• David Unger PhD

How Was Your Week?




How was your week?


I hope it was better than mine. But at this moment it seems to be turning out better than I thought yesterday. I usually post my blog on Sunday and earlier today I posted a blog about lost musicians. Then I started to write about this past week and thought I had better send this out now because who knows how next week will turn out.


Let me take you back a week and bring you up to date.


Last Sunday we were evacuated from our home. I think most of you know we live in Santa Barbara which for most of the year is an enviable place to call home. That has not been the case of late. Almost two weeks ago t fires broke out in Ventura some thirty miles south of us. We could just smell the smoke at first, but hour by hour, day by day the fire spread and the smoke increased. It was horrible for the people in Ventura as the fire quickly swept through some areas and devoured homes along the way.


Soon the air in Santa Barbara was such that we were told to wear face masks. Some people headed that advice while others carried on. Last Saturday I went to the Farmer’s Market and about half the vendors were there and half the people in masks. The fire had moved up the coast and was threatening Carpenteria which is the closest town to us. We were given a warning that we might have to evacuate. We have had warnings before, but I did not initially think it would materialize into a mandatory evacuation. When the sun came up on Sunday it was red and very hazy. We started to pack up.

I don’t know if you have ever gone through your home and decided what to put in your car and what to leave behind but it is an emotionally challenging activity and not one I recommend. I said goodbye to a lot of things that have been with me a long time. I have some artwork that is worth some money but I chose not to take it instead I put pictures and mementos that have more personal meaning to me in the car. I took the fire engine my parents went out one Christmas Eve and got for me when I was a boy. I took the comic strip my daughter drew along with the pictures from my wedding.


We packed our car and headed out. We spent one night north of Santa Barbara but the smoke had reached up there as well. On Monday our good friends left their home for an extended vacation and invited us to use their home. We’ve been there since. Safe away from the fire, but not the news.


One day we are up and another we are down. We've watch the evening community meeting that is broadcast with fire updates and day by day we've seen the fire moving closer to our home.Each day we've grown less secure as fire lines are set and then broken.


We realize we have tunnel vision. We walk our dog in the neighborhood and all week there have been parties as people celebrate the season. This is usually my favorite time of the year, but needless to say, the usual joy is absent. It’s a bit like being in Groundhog Day. Every day we watch the news and wait. It’s been a week of worry while those around us experience their own realities.


Saturday night the wind picked up and there was a newscast from our street with the camera panning a park where we walk our dog. There were flames in the park. We had to turn off the news and surrender. What would be would be. We were powerless and all we could do was worry. We couldn’t join the revelers on the street but tried to have a somewhat normal night.


During the night I tossed and turned. I saw images of our home and belongings. I said goodbye again to many. The desk that belonged to my mother, the painting a family friend had painted, the notes from my friends that I have kept that I did not take. I thought about letting go and starting over. I thought well at least upon my death my daughter will have less to wade through. I thought about moving. I thought about the power of nature and fragility of life. I mourned my life as I knew it.


I didn’t want to hear the news this morning, but my wife did. She wanted me to sit next to her as we turned on the live streaming news to see the most recent updates. The fires in the park seem to have either been put out or not expanded. It is part of the challenge of this fire. You just don’t know where it is and what it has devoured. We think for the time being our home is safe. But we don’t know. At best it will be a few more days before we can go back and see for ourselves what has become of our home and neighborhood. We are not anxious to go back. The air is unhealthy, especially for our dog and so we will probably stay away until maybe there is some rain or we feel more able to face our new reality.


Others have had more trying weeks and others more festive ones. So is life. On this the eve of a holiday I am grateful for the love and support we have gotten from friends and family, the courage of people who choose to fight fires to protect others they do not know, and the fates that seem to have spared our home. I learned long ago that appreciation is a key to happiness and I have an abundance of that. I hope your week and weeks ahead are full of caring, safety and appreciation.

#SantaBarbaraFire #Thomasfire

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