I have this mantra and it’s simple enough: Each day is an opportunity to be better than the last.
Well, for the past week, this idea that I hold so strongly was literally overcome by the continuous barrage of horrible news that came out of the California wine country fires. It took me a week to write something because quite honestly, I’m in disbelief with what has happened to Santa Rosa, and much of Sonoma County and Napa County. It’s such beautiful countryside, with perfectly smooth rolling hills dotted with scrubby brush, giving way to verdant green valleys of grapes. The area is marked by the Russian River that meanders its way to Pacific, bypassing redwoods of grand scale. Santa Rosa is filled with beautiful parks, is home to a solid junior college, performing arts center, quaint, locally-owned shops and restaurants, hard-working families, beautiful neighborhoods, a close-knit wine community, it just goes on and on.
You see, while I’ve been a resident of Las Vegas for 12 years now, I’m still greatly connected to Santa Rosa, CA. It’s the town where our oldest son, Michael, was born. It’s also where I worked for 10 years, commuting from our little wine country town of Geyserville, located 25 miles north. My first Mother’s Day brunch was celebrated at Equus restaurant, which along with everything else on that corner at the bottom of Fountaingrove, is now just ashes. It’s where I relished my first true 18-hole golf experience at Fountaingrove golf course, of which the club house is now destroyed. So many memories in Santa Rosa.
Many of my relatives still live in Santa Rosa today, as well as friends and co-workers. Most are still in tentative situations as of now. Will the wind shift their way? Will another lose a house or workplace? When will they get their power back? Where do they go from here?
And as I sit here in Las Vegas, I can’t bear to see another image of pure destruction of a city I hold so dear. I want to help.
As the fires have ripped through residential communities in Santa Rosa, and slowly crept up to Geyserville, where we resided, I scroll through friends’ Facebook posts to see who is evacuating on Walling Road. This darling little country road, dotted with just a few residences is home to Pedroncelli, Frick and Ramazzotti wineries, all close friends. As of now, their properties are spared. On social media I see photos of a 747 dropping fire retardant just east of town. I hear of friends leaving their home in hopes of coming back to it in the very near future. I receive a text from a friend who is still working the vineyard with a gas mask on.
The whole thing is heartbreaking, and I feel helpless.
It’s hard to believe that such a beautiful place is now so brutally ugly. But, while the aesthetic beauty has been destroyed (for now), I see a glimmer of hope in the way that the communities have come together.
Just like we have here in Las Vegas after the senseless mass shooting, which happened just a week before. It’s illuminating and comforting to see the closeness that occurs after such tragedy.
It will take a lot of time to rebuild the California wine country. At a time when the worst has truly happened, it can only go up from here. The beauty is still deep within. And tomorrow will be better.