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Navigating the new normal

“Ping, Ping.” I hear the sound as I enter the realm of “I-person” with my new I-phone. My children insisted I try the I-phone after my Android took a 20 second float down Boyle Creek before being rescued. After that it developed a mind of its own, giving me six months of very “out of the box” phone behavior.

This week this phone has given me sometimes hourly “pings”  that are part of the Nixle alerts, relating to the fires in Sonoma County. I try to relax into “Here we go again” thinking, which is challenging. My family members are close to the fires … for the second time. I am sheltering three of them here as I type this.

And I ask myself, how DO we cope? How do we witness friends who lost a home in the first Tubbs fire, and are now experiencing the anxiety facing them with a second possible loss? How do we carry on with a variety of issues challenging our mental, emotional, and sometimes physical experience on this planet? Too many questions with few answers.

“Everything is impermanent,” I keep reminding myself — the trees, my possessions, my friends … and coming into strong focus, my own life.

As this “new normal” enters our vocabulary, how do we adapt? How do we accept … or if not, what do we do with our non-acceptance? One friend is researching where to move; a place where there are no extreme natural disasters that seem to be accelerating on a yearly basis. Another is trying to design a home that is fire resistant … talking about sod houses, rammed earth and other designs that could be buried in the side of a hill.

Another option is adjusting to whatever presents itself. In Sonoma County local entities are busy ramping up their emergency responses — installing hi/lo sirens on their sheriff and police cars; putting “old fashioned” sirens and air horns throughout the communities that are not dependent upon electricity or cell towers that may or may not be operating in an emergency. These relatively inexpensive fixes can, at least, notify those in an area that a fire is approaching … and broadcast a pre-identified plan for evacuation to take those that do not have transportation out of harm’s way.

There are some answers to some of these questions. There are mitigations that will help with the levels of anxiety and stress. And the more the community can be involved in the planning for what efforts can reduce stress, the better and more prepared we will all feel.

We are living in an increasing time of anxiety. Many sense that there is no end in sight to the amount of “overwhelm” that seems to be coming our direction. We can cut down our trees, clear away our brush, put sprinklers on our homes to assuage some of this anxiety in fire prone country. But weather driven forces seem to be building to a point that is almost impossible to control. Firestorms, fire tornados, 90 mph winds make any illusion of control merely that — an illusion.

Each one of us has to consider our response to an uncertain future where fire or any other disaster could rearrange our lives quickly. Not only do we need to be comfortable with our changing landscape, but weave our personal plans together into a plan for our community.

A community conversation where all voices are heard, considered and respected will serve us well as we go forward into this uncertain future … facing the “new normal” together.

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