A small town has its advantages. It can hold you close and nurture you. As a child, that is a very safe thing to have. As an adult, it often becomes intrusive, meddlesome and frustrating. Unless you need to be held close and nurtured.

My hometown was such a place. Five thousand people, two elementary schools, one middle school and one high school. I was surrounded by people who knew me from the day I was born. I was educated by my parents friends. Children that shared my kindergarten class shared my senior year in high school. I have friends that I have known all of my life.

Some of those friends have remained close. Some stay in touch and share the same history. Some do not stay in touch but when I hear their names I know who they are, who their parents were, I can place them and their relatives in a place in my brain.

Social media has helped in the endeavor to rediscover those people who shared my life in that time and place.

The Linda Vista kids. Jackie, Terry, Tommy, Lindy, Linda, Susan and Sandy will forever be a part of me. When I learned about the Camp fire in Butte County, California, I was concerned. I knew that Sandy and another dear friend lived in Paradise. When the fire destroyed that town, I cried.

My dear friend lost everything. Sandy was evacuated multiple time but her home survived.

Today, Sandy wrote to me. Her words were eloquent. They reminded me that, although the fire is gone, the pain and the loss remain. She reminded me not to forget. She mostly reminded me of the closeness and nurturing that rises in a small community when disaster comes to call.

She gave me permission to post her words, unedited or redacted.


I have wanted to write over the last month, Oh my , so very much that has touched my heart to its core. I have had a hard time articulating what this month has been. Daily new voices, new changes, new stories. It felt like this area had gone to war, so many remains.
Everywhere you go in Butte County, ones you run into, all have been touched deeply by knowing ones, or lost everything themselves. Stories of fleeing the fire, escaping with their life, loss, starting over, sleeping in tents, jumping from one place to another, as they struggle with their grief, loss, and new beginnings. Its Christmas time all over the world, yet here in Butte County it feels like core survival time. So so many trying to catch their breath, dealing with insurances, rebuilding or not, and where to go if one does not rebuild. All emotions from A-Z at any given moment, in line at the Post office, grocery store, anywhere, the stories of living thru this tragedy continues on.
After I returned home, after being evacuated for 11 days, three different places,  I spent the first week deep cleaning the ash and smoke out of home and around my home. Now, my home has been opened to many. In the Master bedroom is a Dr. and his wife, beautiful people, so grateful they have a roof over their heads and hearts. They come with their beloved dog. In spare bedroom is a friend that had just moved back from Oregon to Paradise, after being gone for years, just got her place set up and lost it all. Below on my second drive way, 2 large RV’s will be arriving next week. A couple my age and her elder parents, in their mid 80’s, her father is on dialyses. They also have a depth of gratitude to have a place to land, as they open to their new life, all here have lost everything, home, some cars, and friends, that lost their life, or are moving away for good. I am amazed at the positive on going thoughts regarding their future, along with grieving their losses.
I have been taken to my knees, by the love that is pouring out from all walks of life within this community and the world. Simple acts of kindness, to ones with the ability to hold another, others, as they sob their losses. I am working with other grief counselors in a group that started to support ones affected by this fire, which is all of Butte County, if one did not lose their home, one knows way way to many that have. All know of many that lost their lives, so many elders. The group meets ones a week, as we sit in circle, in support of others journey thru this time. My heart soars of the courage, strength, compassion, rawness, love that is felt so deeply.
All in my home for different reasons, have left for a few days, I took that time and tried my best to decor for Christmas. There is nothing like a tree, soft lights, smiling snow critters, to sooth the heart.. !!!!!!!!! Its so hard to even feel any part of Christmas right now, yet I know, the sense of a small part of normalcy, having a tree up, will warm their hearts when they return today and tomorrow. It will also bring on the knowledge of their own family Christmas things, some from their Grandparents, parents that will forever be lost in the fire. Yet somehow, the balance of loss and appreciation is profound.
When I finally returned to my home the act of putting my key into my home and stepping in, took me to my knees, great sobs of having a home to return to, sobs of ones never having that feeling again of turning the key to their beloved home, I cried (sobbed) for a long time. Then one of my cats that had been in three different homes, in tiny bedrooms, started running the length of my home back and forth, like in a happy dance of being home, my other cat and my dog and I joined in and we did laps around my home in celebration of being home. I laughed and cried and laughed and cried.  There is no place like home.
One story that sticks out in my heart: A mother with her two children, in Paradise, fleeing their home to their car to get out, only to find her car tires were melted, started running down the street with her kids, flames all around her,  a car came by, stopped,  started throwing all that they had collected from their home into their car out on the street, to make room for the woman and her children, getting them out of there to safety. A million stories like this one has been shared. The compassion, love, from total strangers has risen in the most devastating disaster I have ever seen, felt, smelled, witnessed. How this community of Butte County, especially the towns of Paradise, Concow, Yankee Hill, Magilia will ever recover is beyond my hearts ability to comprehend, yet its happening, one act of kindness at a time.
The horse ranch I had up in Yankee Hill, is all gone, both large horse barns, the 30×64 workshop and the 3,500 sq. foot home. Tho I had been gone from there going on three years now, I still cried deeply of it going up in flames. Mom and I spent so much sharing there.
Christmas, well…………. its one I don’t think I will ever forget. For now, the blessing is the massive mountains and hills that were burned,  surrounding me, black everywhere you look, with the small amount of rain we have received, green grass is slowly, coming up thru the burn, scarred land. Rebirth, regrowth, so soon after the fire. To me that is the Blessings. The love of all in this county of ones helping each other. My subdivision I live in, each home having 5-10 ac. many have opened their land, homes to others with RV’s, trailers, or welcoming them into their homes. Even in my little part of life, my neighborhood is and forever being changed of the generosity of giving others a safe harbor in these times. Love…………. the core of it all.
Love, Your Friend, Sandy
Linda Vista Kids

Probably the first day of school. We all went together.


Thank you, Sandy for being there for others when your world is upside down. You are a hero.

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  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing her story, it is a mix of sadness and joy. The kindness of your friend and others in times of crisis, never cease to reassure my faith in humanity.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I cried when I read her words. I don’t remember a time when I did not know Sandy. She is one of the gentle people.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. I have been at a loss to even begin to understand what everyone in that community is going through. My friend and his wife (he is the minister of a church that had been there for 65 years) lost their home as well as the church. I cannot imagine the devastation. Love you – another Lindsay-ite who knew you since….Linda

    Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure or nothing. Helen Keller   Linda Finley Spiritual Director Center for Spiritual Living Eugene, OR 97401 541-485-0035

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Sandy said “Its so hard to even feel any part of Christmas right now”…..but, in her narrative, the things people have done for each other show some of the truest Christmas spirit you will ever see. Thank you, Gael, for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sandy is an amazing woman. I agree with you. She has risen to the occasion and created Christmas for a lot of people. I am not sure that I could have done what she is doing. I just felt that I had to get her writing out there. You know what I mean.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Just loved reading all of it Merry Christmas Pat


    Liked by 1 person

  7. Simply beautiful. Your friend is a wonderful person.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That she is. Thanks for reading it!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It’s very moving. Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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