Rachel S. Heslin
Thoughts, insights, and mindless blather

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lost, confused

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I admit: for all the evacuation and the horrendous footage on TV, the fires have seemed pretty abstract. I rarely head over to the west side of the mountains, so most of the affected places in this area are mostly just names on a map. I have even less connection to the worse San Diego fires.

I mean, yeah, my uncle lives in Crestline. Since he's the outdoorsy type and doesn't own a car, he's decided that, instead of trying to bike his way off the mountain, he's camped out with his cat in one of the already burned areas. Still, I've never visited him over there, so it still didn't seem quite real.

Last year, Shawn and I had a day to ourselves, so we decided to drive over to Fawnskin to have breakfast at the North Shore Cafe. The food was kind of odd, and it took a while to figure out that everything -- from my scrambled eggs to his grilled ham and cheese sandwich -- tasted of nutmeg. We entertained ourselves by coming up with extravagant explanations: perhaps the tempermental chef had insisted on presenting the Spice of the Day, or we could imagine frantic staff desperately trying to shield the customers from The Great Nutmeg Incident which had left the entire kitchen coated in a fine layer of fragrant dust. It became something of a shared in-joke between us.

Yesterday, I heard that the fire was about to hit Fawnskin.

It just became real.

On the human side, the sheer magnitude of personal loss associated with these fires -- homes, belongings, lives -- is a gaping wound. Whole communities waver between shock and mourning.

And yet, looking at a larger scale, we badly needed the fire up here. The forest had been so decimated by drought and infestation (again, Arrowhead looking at 80-100% tree mortality in some areas) that no amount of rain could repair the damage without clearing the dead wood and returning the nutrients to the soil.

But knowing that Nature must have balance and renewal doesn't keep it from hurting, and understanding doesn't stop my eyes from swelling with tears at the scent of nutmeg.


It's so hard to get accurate information. My boss' husband has become one of the primary coordinators of emergency services in Big Bear Valley, so although Tanya was evacuated yesterday afternoon and Feds were coming in to replace the volunteers, it looks like he's going to be up there for a while. Last night, after speaking to him, she told me that Fawnskin might be a total loss.

Then, this morning, there was a report on the Big Bear message board that the fire was still 6 miles west of Fawnskin and that, despite the strong winds, the extra humidity was allowing them to keep the fire 3 or 4 miles west of the dam.

I think I may just put on blinders and try to ignore all news until it's over. In the meantime, Shawn and I are trying to contact the San Bernardino County Emergency Operations Center and find out where we can deliver a large quantity of granola bars, Gatorade, lip balm and hand lotion (three cheers for CostCo!) so that it can actually be sent up to the firefighters. What else can you do?

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