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Sonoma County Gazette
Cotati Heart and Soul

Cotati Responds to Fire Storm

Oct 25, 2017
by Deborah Taylor-French


“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”  ~ George Bernard Shaw

A poet said, “I feel survivor’s guilt.”

Could it be true for me? More than that, nothing I have planned or had written for the Gazette seemed appropriate, due to the catastrophic fires, which at one point displaced over a hundred thousand in Sonoma County. I feel ashamed. Ashamed I had so little to offer. That week of the Tubbs and Nunn fires, Monday, as news reached us of the firestorm that blasted through northern Santa Rosa, I was gripped by a migraine. In fact, I suffered two migraines that week. The following week a family member came down with a lung infection. Living with COPD puts him at risk of environmental pollution, thank goodness for excellent pulmonology care, he feels stronger each day. 

The week of the Napa and Sonoma fires, we kept close to home.

Hoping to expedite additional firetrucks and firefighters, we staid off the 101 Hwy. On Tuesday, we felt happy to find our Fourth Street, Santa Rosa office still standing. Luckily, the electricity, etc. worked, allowing the treatment of psychotherapy clients. That afternoon, we piled in the van, driving to the Double Tree Inn to join the Red Cross Volunteer training. At least a hundred-people stood in line, and no information provided. After asking hotel staff, we heard that only sixty people at a time would be trained.

We bought nonperishable snacks as a donation, and drove to the Volunteer Center of Sonoma County.Cami Kahl, Executive Director, happened to be sitting at the front desk, where I once worked. She welcomed the snacks for their 211 clients. Being there reminded me of the fastest way to volunteer in Sonoma County, email or call the VCSC. Want to match your skills or available time? Call 707- 573-3399 or email

We feel grateful to the firefighters who protected Cotati and so much of our county. Also we give thanks to peoples’ generous outpouring of kindness all over Sonoma County. Our friend, Jean Wong, who was evacuated from Kenwood received shelter, clothing, and meals in Petaluma. Other friends escaped the fire in Bennett Valley with only two minutes warning. On Friday, both families had neighbors tell them that their homes had escaped burning!

Fire Science and Poetry at the Sitting Room

Writer/filmmaker/biologist, Maya Khosla quoted from the Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine on how to detoxify our bodies from inhaled smoke. “Turmeric helps purify the liver, which filters all toxins from our organs. Add a pinch of pepper to activate turmeric’s medicinal activity for the liver.” Khosla studied seventy-five bird species, twenty-four were recently rejected from the protected list by USA administration. Observations show the black-backed woodpecker flies toward wildfires. Large numbers of other birds follow these as they head into the smoke. The woodpeckers go in after a fire wood-boring beetles in fire-damaged trees. Khosla read two of her poems, informed by her love of birds and wildlands, one about the forest birds of the American West. Her recent projects focus on the resurrection of forests after fires; bird life in post-burn ecosystems and the crucial importance of wildfires in the Sierra Nevada. Khosla showed clips from her recent documentaries Searching for Gold Spot and Northern Goshawks and Fire.

Elizabeth Carothers Herron, Professor Emeritus of Arts and Humanities at Sonoma State University, writes poetry and articles on art and ecology. After introducing the Sitting Room audience to the power and purpose of Native American chants, Herron intoned. “Little doe, little deer, come back to your bones and bless them.” Her version of a chant to animals transported me to a deep state of meditation, I visualized the deer and our oak savannah. Conveying the need of science to be informed by art, she gave us foresight into how the natural world, science, and art can work together in peace. Find her poetry – Desire Being Full of Distances, Language for the Wild, The Stones the Dark Earth, Report (a chapbook), Dark Season.

Sitting Room, Community LIbrary, 2025 Curtis Drive, Penngrove, CA


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