We hit the road again yesterday morning with our good friend Fred, he in his Winnebago, we in the Icon, and headed up the coast to Morro Bay. Callie took her seat on the dash of the RV and off we went in search of adventure. Leaving Anza Borrego Desert State Park for the real world is always a bit of a shock. It is so quiet and surreal in the desert, and driving into traffic and crowds is both exciting and annoying.
Passing through my deceased parent’s retirement city of Ventura was horrific, and words cannot describe the total devastation of much of the outskirts of this beautiful, coastal town of flowers, gardens and palm trees. The family house borders Foothill Blvd, and this is the main street that separated the neighborhoods from the lush and native, chaparral foothills for which it was named. California had an exceptionally wet winter last year, and this led to ample fuel for the fires to come.
Arroyo Verde Park was a verdant green belt that many families and our family visited often. We shared boisterous picnics together under the shade of mature oaks and pines and our children grew up playing in the swing sets and sliding down the slide. My family often hiked to a particularly majestic old oak tree that we fondly called “The Wishing Tree,” and all 7 of us sisters and 1 brother would climb high up into her welcoming branches and silently send out a wish or a prayer, for the cosmos to observe and to acknowledge. It is all gone! Burned to the ground.
The fire has stormed Carpentaria and Summerland now, and the 101 is charred on both sides of the highway. Rows of palm trees are scorched and blackened, and a reminder of just how “massive” this fire is as it continues to burn! The Thomas Fire has taken a firefighter’s life and is still only 20% contained. The firefighters are exhausted after spending more than a week attempting to save people and their homes. It is raging away from communities now, as it burns unchecked into the wilderness. The Santa Ana winds are expected to pick up again today, which will make it hell for everything in its path. All the wildlife fleeing for their lives and the plants anchored in place, this is a nightmare of reality.
While driving through Santa Barbara, miles and miles of beautiful, coastal California is blackened and charred, and the sky is still very smokey. I saw drivers with gas masks on and cars had their lights on in the middle of the day because the sun was darkened a deep, blood red. It looks like a war zone in Toro Canyon, with heavy smoke still billowing up along the mountainside.
We made it to Morro Bay in the late afternoon as the sun was just starting to set. We are camped at Cypress Morro Bay RV Park. This is one of my favorite campgrounds of all time. It is clean and spacious and we sit in a quiet neighborhood with a view of Morro Rock. The streets are lined with festive Christmas lights and unusual twinkly lights that sparkle in a distant tree, and look much like tiny fireflies blinking on and off, in the darkening twilight.
It is all so peaceful for now, and as I write, I can hear the fog horn calling out its melodic warning to sailors and ships out at sea- while the sea lions are barking to one another, obtrusively and comically in the hazy mist. The sun is just beginning to rise and another surreal morning has begun. My wish and prayer for today, in spite of the loss of the majestic oak tree, is that the fires be contained and that California start to heal itself soon. Innocent people have lost their homes right before the holidays, the 32 year old firefighter that gave up his life, the wildlife and vegetation that have been burned to the ground, may this start a conversation on climate change, and that our responsibility to this unique planet should not fall on deaf ears any longer!
This is a conversation that needs to be addressed! Let us try to come together and do the right thing, a scientific solution that will help heal the many who have been affected and displaced, some who have been harmed, and all who have lost their lives. Let this be the moment that change begins. Prayers and wishes are no longer enough to save this beautiful and fragile planet.