Thursday, October 25, 2007


One of my blogging friends, Gay, was forced to evacuate her home due to the wildfires in California. She has been posting updates from her cell phone. I would ask that you keep her and others affected by this disaster in your thoughts and prayers.

Someone I hold in very high regard has frequently referred to "blogging communities." And it's true. As we read about each other's lives, we become like neighbors. We laugh when they laugh. When they're happy, we're happy for them. And when they're sad or struggling, we're concerned.

By the same token, I've always thought of America as one big community. When times are toughest, that's when it seems we are at our best. Whether it's thirteen miners in a coal mine or thousands devastated by a hurricane, we hurt, we cry, we pray, we look for ways to help.

We are them. They are us.

It's both frightening and sad seeing the devastation caused by these wildfires and that eerie red glow in the sky. And that's just from watching on TV. I can't imagine what it's like to be there.

The following is something I wrote about California, a place I've visited exactly once. I wrote it over a year ago and it's been stuck in draft ever since. Today felt like a good time to post it.

California is just another place. Until you've been there.

It's just a name. An idea. A shape on a map. The setting for a million stories. It's Hollywood and LA and movie stars and the ocean. Late nights and late mornings.

It can be a lifelong curiosity, or a dream. But one thing is for certain. Once you've been, it's none of those things, and at the same time, it's all of them and more. It's a feeling of free you had forgotten you could feel, or maybe never knew at all.

California stays with you. Maybe not always in the front of your mind. But it's always there, somewhere. It gnaws at you, some days more than others. And you long to return, again and again.

"And it's one more day up in the canyons, and it's one more night in Hollywood. If you think you might come to California, think you should..."


  1. We've been praying for the folks in Cali but it takes on a whole different meaning when you can add a name to it. I'm glad that Gay's okay and pray that her house will be spared too.

    We were in Cali 4 years ago when they had that big fire... it's a terrible thing.

  2. Two wonderful posts in one. I don't know Gay well but have been thinking about her constantly

    I love the way you tie in blogging to the larger world we live in

    I used to think of America as one big community as an ideal. Then frankly I met you and a few other people who let me into parts of your/their lives

    As I'm a New Yorker I always felt separated from America. America seemed to tolerate or be amused by NY---the whole Seinfeld thing

    After 9/11 we did become part of the larger American community but there were strings attached

    Bloggers taught me that individual Americans did care. Bloggers taught me that just because I'm a stereotypical Manhattanite in every way, it doesn't mean I'm not a real American

    That was one of my biggest life lessons, and one that totally changed how I think.
    Three years ago the idea of me moving to South Carolina would have made me laugh.

    In my two almost month visits to SC I found that the people were very receptive to me. I don't think that I would have put out the receptive vibes before I found blogging

    The California post is simply beautiful and expresses what I wish I could write. California was my dream move but it's just too pricey

    There is much more I could write but your posts have brought me to tears as they say so much---again, things that I wish I could express so well

    Darn Bone you can do sentiment with an edge and that's so wonderful and rare.

    I'm pumped up on cold meds so that gives me the excuse to say that your posts can make me laugh like nobody else, can make me cry and everything in between

    I think both posts you put in are BoneClassics

    Thank you--for your writing and more

  3. There's a slideshow at the Webshots Blog of photos from the fire area. Take a look.

  4. Bone, I was hooked on California from the very first visit too. On my last trip out there in March, the Hollywood Hills caught on fire. It was just a campfire compared to this, but it looked huge and it was very intimidating. I can't imagine living there and losing a home due to this crazy inferno...especially knowing that some of these fires are deliberately set...what a horrible feeling.
    And the blogging community has very literally been a lifesaver to me...this online band of brothers and sisters has seen me through some dark times. It never ceases to amaze me how people that were once total strangers can become closer than family.

  5. Renee: Yeah, it does. I'm glad she was able to post updates.

    Pia: Thank you. Blogging has helped me learn a lot about people in general. How very different we can be, and yet how much we all have in common. And as you kind of alluded to, I think it helps break down stereotypes and misconceptions we may have had.

    Thanks. I loved California. I don't know why the post is just now seeing the light of day, but I'm glad it is.

    Tiel: Wow. The red and orange sky is just beyond eerie.

    Jennifer: I'm glad you share my feelings for California :)

    Blogging constantly reminds me how good and kind people can be.

  6. Fire is such a scary thing, and this is on my mind a lot.California is so beautiful, but so endangered. May this trauma end as soon as possible.

  7. You are so right about going to Cali. I've been there once, and cannot wait to go back. I hope our blogger buddy will not suffer much. Here's one of my favorite songs about LA by REM, and a song I heard while cruising Mulholland Drive:

    If I ever want to fly.
    Mulholland Drive.
    I am alive.

    Hollywood is under me.
    I'm Martin Sheen
    I'm Steve McQueen
    I'm Jimmy Dean

    Everyone's a star....

  8. Beautiful post, Bone.
    Those in California were already in my prayers, but you've made them more real - more connected - here. It just reminds us that we all need a little help from our friends. Even if it's just good thoughts.

    Isn't it amazing when a place can get into your blood, and into your soul, like Cali has gotten into yours? I have a few places like that. Where you wouldn't want to live because it might spoil the magic . . but you still fantasize about it.

  9. It's scary. Hope everything gets under control soon, my cousin and family who lives in the area has had to evacuate, and they moved to a friends' place, but very concerned about their doesnt matter when compared to human lives, but it is also hard to let go. As for California's attraction, yet to experience it. Never been that side.

  10. Actonbell: I agree entirely. And it is an absolutely beautiful place.

    Carnealian: I am alive.

    That says it all. So simple, yet so perfectly true. I'd never heard that song before. REM has a lot of good ones.

    Avery Laine: Isn't it amazing when a place can get into your blood, and into your soul

    Yes it is. And it stays there.

    Thank you.

    Ul: Oh my. I hope things turn out well for your cousin and family and that their home is OK. Obviously, life is the most important thing, but I can't imagine losing everything else.

  11. My parents are both from California so I visited extended family there all the time growing up. I love that state!

    Last night I actually was praying for those affected by the fires. Then I realized we really are all in this together. Right now we have fires, floods, droughts, war, etc to worry about. It's events like those that put life in us determine what really is important: family, friends, recognizing blessings, etc. Nice post Bone. We really are all in this together.

  12. My thoughts have been with the people in California all week. It's a sad and scary time.

    I think one of the amazing things about connections like the blogosphere is that it opens up a bit more of the world to us, and suddenly we realize I know someone there! And it makes things so much more real.

    A friend of mine recently moved to that area, and I haven't been able to get in touch with her. I'm glad to hear that things worked out for Gay's family and continue to think of all the others.

    Once you've been there, it's none of those things, and at the same time, it's all of them, and more.

    My favorite line in the whole post, Bone. I felt like you brought YOUR California alive for all of us. The best part about California is that we all have one. Thanks for sharing yours.

  13. the piece you wrote? that IS how california feels. it never goes away completely.

  14. i am fortunate to say that i live in northern california,, at present we are uneffected personally by the tragedy,, but the whole thing is very much on our minds,, especially mine as i have family in the fire wrought areas...

    i have lived in six states and personally find california lacking,,, but then again i more or less took my freedom,, and it has never been associated with a place....

    excellent post bone...

  15. I've been to California a lot, being as how I live in the Southwest and travel mostly in the West. I've become immune to what California represents, and so that's what stood out for me in this post. The blazes there, the devastation.

    And then I think of all the places in the US recently hit by tragedy -- NYC, New Orleans, now California. Each one is perhaps even more wrenching than if, say, my very own Albuquerque were hit. We lose what we lose and then all the rest.

  16. Thank you for your thoughts.

    I love San Diego and watching it go up in flames breaks my heart. There are no words to describe what it felt like to go to bed on Monday night with the fire bearing down on both my home and my farm, fearing I would lose both by the time I awakened in the morning. It came very very close to the farm... I am responsible for roughly 50 horses, 40 belonging to others, in a family business that does just well enough that I can afford to keep my own. The business is hand-to-mouth, and the developers watch it like vultures... since it is surrounded by expensive homes.

    Horses seem an expensive luxury, but horse people are generally not wealthy... they are those who drive old cars, wear old clothes, live on college-kid food so their horses can have what they need and they can enjoy their passion. The beach bums at a higher scale. It's a ridiculous passion, I'll admit, but it's an addiction that once in your blood, is harder to break than nicotine, and most get it as children. It breaks up marriages (most husbands know better than to say "It's me or the horse" or else they aren't husbands any more).

    So when the fires approached, getting the horses out was as important as getting children out--because to the people who put their horses in my care, they ARE children. Many of my boarders came to help, but there were still more horses than trailers. It took 4 trips to get them out... and my own home had to come second. (I grabbed cats and dogs and meds and that was it... not even a change of clothes until after we had the horses out, then crossed the lines to get a few more things when I knew I could get in and out before the fire could reach it because the roads were empty and there was still some distance).

    I hope I never have to do that again.

    Now it's just a miserable clean up job, with ash everywhere for me, but for 25% of the county, it is devastation and destruction. It could be so much worse. And the fire still rages out of control to the east, with less than 50% containment. It boggles the mind. We have not suffered the number of deaths of a 9/11, but the loss of property, wildlife, open space is unbelievable... eerie, much within city limits.

  17. Hi Bone! Thanks for stopping by my blog and checking in -- that was really cool and I really appreciate it! Luckily I'm in Northern California -- but I feel terrible about the folks affected by the fire. I will definitely keep your friend Gay in my thoughts and prayers. I love what you wrote about California. I've lived my whole life here, and it's a pretty amazing state. And I also love what you wrote about "blogging communities" and about America being one big community -- you are so right on -- we are them and they are us. No separation. One body and one heart. I'll be back for 3WW next week -- I've missed it a lot and got super busy lately. But I think things are finally calming down. Have a great weekend!

  18. Charlotta-love: Thank you. It does put things into perspective. I was griping about work today and then I caught myself.

    TC: I felt like you brought YOUR California alive for all of us.

    What a cool comment. Thanks. I sure hope your friend is safe.

    Sizzle: Thanks! Coming from a former Californian, that especially means a lot :)

    Paisley: Thank you. And I of course hope that your family is OK.

    Ybonesy: Interesting perspective. I've often wondered if I'd become immune to it as well. I guess when I think of America, the first two places I think of are New York and California. Thanks for stopping by.

    Gay: Thank you for taking the time to update us on everything. I've never been faced with anything close to that, but I guess priorities fast become clear. Family, pets, and then everything else.

    I'm glad it wasn't worse for you.

    Clare: You're welcome. It's pretty cool to hear from someone who has lived there her entire life and still finds it amazing :)

  19. I can't imagine what they are going through and know that it has to be devastating. You are right though, California stays with you. I've been once, but am planning another trip soon- I hope.

  20. It's fortunate we have the smaller communities - be they real or virtual - that take care of each other. Sadly, it seems it takes a disaster of magnitude to bring the larger community of the US of A to light and pay attention to each other. I'm sad that there are people that would intentionally set these fires and cause so much damage to other people's lives. But there are more good people that step in and help, and for that we are all fortunate.

  21. My wife was born in San Diego, lived in Cali for a while and still has family over there. So the Cali fires have been pretty personal for us.

    It's sad. And we keep them in our thoughts daily.

  22. I've never been to Cali, but I'd love to visit and I plan on it! I hated to sit and watch those fires rage on for days. The pain is unbelievable. Although we've not experienced wildfires like that here, we get our share of flood and ice which do terrible damage. I pray for all of those in Cali who are facing this tragedy and I hope that people remain safe despite the loss of property!

  23. I am going to have a look at Gays site next... I have an 'in real life' friend that had been evacuated but thankfully his home was spared... there were several homes burned in his neighborhood! YIKES!!

    I have been to CA twice. Once 9 months pregnant... no fun... and once about 7 years ago... loads of fun! Its a place that is like no other!

    Happy Monday!

  24. your friend and all those suffering will be in my thoughts and prayers :)

  25. Thanks for sharing. It was really interesting to read about the fires from someone who's actually there experiencing it. I can't even imagine what they're going through but those people in California have been in my thoughts and prayers.

  26. Bone,

    I'm late to the party and just read this post tonight, but your refleciton speaks so deeply to how I feel about California, as someone who headed out alone to Los Angeles for college as an 18-year old kid from the Midwest and who just couldn't bear to leave and has now been here for a dozen years. Most of the time it just feels like home, but every now and then I am struck with the realization that I am living in CALIFORNIA, and all that that word holds.

    I have been lucky in the last week, as my home was not in any danger and my close friends and family are safe, too. But it was a hard week even so, as we breathed smoky, acrid air for days on end, watched the full moon rise blood-red through the haze, and wondered how long the fires would burn and where they would head next. Our hearts broke for those who were not as lucky, and it was a much-needed balm for all of us (if I may be so presumptuous as to speak for "all of us") to see the outpouring of compassion and sympathy from so many of you out there in blogdom.

    Thank you.

  27. When my cousin, and her fiance, who were at my place worried, for the duration of the evacuation, heard that they could go back home she was so happy she started crying...
    Well anyway we all were just very glad and relieved.

  28. Thank you all for the comments and sharing your thoughts on California.

    I hope that all of you and everyone you care about who live there made it thru safely.