From the Fires of Ojai, CA

Posted by on Dec 14, 2017 in Catherine Ann Jones, Catherine's Blog

Sometimes writing must be set aside for survival. And what a lively learning survival is! Last month my home flooded and I have had to vacate for two months while the interior of my home is being re-constructed. It takes a village to re-build a home.


First came the flood then came fire as I had to vacate the rental temporary home in Ojai and with cat, flee late one evening to Santa Barbara for two nites. Driving near midnight through fire literally, one is reminded that it must be Life first then Art. Remember the old question: if your house is burning which would you save? The Mona Lisa or the cat? Well, cat for me, but if possible, I’d come back for the painting.

They say sometimes misfortune comes in threes. After the flood and fire, I sprained my ankle. That makes three, so I figure I’m off the hook.

Ojai is still smokey and most all wear masks as they walk or drive in town. Ojai looks like the setting for a sci-fi movie. Yet this afternoon, I gazed out the back upstairs window and for the first time since the fires, actually saw clearly both sky and mountains. “Ojai is back!” I thought.

The LA Times wrote of The Miracle of Ojai for when fires were burning on all sides of the town, Ojai somehow survived. Some lost homes and one woman lost her life, but, as the legend tells, Shangra La was safe. The old Hollywood move starring Ronald Coleman directed by Frank Capra, Lost Horizons,

is  about Shangra La nestled in the mountain valley in Tibet. The film was shot in Ojai in 1937 based on the 1933 novel, Lost Horizons by James Hilton.

So those of us who live in Ojai refer to the town as Shangra La. Such is the stuff of legends. Somehow this week the legend proved true.

Ojai is a strong community. Restaurants now have signs saying, “Firemen eat free.”

and all over the town, signs say “Thank you, Firemen!” The news tells us that already though the hills are blackened from the fire, new green shoots are pushing up from the carnage. New life. A good metaphor as the community rallies and begins again.

This photo below somehow describes this town. It’s of a house burnt to the ground and a lone peacock standing majestically in the rubble. This, too, is Ojai. Amidst great tragedy is hope and beauty.

Southern California. Wildfires that broke out there a week ago are still raging. They’ve burned about 200,000 acres and forced nearly 100,000 residents to evacuate. At least one person has died. Santa Ana winds – very strong winds that come through CA every year around this time – are making it worse. And yesterday, there were new evacuations in Santa Barbara. California’s governor says this is the “new normal” thanks to things like climate change.

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