Lucy Jensen

“You’ve been 2020-ed.” It’s a thing, likely to find its place in the modern vernacular, after a year such as this. Fresh on the heels of the ongoing coronavirus plague, folks not being able to return to work, money tight and the future unclear; here we get doused in dry lightning and our fair State erupts in fire all over the place.

We knew bad stuff would be headed our way when we endured that sleepless night, bashed about with cracks of lightning streaking across the night sky. Lightning in August is never a good thing here. Everything is so crusty and dry. We also had a fair amount of rain last winter, so the crusty dry stuff is plentiful, and there you have an absolute recipe for disaster.

Fire, like surgery, is something that you become immersed in at the time and then the memory has a way of stifling the experience until the next time it pops up. I had forgotten what it is like to have everything covered in ash, day in and day out. I’d little active recollection of steamy burnt skies and the lack of proper daylight. The sinuses are bothered and a thudding head is what you get for too much inhalation. You don’t really want to go outside and, if you do, you are glad of your mask. Who would have thought there would be a day we would say that! Most of us cannot wait for the mask to not be a thing either.

This is not the kind of Central Coast summer we boast about. But, one thing that has always resonated with me about the American spirit is how courageous and generous people can be during times of disaster — 9/11 springs to mind. Strangers helping strangers. Other terrible fires we have experienced here over the course of time — people step out of their daily lives to help each other, without money exchanging hands or an ulterior motive. It is so refreshing to witness.

This time around, social media has been alight with offers to help. “I have three trucks and trailers ready to go. I can help rescue your animals!’’ These people are not messing around and there are a lot of them. “Anyone need a place to stay, I have a spare room!” I have been reminded during these dark and difficult days why I really love living here. Taking the lead of generous souls, I offered our own fenced meadow on Facebook, aware that some people had nowhere to go with their larger critters.

Within two minutes or thereabouts, I received a message from someone I didn’t know, asking for her friend. They had needed to move their horses that they boarded from the fire zone and the horses had been trailered all day long with nowhere to go. My sick husband jumps up out of his chair and whoots, “Yes, an animal rescue! Let’s go!” They called me for our address and, within 15 minutes from start to finish, I had two beautiful paint horses rushing up and down my nighttime hills, safe and free to roam. That is the power of social media at its best.

I love taking my lodgers fresh-fallen apples in the morning, listening to their happy nickers and feeling the velvet-silkiness of their muzzles. I have missed having horses in my meadow and it made my heart so very full, knowing that we made a small difference in their lives and the lives of their families.

Despite the continued awfulness of the pandemic that has touched every aspect of life, humans during our most recent crisis are maneuvering themselves out of the sanctuary of their own homes to go and help other humans in their times of need. People are delivering food and necessities to Red Cross evacuation stations and fire camps to cheer the tired firefighters. Others are delivering pet food to shelters where people are forced to leave their beloved pets.

We have all stood back in amazement in recent days observing the detailed logistics of a fire operation such as the ones that are currently challenging our State; and the confidence that the fire teams will, ultimately, get all the fires under control and allow people to return home — some to rebuild and others to clean; but home is more than just rooms and roofs; it is about community and humanity and communities are strengthened during times like this.

I am gratified when I hear about the relative lack of injury and death despite the thousands of burning acres, and I love it when I see the different agencies of law enforcement and fire working together on such a mammoth project. It really does restore my faith in the essential goodness of man, working together to help other men, women, children and animals survive in our fractured world.

We had forgotten about the last fires we endured and the fires before. We had all gratefully moved on with our lives, listened to the fire chiefs telling us to clear the brush around our homes and making an effort to do so, especially when summer comes along with her fickle ways and reminds us that there are many things beyond our control in life and fire can be one of them. Who would have thought that Mother Nature’s lightning strikes would be the cause of most of these raging infernos all around us? It’s 2020, after all, and we have been truly 2020-ed.

Let’s hope that cooling ocean influences will prevail, that maybe we are blessed with some of the wet stuff to dampen the ardor of the flames and that something surprising nice happens in the near future for all of those in the lines of fire and the fire teams themselves. Witnessing some refreshing acts of bravery and generosity of man towards man makes me hopeful that something good will happen soon and many, many lives and structures will be ultimately saved.

“And it never failed that during the dry years the people forgot about the rich years, and during the wet years they lost all memory of the dry years. It was always that way.” —John Steinbeck, “East of Eden”

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