It’s a New Year. I drove from our house in Ventura, up the coast to Santa Barbara today to visit the MOXI museum with Ellie and our good friends. It was the first time I had seen the expanse of devastation the Thomas Fire had left behind. For miles, the hills were charred black, burnt palm trees as far as the eye could see, houses leveled, and ash still collected in crevices and cracks in the streets and sidewalks. We were a ways from the flames in Ventura when the fire was at its worst, back in early December, but our favorite park was burned down, the botanic gardens we took family photos in completely charred and so many homes right in our downtown…. completely gone. The month of December was such a strange one. My mom having surgery, having to leave Ventura for most of the month to steer clear of awful smoke and ashy air conditions… learning about all our friends who had to evacuate, never knowing if they would lose their homes. It was just so surreal. With all the anxiety, we surprisingly had a very nice Christmas. We spent so much more time with my parents and family then we had in a long time, we made memories with evacuated friends who were staying close to where my parents lived. We were able to get back into our home before Christmas and spend Christmas morning at home. All the while, feeling somewhat guilty that we had a home while others in our community did not. Most of our friends are back in their homes. We’ve all been cleaning, washing the ash off the windows and trying to get back to normal. New Years Eve was spent in the town over with all our friends. There was so much joy being reunited with these friends, who just weeks before were all over the state on evacuation. We sang, had a parade with the kids, ate good home-cooked food and relished in being together. Every now and then, the smell of stale camp fire would waft in from outside and would remind us of the chaos of the Thomas Fire.
The New Year brought a walk along the beach. Our first one since before the fires. The air felt fresh, even if we could see the blackened hills behind us. But the walk so clearing and hopeful. Watching the birds fly and watching Ellie run around enjoying the sand and crisp air. We found a lovely 2018 written in the sand and that along with our beach walk, made a wonderful, hopeful start to this New Year.