Notes from Home: Thicker Than Smoke


By Trudy Wischemann

Through all the national emergencies of the last three months — hurricanes, shootings, fires, more hurricanes — I’ve found myself focused on the aftermaths. In the midst of the terror of “the unthinkable” actually happening, we inevitably discover something beautiful in its midst: human hearts and spirits responding in what often seems superhuman ways.

My sister works in Santa Rosa, lives in Windsor just north of the hottest tongue of fire that snaked down canyons from Calistoga three weeks ago. She is the family’s anchor, and (with her stalwart husband) was preparing to accompany our 91+ year old mother to Maui for perhaps her last trip. Despite all the potential disruption to that plan, they made it to the airport six days after the fire began, while it was still uncertain when containment could occur.

The fires were out when they returned, but restoration efforts had barely begun. I gave her a few days, then emailed her to ask how her trip had been and if she’s getting caught up at work. She said no, she won’t be caught up for a long time, but “I have a home to go home to and we’re all safe, so that’s all that matters.” Then this:

“The trip was okay but not the best trip we’ve ever had – I experienced some form of PTSD/survivor’s guilt and, combined with the exhaustion from the week and the horrid winds that followed us to Maui that felt like the same winds that burned my beloved town… I was not sleeping much. The only thing that made it okay was that Lisa, Vince and John were safely ensconced in our house and it felt like sanctuary for them so that was good.” Lisa, Carol’s lifelong friend who just remarried, was away the night the fire started. John, Lisa’s son, had driven through flames to wake Vince in their new home, which burned to the ground not long after the two men escaped with their lives.

“Jordanna’s job at the County Assessor’s office brings her in contact with everyone who’s lost everything; she’s holding up okay but it’s hard on her, especially to hear the stories of the old people that perished.  Santa Rosa smells like wet ashtray, some of the smell lingers in the office as well and the drive between downtown and Windsor is just devastating to see the wicked and wild path of the fire – what it spared and what it took. Every day is a fresh reminder of what happened, what we’ve lost and the long and arduous road we have ahead of us.  #theloveintheairisthickerthanthesmoke”

The love in our hearts is thicker than smoke, stronger than a rain of bullets, bigger than the largest tropical storm system. I think our world would be a safer place if we learned to count on that fact of life.

Trudy Wischemann is a writer who a resolute rural writer who works in Lindsay. You can send her your heart-in-action stories c/o P.O. Box 1374, Lindsay CA 93247 or visit and leave a comment there.

This column is not a news article but the opinion of the writer and does not reflect the views of The Foothills Sun-Gazette newspaper.

Start typing and press Enter to search