Finding Serenity Amidst Chaos

Northern California continues to be pummeled by wildfires. The wake of destruction is taking a toll.  As of today, 36 have been killed; 5,700 homes and business have been destroyed. The fires have burned more than 212,000 acres. Families have lost so much. Many, including my in-laws, have had to evacuate since early in the morning on October 9. Just this morning, residents in northeast Santa Rosa were awakened before dawn by the blaring of fire engine sirens and told to evacuate immediately.

Reporters at the Marin IJ and hundreds of news outlets including my wife and her team at the Press Democrat, have spent countless hours sifting through the updates to keep the public informed. Our city and local police and sheriffs have done a great job of notifying the public immediately through Nixel alerts.( text 888777 and enter your zip code) Our Councilman Mike Harris shared these numbers from county Supervisor David Rabbitt

Tubbs Fire 34,770-25% contained
Pocket Fire 9,996-5% contained
Nuns Fire 44,381- 5% contained
Presley Fire 473- 10% contained
Total acreage 89,620

Expected Full Containment 10/20/17

Pocket Fire active overnight burning in southern and eastern edges

Tubbs burning on northern and eastern edges

Nuns and Presley burning in heavier fuels

272 Engines
29 water tenders
12 helicopters
6 air tankers
62 hand crews
23 bulldozers
2,333 personnel

Fire fighters and Police officers from all of California have pulled together to protect people, homes, and attempt to contain the growing inferno.

Thousands of businesses and volunteers have donated food bedding, clothing and supplies to local evacuation shelters.

There is connection, compassion, and care unlike any I have ever experienced. The outpouring of support is amazing. So much so that some shelters have had to turn away volunteer help and donations.

Other churches, like Glide Memorial, have sent teams to serve at New Life Christian Fellowship in Petaluma and later in Napa.

There is a sense of unity among people. My family and me have been spared for now. Yet I still am trying to process all of this. It is too much to process 24-7.  Where do I help? How do I deal with my anxiety?

I turn to prayer. I try and find a quiet place to enjoy nature. I want to find a bit of quiet and tranquility among all this chaos. Then I feel guilty, like I should be helping someone, serving others. I have my own facemask. And have others for the family.

Yesterday I needed to find a bit of solitude and also wanted to see if I could get to my in-laws home to see whether it was still standing and to quiet my anxiety.  After driving by several roadblocks along Petaluma Hill Road, I landed at Howarth Park at the northern edge of Santa Rosa. Much of the area had already been evacuated the day before.  The parking lot was nearly empty. It was like a ghost town.

I snapped a few photos to capture the still lake. Several miles northeast the fire blazed on. But for a moment, I felt calm. It was eerie.  A lone man sat in a canoe on the glassy lake, fishing.

 

Howarth Park

Lone man on Lake – Howarth Park 10-13-17

 

I then wanted to see how far northeast I could go. I drove along the heavily wooded road along Spring Lake. It looked like an oak-studded tunnel. I worried that if the fire were to come down this road could quickly become a fire tube gaining momentum as it raced toward more homes and businesses.  I reached the end of the road at Highway 12 and Melita Road, then looped back down highway 12 past Calistoga Road and stopped to snap a shot of the famous Flamingo Hotel. I wanted a shot for my wife and family, just in case.

Flaimngo Hotel, Sant Rosa CA

The air was still, as if a calm before the next fire storm. The hotel had already been evacuated.

Then this morning I saw the Nixel alert that that very area was being evacuated at the crack of dawn.

My heart goes out to all. We will get through this.  I am glad that I took a moment to pause and be grateful that I was alive—that our family and home was safe for the time being.

I encourage everyone to pause, if you can, and take a moment to be grateful to be alive. Take a moment to get outside to a calm area—to give yourself a break from the turmoil. It was healing for me. Yet tensions persist. I snapped at my wife on our anniversary. We made up. I need to be cognizant and mindful that we all are in this together. I have no idea what others are experiencing. Yet, for me, a little serenity in the midst of chaos can do wonders for my soul.

In 1987, while processing my own inner chaos during my first year of recovery, I wrote this poem.

           Serenity

 

Serenity is soft like a warm summer breeze

Serenity is the warmth of a fire on a cold winters day

Serenity smells like the blossoms of spring

Serenity is radiant like the setting sun

Serenity is peace when we are alone

Serenity has a place in my heart and my home

Serenity is a friendly smile when we feel blue

Serenity is acceptance of things as they are

Serenity is a phone call from a friend afar

Serenity is love of myself and my friends

Serenity is a feeling that doesn’t have to end

 

May God bless and protect us all as we go through this together.

Love, Shawn

For more insights on serenity and life, please visit https://shawnlangwell.com/

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