Mendocino Complex Fire

“Lady of the Lake Interrupted”–that was going to be the original title of this post. But why not just get to the point? Almost two weeks ago I fled the thick “clam chowder” smoke of Lake County, just a few days before the advisory, then mandatory, evacuation for the North Shore communities. I begged shelter from some relatives and have been here now, in a completely empty San Francisco apartment with four cats, a sleeping bag, and several boxes of family photos (plus a few books and treasured artwork). I could have gone home a couple of days ago, but I’m hoping for more smoke to clear.

Back in May, when the volcano began to erupt in the middle of Leilani Estates in the Puna district of Hawai’i Island, friends and acquaintances began to congratulate me for “leaving Hawai’i before the eruption,” as if I’d somehow unfairly cheated fate. A lot of my friends and acquaintances back there did have to evacuate, some are still without a permanent place to live, and yes, I feel sad that I wasn’t there to have helped out as Puna “stayed classy” through the crisis (“Stay Classy Puna” is a local slogan). On the other hand, I might not have survived. Between the asthma and multiple chemical sensitivity condition that I live with, the volcanic air–or threatened toxic releases from the geothermal station– might have taken me out. I’m glad that I didn’t stay to either die or force my kids to fly over to rescue me in dire straights.

But now all those folks who think I dodged a kharmic bullet can rest easy. I have now fled the largest wildfire in California history, a fire that was just one ridge away from my home in Lake County, and though I am not in a shelter, I’m “sleeping rougher” than I have in years (on the floor), and “oh my bursitis!” I’m here knowing that the next time Lake County has a fire, I may not have anywhere to go. This apartment won’t stay vacant for long. Shelters are out, as the fragrant personal care products and cleaning products that prevent my equal and healthy access to all kinds of ordinary goods and services in the best of times, also keep me from accessing public facilities in the worst of times. I can’t afford an RV or even a truck with a camper shell, so I’m actually expending a fair amount of time obsessing over my options during the next fire, even though there are none.

Friends who would take me gladly, as a temporary evacuee, are not prepared to shelter my four cats as well. But the cats are my companions and familiars, and they go where I go.

I was lucky this time, to stay in San Francisco as the fire rages. And privileged too. A lot of people were sheltering in parks. The heat up there, in the summer, gets into three digits… can you imagine? Kids, elderly people, pets, in a tent with no fans, under those conditions? And in one park, there was only one propane burner for cooking for dozens of people. And the smoke–they couldn’t escape it like I did. Plus, a cluster of people from one of the regular shelters have come down with a norovirus blamed on donated, canned water. I have only myself to blame for getting sick from pre-made deli food.

I’m lucky too in that my house and neighborhood are intact. The firefighters did a tremendous job keeping the Ranch Fire flames away from our North Shore towns (just as they prevented the River Fire from reaching Lakeport). But other people have lost their homes. Housing is already scarce.

But this is a blog about all things woo, spiritual stuff, magic… Loki… and whatever else I feel like writing now that I no longer care much what anyone thinks. So yes, there is a woo side to this narrative. Let me continue to over-share.

Among my evacuation items, I brought most of my pagan altar doodads, my magical tools (except my crystal chalice), my tarot deck, and a few choice books that I’m in the middle of reading. (I also packed my Lois McMasters-Bujold Miles Vorkosigan books and a complete, hardbound set of Jane Austen, but I digress…).

While here, I’ve kept up my daily tantra exercises and meditations as well as my devotional practices for Frey, Gerda, Freya, and Loki (which I do in an Inclusive Heathen context, as per The Troth, combined with a greater personal and spiritual affinity with the approaches of Northern Tradition Paganism). All this has helped. Greatly. Feeling as if “my deities” are “with me” is also a comfort and these workings have deepened. I begin to understand people who rely on religion–this kind of thing is new to me.

And for the first time in my life, I’ve actually done really well in “remembering my tools” while under duress. I credit the daily practices above. Whatever it is we do, spiritually or religiously, these things can build resilience so that when crisis does strike, there’s a bit more ability to keep a cool head (at least at times) and to feel less overwhelmed (mostly). I also recognize that being here, alone, in an empty, non-toxic apartment in my old neighborhood, rather than in a public shelter among scented strangers, also contributes greatly to my resilience.

I suppose my biggest concern going back, aside from smoke exposure, is how do we build a better framework for mutual aid before the next crisis hits us? The local motto for our community is “Lake County Strong,” but old-timers are the most likely to benefit from long standing family and social networks, just as I have from a family connection here in the Bay Area. How do we have more of that for people who are marginalized and less socially connected?

I’m pondering. I’m wondering what I can do, personally, with the resources I have. Ideas are welcome.

Are you a fellow traveller? Or even a local Lokean? Let me know you’re there!

mendocino-1400

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Loki Limericks

With Loki you’ll never be bored,

For his tongue is as sharp as a sword.

And his heart is pure gold,

While his humor is bold,

And of mischief he’s always the lord.

I just explained, in a general way (meaning on social media) that all this “woo” stuff I’m doing is (1) a serious study, (2) also a deliberate application of a homeopathic dose of “madness” that keeps the rest of me sane, and (3) it’s enjoyable and fun as hell.

I am sheltering from the Mendocino Complex Fires in a completely empty apartment, in a region with better air quality. I am here with my four cats, a sleeping bag, and my computer to keep me company. Without a table or chair, it is hard to work on my book. The cats frequently burst out into a “wild rumpus” (at all hours) and thunder through the flat with games of chase and hide and seek. I worry they are waking the newborn baby (and parents) downstairs. I also worry that they are waking me, but there’s nothing I can do about it.

Except write limericks to a beloved god in my current polytheistic pantheon:

Our Loki’s the coolest of gods,

Though other folk think us quite odd.

We love his flame-hair,

And don’t-mess-with-me glare,

And his tricks we will always applaud.

I suppose limericks are one way to beseech and propitiate a god of fire as well as mischief. And it’s a lighter touch than “please save my house, please save my neighbor’s house, please save everyone’s house, please save the poor woodland creatures, even that poor lame fawn who is finding it harder and harder to follow its mother through my yard…”

Our Loki loves cinnamon sweets,

And chocolate and other fine treats.

We can pour him some mead,

Or bake bread that we knead,

But we always make sure that he eats!

Yeah, so, Norse gods. To be specific, I am currently “working with” Frey and Freya of the Vanir, and Gerda and Loki who are Jotun (though as Odin’s blood brother, Loki is also counted as Aesir). When I started to get into this Norse phase, I joined The Troth because it’s an “inclusive heathenry” organization that has a specific and stated policy against racism and other forms of discrimination. But I don’t seem to be a heathen by their definition. (And The Troth is not exactly supportive of Lokeans.) I think Raven Kaldera’s “Northern Tradition Paganism” may be a decent umbrella term for me, at least for now.

After years of being quite smitten with another tradition entirely, the message came “go to YOUR ancestors now,” and so I am trying that very thing, in various ways and with many kinds of interesting results. But I lack a “kindred.” There’s a Facebook group that is the closest I’ve come, but gosh, I sure wish I could find people in my area.

Except “my area” is currently on fire. Lots and lots of fire.

Loki's_flight_to_Jötunheim

Are you a fellow traveler? Are you fleeing disaster? Let me know you’re out there.

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Adding this one:

Our Loki is one sexy guy.

He’s more Pan than Het’ro or Bi.

With god spouses galore,

He’s up for lots more,

And none of us even ask why!