Thursday, October 25, 2007

Now We Get to Clean

Clean-up: A blessing and a nightmare.
Once you get over the initial honor and blessing of having a house, still standing and undamaged, then you have to come to terms with the scary prospect of cleaning ash, soot, microscopic particulate matter that is carcinogenic, from outside, inside, the cars, the bottom of your shoes, your hair, the cat, the toys in the yard... everywhere!

May I just re-emphasize how clean and lovely our home was, inside and out, Sunday afternoon?

This stuff is nasty. Nasty in the short term, because of the spread and volume, and it breaks in to an infinite, airborne dust as soon as anything touches it or a breeze swirls. It smells bad too. Nasty in the long term, because it is like inhaling a sample of every plastic, synthetic, hazardous material burning in San Diego County. And those little white masks from the hardware store? "Better than nothing, maybe, but not effective in keeping out the junk."

And when should you start cleaning? The fires are not contained. While it is impossible to maintain the same level of heightened awareness, anxiety, adrenaline... the reality is we are still in the middle of an emergency and disaster. Exertion is ill-advised in this air-quality. Sweep the porch and come back to sweep again in 20 minutes? Kind of pointless. Ash is still falling, and more will come with every wind gust. I swept our entryways in hopes of keeping us from tracking more stuff in. We have to conserve power too, so no dishwashers, or laundry... is everyone following these requests?

We are faring well under the circumstances. Yes, we are coughing and sneezing. My eyes hurt. My nose hurts. William and Geoff cough a lot.

I find myself avoiding trying to comprehend the magnitude of all of this, because emotionally, it devastates me. I sympathize and empathize and I am overcome when I think too long on families and houses, burn victims, losses, fears, little children, animals, trees, the places I know and love, the businesses hurt, the firefighters, law enforcement, volunteers... so much pain, so much fear and loss, and we are not done yet.

I just keep a prayer running in my head, in my heart... keep everyone safe, and thank you. Thank you for fire fighting crews coming from Grand Junction, Colorado, and East Los Angeles and Tijuana and Tecate, from all over the world.
Thank you for cooperation and compassion.
Thank you for Petco; they are not only raising money, but they are at the evacuation centers providing supplies and helping all of the animals.
Thank you for the messages of encouragement and love coming to our home from friends, new and old, far and near. Last night I received an email from Perth Australia... Laura R. has been reading Chickenblog and the maps from yesterday helped her and her evacuated San Diego friend share more information. Thank you Laura for writing to me, for sharing your kind thoughts.
Thank you Debbie M., Beverly, Carol V., Jess, and thank you Jennifer... Infinity thank yous!
Thank you "Natalie from Phoenix"... and don't give-up on your blog... it's worthwhile for all the friends and support you will find!
Thank you Jeanne and Julie... we Hens gotta stick together!
It cheered me to hear the sound of "One Hand Knitting." Thank you Diane.
Thank you to my California blog buddy at Nikkipolani.
Thank you Andylynne and I hope you start blogging too! Thank you Mary.
Janece, I know you are praying, thank you, and I am keeping your family in my prayers too.
Thank you Anne... and Janice, Maria and Belinda, whatever is for dinner, it is always better with friends!
Thank you Hans... your evacuation offer is intriguing lol.
Thank you Ron and Delia, and Ruth and Jim... and Grandma Nancy... we could never be homeless, not really.
Thank you Holly and Rich, for going above and beyond the call of duty. We owe you.

Keep everyone safe, keep everyone safe... Keep praying.

And find little things to be thankful for.


Helen said...

natalie, you never looked more lovely for some reason it reminded me of the blitz. maybe you could invest in a shopvac might make things a little easier. i am seriously afraid to find out what disaster befalls san diego the next time you clean your house for company. lol
love you all
aunt carol

Natalie said...

You are so right. For the sake of my fellow citizens I may have to lay-off housework altogether! It's uncanny how many times our plans seem to coincide with disaster... lol!

kimsherrod said...

Natalie- I visited here on Sunday- When I saw the fires on the news yesterday I didn't think of you- I just assumed it wasn't near you- I feel awful that I didn't THINK properly! Plus I have been so overwhelmed with my own stuff that I had not taken the time to visit you like I usually do. Over due library books are minuscule problems compared to dealing with fire and loss and damage. I am glad that you and your dear family are ok and that your house is fine. My heart weeps for all the loss. I am so sad. I can't imagine that pain- we have had no rain here all summer and have and a very bad drought. We don't have those winds though. I pray for all of us. Pleaes know that my thoughts and prayers are with you, even though a little late. I didn't read the paper or watch TV all weekend cause we were painting and re-flooring the sewing room. Monday and Wed I worked all day. I don't usually watch the news. I keep my head firmly buried in the sand and my heart on my sleeve. xoxox hugs kim

Janece said...


I was thinking about clean-up last night and just how long it will take to really have it be clear. It's going to be a long, long time, isn't it? I'm glad to see you styling in a protective mask though! :) I hope the fires are contained soon and there is hope for clean, fresh air soon.

I'm with you, I can't imagine the magnitude. Watching the KPBS fire map on Google is overwhelming. I've had it open since this starting, refreshing every hour it seems (maybe more).

My family are still evacuated, but it looks hopeful that... while the Harris fire got uncomfortably close to their homes... that their homes will be waiting for them to return and clean up, same as you.

It makes me smile seeing the long list of names who have been loving and supporting you through this.

And last but not least, Maria grow more beautiful every day! And I love her little Playdoh face... definitely something to be grateful for!

Take care! (big hug)

PS - My word verification for this comment is 'hugsavub' -- I had to share. :)

Andylynne said...

Green is such a cheerful color, and Maria summed it all up, really what more can we ask for in life. Our family, freinds, and a little green play dough. I like the shop vac idea, woosh and it's contained "inside" the unit. But when to clean? Since you were the queen of clean on Sunday, you will know when to start. Good luck and may your blessings continue. My sister flew to Washington State from Oceanside, her daughter with a brand new baby didn't want to go. All are fine, but it created tense moments for all of us. I think more folks than we know are affected by these terriable fires.
Keep sweeping:)

Anna Banana said...

So cool to be a MNO mom at your house last night, Natalie. Commenters and lurkers, you should know that the lovely Maria was working on her playdough when we arrived (and likely before) around 6:30 last night and she was still happily creating when we left at 9. Seeing her enjoying her creative self was a delight, as wonderful as dinner and conversation with dear friends. Thank you so much, Chica! And don't be one of those moms who sweep too much!

happy zombie said...

I found your blog via Kim's. I have goosebumps and chills reading your post. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

nikkipolani said...

Hang in there, Natalie. Clean only what you need to for now. My dear roomie had just swept the patio, dusted all the outdoor furniture, washed the screen doors, and worked on the sliding glass doors 'til they sparkled. That was Saturday night.....

Sabine said...

I saw the fires on the news every day, just a small item in the world news. And then I come here and realise how very real it all is! I am so glad that you and your family and your house all were spared by these horrible fires!
But you do look nice with your broom and mask...

Tracy said...

Oh, my friend...We just saw the news before we left the States to return to Norway, but I did not have chance to write you, for which I'm so sorry. My thoughts are prayer are with you and your family for yourcontinued safety, and for everyone in CA. I am so glad you are alright! But no more of that cleaning ;o) We just got back home--very jet lagged, so will talk to you soon ((HUGS))

Tami @ Lemon Tree Tales said...

Yes that ash looks horrible. One of my friends from high school days lives in that area. She said that they received one of those reverse 911 calls to evacuate. So she packed up her two kids, her husband, and her in-laws and headed to LA to stay with her parents. She luckily was able to return to her house but now there's that nasty air to deal with and she's worried about the kids breathing it. It can't be good for everyone. I wonder how long before the air is nice again? Hang in there Natalie!

Lesley said...

Hi Natalie, I'm "Laura R's San Diego friend" and I'm in the same boat as you, though we don't seem to have had quite as much ash and s-t-u-f-f land at our place in Carmel Valley as you've had. It's a puzzle, isn't it? I want to sweep and clean and get rid of it, but it'll just keep landing. And there seems no escape from it, which it is unwise to dwell on .... One of my friends here was going to spend the weekend in the surf as a sort of cleansing ritual - until he realised that all the crap over everything here would be on the surface of the sea as well, and of course, in the air everywhere.
But I'm NOT complaining. Things could be so very much worse - it doesn't bear thinking about too deeply.
Thanks for posting the maps - Laura rang me from Perth and we looked at your post together, half a world between us, and I was able to pinpoint for her where we live.
The best of luck and much love to you and your family. Stay safe.