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Sonoma County Gazette
Savory Sonoma by Stephanie Hiller

Sonoma Valley Recovers from Fires

Nov 22, 2017
by Stephanie Hiller


“We attach to the landscape,” said Robert Macy at a November 9 event, titled “Emerging Stronger Together,” held at Altimira School. “Our memories are attached to the land.”

Blackened Mt. Hood and Sugarloaf peak are an ominous reminder of the firestorm that whipped through our county at a terrifying rate, 16 miles in 4 hours from Calistoga to Oakmont for the Tubbs Fire, one of 17 fires that started independently from one another and are, as yet, unexplained.

The theory put forth by PG&E that 65-mile-an-hour winds were responsible for pulling down power lines (whose upgrade and repair had apparently been delayed by the power company more than once) has been found to be specious in a report by theSan Jose Mercury News showing that the winds were no more than 35 miles an hour around 10 pm on October 8, the night the fires started.

The mystery may remain unsolved for some time to come, with little discussion in the mainstream press at the moment. But exotic theories are beginning to emerge referencing planned catastrophes, weather manipulations, and chemtrails, possibly in retaliation for California’s passage of SB 54, which declared, in flagrant opposition to Attorney General Sessions and President Trump, our status as a Sanctuary state for immigrants legal and illegal.

But climate change is a more likely suspect.

The Macy event, sponsored by Hanna Boys Club and Sonoma Schools, was an overview of trauma and resiliency – the neuroscience of how it works, the symptoms we are likely experiencing, ways to address its occurrence, and especially the reassurance that the problems we may be having as a result are not our fault and won’t be permanent. “Trauma takes you out of linear time.” The brain focuses on survival instead of thought. “Don’t rush your recovery in time and space. Give yourself permission to ask for help from family and colleagues. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others – reactions are individual.”

Macy, head of the International Trauma Center, emphasized getting together in community, developing family rituals for grounding and peace, taking your own pulse (he showed us how), and taking deep breaths with exhales twice and long as the inhale. “Trauma reduces your ability to find words to talk about what’s going on for you. Try to talk about it. Human beings get out of trauma through narrative. We are storytellers.”

Songs, movement, prayer and connection, all help.

We are in recovery mode here in the Valley – and in Sonoma, recovery also means getting back to business. The IT reports that the Visitors Bureau whipped up an aggressive media campaign using $100,000 from the Sonoma Tourism Improvement District’s catastrophic emergency fund. There will be 4,000 television ads on Comcast and Spectrum, print adds in a number of papers, 26 billboards across the Bay Area, numerous 30-second spots on CBS radio, digital advertising, and of course boosted posts on Facebook. Less than two weeks later, the street corners around the Plaza were jammed with tourists, and the traffic line down W. Napa Street had resumed.

Meanwhile the City Council planned a coming-back-to-life party for November 18th, as much to let the world know we are still here and still pouring as to fulfill its stated purpose of thanking the firefighters who literally saved our town from the Nun’s Fire flames rising over the ridge on the east.

Described at first to cost about $40,000, the later estimate produced by City Manager Cathy Capriola was more like $10,000, but nevertheless the city has moved $100,000 from its emergency fund into a special fund for costs as they are presented, but so far the tab is $144,000 for fire response and shelter operations, some of which may be reimbursed.

The celebration was planned as part of the Christmas tree lighting event in the Plaza that culminates something called Freedom Week that I never heard of before (what have I been missing?) beginning on Veterans’ Day.

A lovely piece by Kathy Kelly circulated on the Internet the week before Veterans’ Day reveals that the holiday was originally a celebration of the day that World War One ended. It was called Armistice Day and celebrates peace instead of, well, the opposite, the global situation we are in, with our troops stationed and ready for combat in 19 countries to date and the Administration asking Congress for a newAuthorization for the Use Of Military Force(AUMF) to allow the President to wage war anywhere anytime.

What’s your idea for a week of freedom?Happy holidays, everyone!


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