As many of you may know, Oregon is in a state of emergency. The whole state is on fire. There are wildfires spreading everywhere around Eugene. Last night the winds blew up to 55mph and the heatwave continues... Around 5pm yesterday the smoke poured into the entire Willamette Valley. And it only took minutes for the whole sky to turn as red as Mars and then the ashes rained down like a dystopian snow. I spent all night coughing and wheezing. I have asthma and severe allergies. I told myself I would tough it out. But the apartment I live in has very poor sealing under the doors and windows. When I woke up this morning my curtains and window sills were covered in ashes that speckled across my white comforter. I spent most of the day working on more artwork to keep my mind from the rising terror surrounding me. When late afternoon hit, my breathing became almost impossible without severe chest pain. I started vomiting. I called the non-emergency line and they said to get out immediately and go to the evacuation zone where the Red Cross was set up to help. I drove about a half hour north and found myself in a scene that will linger with me for life. The workers were kind and calm. Hundreds of evacuees flooded in, fleeing their burning homes, in search of refuge. The Red Cross took down my information and put it in a stack of two-inch high forms. They said it would be at least several hours before I may have a safe place to go. I did what I had to do and waited in my car for 2.5 hours. An older woman came up to my car and asked me what my story was. I told her and she said she lived in Northern Eugene in a home with central air and filtration. She said her and her husband saw all the people waiting for help on the news. So she came to see if they could offer a single person refuge. I am now ensconced in a beautiful guest bedroom in the most amazing home. There is a purple bathroom with stained glass windows and turtle sculptures. Her husband is a retired firefighter, I feel so safe here in every way. They made me chicken noodle soup and fresh honeydew melon. I sat with them and their grandson in their cozy living room and talked some, but mostly just listened to the sounds of a family having a nightly conversation. This is something very alien to me. I have been alone for so long, and my family rarely did anything akin to that. I thought I would feel nervous and uncomfortable, but it was oddly soothing and I am so grateful that I can now breathe. This has been hell, especially because I almost died in a house fire when I was nine years old (another story for another day). My chemotherapy is also taking its toll.
But now I am safe. I walk through many iterations of fire each day of my life. I am glad that in this instance of literal fire, that I am not alone.