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Sonoma County Gazette
Cloverdale Comments by Carol Russell and Reece Foxen

Gratitude and Community

Oct 23, 2017
by Carol Russell


Two kinds of gratitude: The sudden kind we feel for what we take; the larger kind we feel for what we give. ~Edwin Arlington Robinson

What started out as a nice little piece on being thankful, of course, related to Thanksgiving, has turned into some serious contemplation on what thankfulness means, what is gratitude and how does that affect us and our community as we come to grips with the immense impact of the fire that is occurring (at the time of the writing) in Sonoma County.

As I looked down on my street on Tuesday morning, it was grayed out with a thick smoke hanging in the air. I could see neighbors’ driveways filled with cars that were not familiar and people still in their pajamas walking to and from carrying their possessions. Later, I went out to take care of an errand. I found the streets lined with cars. In some were people who had dozed off – waiting. Waiting for what? News of their homes? Information on where to find food and shelter for the next hours? Days?

The enormity of what was happening around me began to settle in. It was at this point I realized my nice little easy piece that I was going to do for theGazettewhile Carol was visiting relatives in New York had gone “up in smoke” – quite literally.

I began roaming the town, all 2 miles of it, so many cars. The shelves in the grocery store were depleted; restaurants short on food. The Citrus Fair was opened up to act as a shelter for those who had been evacuated. Again, cars everywhere.

I talked with friends living in Palomino Lake area, east of Cloverdale proper. They had been evacuated because of the Pocket Fire located in the hills southeast of Cloverdale. This is the fire that most threatened our little town. What would it do? Would it reach my friend’s house or possibly my home? They had not gone to the shelter and were in the process of trying to decide what they needed to do. I opened my home to them. My mother had always said, “When people are in need you roll over and make room. Line up on the floor if you have to.” They decided to return home. The fire seemed to halt for a moment and it was an advisory evacuation not a mandatory evacuation. However, within 12 hours they were evacuated once again. The Pocket Fire had flared up and was on the move northwest towards their home and Cloverdale.

Our car had been packed up and ready to go since Monday mid-day. Cats were kept in the house so I could get them easily. A friend who serves on the Library Commission with me had called and told me, if I needed a safe place, come to her house. I have not needed to go yet, but what she has given me is a sense of safety.

I felt prepared and safe enough with these in place to tell my partner to go down to work. She was assigned to Logistics in the County’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC). She was charged with seeing that beds and food got to the shelters for the evacuees and that fuel was available for the fire trucks among other things. On her return to Cloverdale one morning she picked up and brought breakfast up to the Citrus Fair shelter where she met Cloverdalians helping others.

This is my story of the last few days.The people in Cloverdale are caring and loving. As one person said, “Cloverdale is a small town. We know each other. We help each other. We also open up and invite people into our town, especially, if they need a place of safety.”

I think everyone will recognize elements of my story as part of theirs over these days. Being grateful for those who support with offers of shelter and safety and on the other hand giving in gratitude because I still had a home and I felt safe enough to have my partner help others. This is Cloverdale. The Cloverdale I love.

Gratitude. . . turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. ~Melody Beattie


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