing with the unknown tragedies that can come to any one of us in an instant, I really appreciate the reading you’ve included from Thich Nhat Hahn – he shows us in such simple and solid terms, how to best handle our strong emotions… to think of my abdomen as my trunk, and my flaying mind as the tip top branches. Wow. I give you my humble condolence for all that has been lost. Bruce

      1. thank you for your caring thoughts & reflections, Bruce!
        i’m very grateful.
        wonderful to have wise guidance for finding shelter from the storm.
        it’s quite sad all the loss in this and neighboring communities.
        thanks for letting me know of your visit to that trader joes, which i believe was spared, while the businesses within a hundred meters were not. 😦

    1. thank you for sharing your caring thoughts and words Tom.
      yes, it’s quite sad and painful now.
      may the communities pull together and pull through
      with no one feeling disconnected.

  9. The devastation is heartbreaking and mind-boggling, David. I’m so grateful for your post, to know that you are safe. So many lives — human and animal — lost in this tragedy. Prayers continue for you and all those suffering the effects, and for all of those who have joined in the fight. I was disheartened when someone just recently mentioned to me that these fires were deliberately planned and started. Perhaps just a rumor, but who knows. I shudder to think of that kind of evil. I pray those fighting these fires will soon have the flames under control and the rebuilding can begin.

    1. i’m touched by your kind reflection, prayers and compassion for so many who have died or been displaced, including animals, Linda. officially the cause is under investigation. so many fires beginning in the region, distant from each other, at nearly the same date & time is disconcerting. it was windy, and continues to be, but the skies were clear. perhaps it was trees breaking power lines and hopefully the cause will be found. may all feel safe and future planning consider the needs of the environment and wildlife, along with human needs. πŸ™‚

  10. A difficult time for the whole community to move through David. My thoughts and prayers of love, peace and calm are sent to you as these changes take place and to trust that this land will regenerate again.

    1. gratitude for your generous caring thoughts & prayers, Karen. this community is making supportive gestures towards each other, but knowing that there is empathy from across the world is consoling during the grieving. yes, the rains will eventually come & something new will emerge. πŸ™‚

  11. David, I am so sorry for all the trauma around you! My heart breaks for the people and the animals consumed by the fires and those survivors whose life’s work, homes and all that they love and hold dear are gone. How wonderful you and people around you are helping others selflessly. All this reminds me that, in my words, I am of the nature to grow old, I am of the nature to have illness, I am of the nature to die, and all that I love and hold dear is of the nature to change, and all I am able to keep are the results of my actions. I hold you and yours in my heart and thoughts today.

    1. i’m touched by kindly offering your empathy, Sunny. thank you for sharing these deep and true remembrances that give perspective, humility and appreciation for the life & joys which remain present in each moment. πŸ™‚

      1. Dear David, ever since I read your poignant post yesterday and listened to the Stones, the refrain of this song by Bob Dylan, a giant iconic figure in this 66-year-old-life, has been echoing in my mind. I offer it to you as balm for the fire-weary soul. πŸ™ Sunny

  12. My heart goes out to the people of California. Stay safe! I am traveling through San Francisco soon, and it hurts me to think about what I am going to see from the airplane window. What a tragedy.

    1. thank you for your kind, caring words, inese! i’m feeling safe now and hoping the best for so many others.
      wishing you a safe, relaxed journey. perhaps not sitting next to the window would bring more ease. i hear fire bombers flying now over my house & it’s late & dark. 😦

  13. We’ve been watching the news of the fires down there but nothing made it as real as your post. So glad you’re safe, and that some animals were rescued. It’s all very horrifying to hear about. Thank you for your first hand account and the photos. Take care!

    1. thank you, Betty, for sharing your compassionate awareness of these tragic fires and concern for all those effected.
      hopefully the flames will be contained soon and the grieving & recovery can gently proceed.
      may you be well πŸ™‚

  14. hello smilecalm its dennis the vizsla dog hay theez fires hav ben horryfying this yeer!!! i am glad that yoo ar sayf but i kannot beleev all the damadj it is verry skarry!!! i hope the wether chayndjes and the fires ar kontaynd soon!!! ok bye

    1. thank yu dennis for ofering helpful thots! an armyz fiting the fires & many, including doggies are helping rescue & recover.
      the doggies in the shelter r happy to hear frum yu πŸ™‚

  15. Thanks, David, I can breathe fresh air in up here in Bellingham. We are fortunate. I breathe out my stress and fears. I have been taking Inengar yoga and they teach the same breathing techniques. May the air clear for you on the front of these fires. I’m glad so many animals were saved to live another day!

    1. thanks for the kind words, Mike, I’m glad the air is clean up there. sure makes breathing easier. wishing you warm, gentle stretches and deep relaxation. nice having plenty of Marty’s good prepared food. the animals thank you. πŸ™‚

  16. Thank you David for sharing your witnessing of the fires around you, and the stories of kindness , gratitude and loss. I too am grateful for the care of the animal survivors.
    It brings it home when you have personal experience and memories of a place. We have visited Sonoma twice in the last 4 years. A hotel we stayed in, 2 restaurants and several vineyards have been burned to the ground. People we know, shaken and evacuated. What amazing resilience and heart there is there πŸ’›πŸ™πŸ’›

    1. thank you for your kind, supportive message, Val. i’m happy that you had a holiday in Sonoma & visited the beautiful valley of the moon.
      may all the community members in Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino, Lake & Yuba counties stay strong and resilient. πŸ™‚

  17. With such a heavy heart I read your post. So many lives, so many homes, so many trees, so much devastation with all these fires that I know Gratitude to live where I do and Compassion for those who live where they do. Stay safe, David. Your post touched me very deeply. I will carry this part of the States within my Heart and send Love and Prayers there. Bless you for caring. Peace to you, dear friend. πŸ•ŠπŸ’–

    1. smiling to your kind empathy for this region which is still breathing anxiously, using facemasks, Amy. fortunately most of the fires are getting contained. hopefully the winds will die down. fortunately i’m safe, but many are not. and with thousands of houses destroyed, it will take a long time for the people to recover. may the animals, trees and landscapes be healed & renewed in time, with rain. πŸ™‚

  18. Oh David, what a terrible terrible tragedy. I’m glad you are safe, and breathing in what peace you can muster. I will pray for recovery and renewal – for the land and for the people.
    Alison xox

  19. So glad those animals are ok. I’m sure many didn’t survive. My cousin/sister lives in Sonoma. She works at Petaluma Hospital. It has been terrifying for her, and now she has gone somewhere else. I hope her home remains standing, although I can’t even imagine going back there. Recovery will be long and difficult. I hope you are wearing a mask for your mindful breathing!
    Stay safe David…

    1. thank you for your kindness & connection, dear one.
      i can understand your relative’s trauma. i do hope the best for them. Sonoma is a kind of community that will come together for healing. but with so much burned, yes it will take longer than we’d like. i’ve been using an “i can breathe” mask, which works great. first got it for breathing the polluted air in Hanoi & Ho Chi Min Cities.
      may you be well πŸ™‚

  20. Dear David,
    Thank you for sharing this story of compassion in the face of devastation. I felt so happy to see the faces of the animals, to know they were cared for and safe. How terrifying for a caged animal, to feel the force of fire and be trapped. My heart is with you and all the beings who are afraid and hurt and all the beings who are risking injury and safety to care for others. Breathing with you ~Celia

    1. i’m grateful for your kind, supportive words in this extraordinary time, Celia!
      while many perished, it’s wonderful that most escaped or were rescued. may all feel connected, resting in the support of others & mother earth πŸ™‚

  21. Thank you very much for visiting my blog. I’ll do an update to the firestorm post for Monday and will link to your blog. You have some good photos that will give readers added perspective to what those in the fire zones are experiencing.

    1. thank you for your kind expression and sharing, 56packardman!
      i’m hoping for positive word from my brother who lives in the Sonoma hills.
      so much destruction is rather overwhelming.
      wishing you restful and driving ease in your nice cars πŸ™‚

  22. For some reason, “Gimmie Shelter” was on my mind the other night and since then it’s like a mantra in my senses. Now I know why. I pray for those without homes due to the fire, especially the animals.

    1. thanks for thinking along with me, JC!
      when i first started writing this post
      shelter from the storm was my initial tune,
      but as i kept writing that more powerful
      stone’s anthem on war and peace
      took over.
      the smoke is continuing to subside here.
      may you be well πŸ™‚

  23. Ah David, as an Australian, I really feel for the people caught in the Californian fires. So heartbreaking and shocking, the scale of destruction. And we know fires here. At terrible times like these, we need to use all of our tools, and even then it feels like they aren’t quite enough. Beautiful advice from Thich Nhat Hahn – I ‘m glad you’re safe xo

    1. thank you, dear Sara
      for your empathetic understanding of fire’s devastation! with clear skies, may the recovery continue with ease & lovingkindness for those needing to relocate & start over.

  24. Sadness moves through me.

    I am saying a prayer for each soul, including each of these magnificent and scared animals affected by this consuming fire. *May all find shelter, assistance, a place to breathe safely*

    Breathing in, I feel hope arising, knowing that the fire will end, water will flow, and green will grow again. Breathing out, I exhale all grief and fear and see that emotions come and go. Asking for the strength of my human family, with wisdom, love, and beauty to hold each other and help one another. May people see the warning signals…

    I’m glad you are safe, David!

    1. i’m grateful for your kind, caring, dear Ka!
      the air now clear is helping support the massive cleanup and ease in breathing. may those deeply effected find safe places to relocate, supported by lovingkindness.

  25. After reading news about what’s happening around the globe, your line is dedicated to all those who are victim of man made or natural disasters. “May I live in such a way that honors those who are gone.” Take care David!

  26. Ah my friend, these are indeed frightening times as I too keep awareness in my belly. But suffering from PTSD, these fires and the equally scary winds have not helped. the orange skies, i keep watching for it to appear on the hilltops over here. No air, continual noise in the skies and the ground, I visualize healing for this scorched earth. Rain softly falling, lasting more than an evening, a month of our soft fogs rolling in from the mighty waters beyond. Take care of you and yours and the animals that break my heart. My kitty has taken a walk, I tell myself, my doggies stay close by, panting. xxx

    1. thank you for sharing your discomfort, dear L’Adelaide! sorry i’m slow here on wp. i do hope you faired well and were sparred any further loss. may those injured and displaced have support & lovingkindness in their journey to recovery.

  27. Dear David, I left you a comment yesterday but it wouldn’t post. Maybe it will at a latter date, but I just wanted you to know my thoughts and prayers are with you and everyone in California. Keep well my friend.

    1. thank you for your kindness, dear Michele!
      i’ve had strange issues with wp, myself.
      wishing all those injured & displaced continued support & love in their lives πŸ™‚

  28. What an appetite fire has. I pray for all of the living beings. Humans and animals can escape, the poor trees must stand and be consumed. πŸ˜•

    I was in San Francisco and the East Bay area the past few weeks. While walking in Berkeley and Emeryville I saw smoke a few mornings. People miles away from the fires are getting sore throats and red eyes by spending time outside.

    1. thank you for sharing your pain from breathing
      in smoke from those fires. it’s wonderful to now have clean air to support calm breathing for recovery & relocation of those displaced πŸ™‚

  29. Oh David, I watched on TV these horrendous images here in the UK.. So many homes, lives and animals destroyed..
    It seems at times as we view the world all hell is breaking lose everywhere.. And when that happens, like your post rightly says, the only thing we can do when feeling so sad, is to go to our own silence places..
    I often have to do that for self-preservation.

    When it happens so close on your door step, it brings it all the closer home,. And we then become more mindful and grateful for that which we have.

    So sorry to hear about this David in your community my friend.. I have not been travelling in and around WP as often as I should these past weeks.. Taking time to be mindful of my own energies, and my knitting needles were busy rather than my computer mouse. Lol..
    I hope you and yours stay safe.. And thank goodness there are people whom look after and support each other and animals that are in need of rescuing.

    A horrendous ordeal for all concerned..
    Stay Blessed my friend
    Sue ❀

    1. thank you, dear Sue for offering such sincere
      consolation. it was quite devastating for the neighborhoods burned. may they continue recovering with gentle love & support. πŸ™‚

      1. Yes, my love is being sent, and I am sure many are uniting helping and giving what they can in aid of their neighbours who have been so devastated. .. Wishing you and yours well David

    1. thank you, dear MK!
      and my recent bike ride
      over to a burned community
      didn’t reveal any less sadness.
      fortunately there has been local
      community support to the displaced & injured πŸ™‚

  30. David, has your WP site been hijacked? I’m seeing ads for Chewy and Reno car rentals. Also: “Great posts from The Thrifty Campers.” Something is not right at least on my computer screen.

    1. thanks for the observation, susan!
      i’m not noticing hijacking or terrorism here.
      i think these “free” wp blogs get ads
      and not of their choosing.
      i’ll check out campers.
      hope your screen is more cooperative πŸ™‚

  31. A belated but heartfelt response thanking you for your consideration of animals in this far-reaching and fearful destruction, and wishing you and other survivors of all species healing in the aftermath. Sad reminders of the fires will no doubt be present for many years, though I know you will reflect on them as you typically do other difficult circumstances — gently and with equanimity.

  32. Thank you for remembering the animals. That’s quite a synchronicity with the Trader Joe’s cashier. Hope all is better in your part of the world now.

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