The fires were frightening. The damage is heartbreaking. No one is untouched. The way the community continues to respond is heartwarming. Everyone is affected or knows someone who is recovering. As I drive by the lots in wine country with only the fireplace left standing or a burnt pickup truck out front I am overcome. Words just can’t describe all the emotions and thoughts that run through one’s head in the middle of it all. The “fires” will be with us for a long time and words just can’t cover the depth of the experience.

Our property suffered big damage from the wind and the fire came close but didn’t reach us. Lucky. Many tell us that property surrounded by vineyards is protected since the vines are hard to burn. So the vines are a source of joy and fire insulation.

With the benefit of a few weeks of perspective and no smoke in the air it is useful to reflect on some thoughts that rattle around when all hell is not breaking loose. I don’t want to forget these observations.

Things you notice and consider when your house might burn down …

-Which way the wind is blowing. The hope is that when looking at the fire, the wind is at your back.

-Which way the fire trucks are going. The hope is that wherever they are going, these heroes will kill the fire, but you wouldn’t mind if they parked out front.

-Fire hydrants are really far away.

-When the power goes out, there is no water pressure. Then you wonder about the length of the longest garden hose on the property and if it will even matter.

-Which photo album is truly dear? Is it worth trying to sort possessions in the face of a fire?

-Barn cats are really hard to catch.

-Who knew all the neighbors have a trove of valuable collector cars in the barn?

-Is there enough water in the swimming pool for the firefighters to kill the fire if the house catches?

-Firefighters are always welcome and however much money they make, it’s not enough.

-The National Guard does things you didn’t know about and are integral to the system of safety.

-CHP officer mean it when they say “No Access.”

-It’s never too late to meet your neighbors even if you’ve lived nearby for 20 years. Neighbors can really step up to help each other even if the acquaintance is new.

-Picking grapes still needs to be done to make the area go, even in the middle of a firestorm.

-The smell of smoke is concerning. An amber glow on the hill is alarming. The sight of flames leaping into the air is terrifying.

-Were those who stayed behind brave or foolish? This question may never be answered.

-Do the helicopter pilots dipping into the vineyard reservoirs know how shallow the water is this time of year?

-People around the world love wine country and people were not reticent to reach out.

-Relationships are more important than any thing else I can think of.

We will recover. We are all strong and we love this special piece of earth. The spirit of being compassionate with each other will continue I hope. (Even for the visiting bachelorette parties.) This Thanksgiving we give thanks once again but my hope that this year it is different. This year is not a regular Thanksgiving.

We should be thankful for all the first responders who are truly brave men and women. Be thankful for your family and friends and that you are alive with them to share the holiday. Be thankful for what you have every single day. In the last month I hope we learned to be thankful.

Rich Moran spends his time in wine country being thankful for so many people that grace his life.

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