As I write this our AQI (air quality index) is 153. The air smells smoky, and has a slight fogginess to it. But it's not nearly as golden or as thick as it was last week or the week before (over 400!). We had a reprieve over the weekend, thanks to the rain. And we're expecting more rain this week. I'm feeling ever more grateful for the rain here in my new, but original home - the Pacific Northwest.
A dear old friend is letting my store my stuff at her place in Oregon City - right near one of the evacuation zones. I headed over there when the fires started two weeks ago to pull some stuff out of storage. Luckily, they only reached level 2 (level 3 being - Leave Now.) It was an interesting exercise, deciding what to take and what I would be fine with letting go.
When I was packing up in California, due to the pandemic, I didn't really have the normal choices of getting rid of stuff. Luckily I had some friends interested in furniture, but Goodwill and other thrift stores were not accepting donations at that time. So, this time around, looking at my possessions through the eyes of losing everything vs. having to keep everything was ___________. I'm not sure I have the right words for the many feelings I experienced. Joyful, complicated, tender memories made me forget the current reality as I sorted through my past while breathing the smoke filled air. I was all of a sudden very mindful of what I needed and wanted to carry into my future.
The last three fire seasons I lived in the Bay Area, I definitely thought of what I would pack up if I had to evacuate. But I never actually had to. My first priority was the work related tools and materials for HartVariations. My livelihood. Most were already with me at my folks' place. But then I found more and more. I remember when I packed up my studio and house in California that my pile for the studio was bigger than my personal house pile. As it should be, in my world. :)
And then I got clothing for these cooler months we're moving into. Buying new clothes right now is not a priority. The sentimental items were next. All of which were intermingled with other random possessions: photos from my fridge packed up with kitchen stuff, my grandfather's Brownie camera packed with my books and old artwork, birch bark I saved from my great grandfather's cabin in Michigan. Even the receipts from overseas trips, drawings from my nephew, birthday cards from my parents, stones and flowers from trips and walks. They were all intermingled with other items. I saved what I could. And then I grabbed some old artwork of mine and my astrology books. Some books can be replaced, some would be harder to replace.
The threat of fire is over for now. But I'm wondering what the future holds. And I'm looking at my possessions a little differently. Basically these past four months have been just that - I am living without a lot of my stored possessions just fine. What do I really need? Desire? Use routinely? Do my possessions make me, me? Of course I don't have the answers, but I have more insight now. More insight into me. Living through 2020 is doing just that - bringing more personal and collective insight.
As I finish this blog post two days later, the AQI is down to 8 (hooray!) and the rains have come again. The fires feel like a lifetime ago already, but I know there are many who are without homes - whose lives are not back to "normal" and may never be. The world is still in chaos and upheaval, but as we move deeper into Fall I hope we will find some way to use the decay and loss for what we will all grow next.
Wishing you and your loved ones lots of love + good health.