This year has had more peaks and valleys than the Cragies in southern Siskiyou. Jagged would be one way to describe the shape of the swing from up to down. Let’s start by saying that this year has been incredible…for us. We began a journey that has led to writing the very words you are reading now. We started sharing our life with others and they let us be a part of theirs. As a completely unintentional consequence of this adventure, we made amazing friends who have helped us in ways that were and are way above and beyond. We found out we were pregnant, then we found out there were two. We found purpose. Something we could lean on in hard times! Incredible doesn’t even describe it. Life has changed dramatically for us all, in the last year.
As i was thinking about this early this morning over my coffee. I thought about some of the funny things that had happened in the last year, some of the sad, but settled on ranking it “best year in recent memory”, for sure.
Then I picked up my phone. The screen opens to facebook and i see picture after picture of fire, smoke, videos of people evacuating and the aftermath of disaster. Not on the news sites, but from my friends, people who I am or was once close to. Apparently at the time I am writing this, Ventura California, my home town, has had more than 100,000 acres burn. I was hit with the realization that there are people out there who are not just suffering but are losing everything. My view widened a bit more and I thought then about my friends in Florida, Texas, Vegas, the Bay Area. The list seems to be getting longer and longer as I write.
I suddenly felt bad about feeling good…
I wanted to help, so I sat down with my phone and I started writing comments like “Let me know if there is anything I can do” and “if there is anyway I can help”. After i pressed send, I thought what if this person says “Yeah, I need you, how can you help? The truth? There isn’t really anything effective that I can do to help with what they have lost. The overwhelm, the loss, unimaginable. But maybe I can do something else?
I have learned through experience that This life has offered me challenges that I was not ready to face. Facing them despite my preparation level taught me lessons I never would have learned and the experience has shown me that regardless of the difficulty of the problem, a solution exists, although i must admit that i’m not currently seeing one for my old home town.
I think this is the fundamental problem with the idea of a city or large population all in one place. Sure there are more jobs in the city, movie theaters, malls, etc, but is that what is important? The problem with having this many people in one place who don’t know what to do in an emergency is that when things go bad, they go really, really bad. When every home is 10 feet from the next, a natural disaster can wipe out an entire community. There doesn’t seem to be a way to create a defensible zone between a burning house and one that is not ablaze when the only thing separating them is a breezeway and a picket fence.
So, what are some things we may be able to do in the future to help reduce the impact of the tragic events. Some are practical, others are in the category of “if I were KIng”.
- We all really need to start thinking about being prepared for an emergency. I’m not talking going full on doomsday prepper or anything. I saw on my mom’s Facebook wall that she had neglected to get gas the night before. She had to evacuate in the middle of the night and had no gas. Then all the power anywhere around her went out and all the gas stations went down. This is the kind of thing that I am talking about. It all these little things that you take for granted in the city. What if the power is out in your town? What do you do? What if there is a natural disaster? What if? what if? You have to (without obsessing over it) ask the question what if. Take small steps at first. Have enough food and water for you and your family to eat for 3 days, a week have an extra few gallons of gas for emergencies and replace it every 3 months. These types of things will get you closer to having things a little more under control when nothing else is. I think the idea of prepping scares people into not doing anything about it. This is bad for all of us. But if people can ease into it, it’s not so doom and gloom and it becomes a part of the person’s thought process. No matter how far you get into being prepared, if you start now you will be that much further ahead for if or when things go to hell! Start today, survive longer!
- We must become better at working together. I notice that nothing brings people together and makes people cohesive like a disaster. It is sad to say but some of the most spectacular displays of humanity occur as a result of collective effort to survive an emergency. Imagine if we could work together like that when times are good? Or even in an effort to become more prepared as a community? Imagine if we were all part of the community of people trying to make things better? This makes me think of one of the more common things i hear people say in regards to homesteading and off grid life. “I want to get away from everyone and live the old way”. My response is always “Great!! What does that mean?”. People have some things about this life misunderstood. One, The old ways were not just about horse and buggy, farm and ranch activities. People say they want to grow all their own food. Good luck but that’s not the old way. You see the time these people are talking about wasnt about all that stuff. What it was about was community, You may have had a garden for veggies and things but the main focus on and around the farm or ranch was what is the thing i can produce that the community needs and therefore be willing to trade for or buy. Survival was a group effort. People socialized, went to church together, worked and built homes together. They helped each other to make it. Not just during fire, flood or famine. They helped each other all the time. Everyone wanted to see their neighbor succeed because it was good for for all involved. I feel like we are losing that “old way of doing things” by redefining it. Another small step in this direction could be as simple as making eye contact with the people around you. Acknowledge their existence and maybe they will do the same and on and on. You may make a friend. Interact with people. Find out what the community needs and try to provide it. Here is the hard part. You have to be the one who starts this (Yeah you!! The one who just scoffed at me). You have to be the one! Why? Because no one else is going to. The biggest thing i noticed when we moved out here is that people live further apart than in the city so when the go to town, they wave as they drive by, they stop and talk to each other and most interestingly, The people are nice to each other. Not because it’s the easiest thing but because it makes people feel welcomed to participate in this team sport we call life.
- We really need to spread out!! The amount of problems that are specifically caused by having a million people packed into an area the size of the (admittedly large) Park down the road. The way crime proliferates an area is amazing. Our last few weeks in Simi Valley (formerly the safest town in America) our neighbor had his car stolen out of his garage.The next day 2 more cars on the block were lifted. I had to run people off who were using my parking spot as a place to get high. This once family friendly neighborhood was becoming a crime magnet for the area. The criminals started realizing that if your going to break into an area you may as well hit a few of them. That is only possible when we live on top of each other. Then there is the emergency scenario, when we are spread out a little, there becomes the ability to defend your home safely from the fire next door. Heaven forbid a disaster happens, when we spread out, the damage is decreased simply because the distance the disaster has to travel before destroying the next thing. Food for thought on this point, Did you know that there is over 7 acres of land for every man woman and child in this country? What could you do with 7 acres per person in your family?
- You must get yourself into a position where you can produce what you need instead of buying everything we need. This is important even if the seas are calm. The more we produce for ourselves, the less of things you have to buy, saving resources for other needs. This snowballs into other areas of life too. When you don’t have to buy so many things, you find you have more time and attention to do the things that you need and want to do. The problems you solve on a daily basis start to be about your survival and not about work or bills or any of the other things that in the grand scheme, matter little. In my opinion that is the Freedom that you gain from going at it this way, a pile of stuff, if you’re lucky, is all you end up with in the other.
I chose to play another game and its working out pretty well for us but my heart breaks for all the loss and devastation in my home town. I can only hope that the people involved can rebuild their lives and perhaps go at it a different way going forward.
As for now… “if there is anything I can do to help…”