Well, it has been a year since the raging fires engulfed wine country and I believe it is one of those monumental events that none of us will forget in this lifetime whether we lost our home or not.
That morning I was supposed to get up and head out to High Point, North Carolina for a furniture show. Instead I woke up at 3am to the sound of neighbors pounding on my door and ringing my doorbell, warning me that fires were all around and one was just due west of our neighborhood and rapidly heading our way.
We were fortunate that the closest fire was put out rather quickly, but I spent the remainder of the night watching in terror as the mountain behind our house went up in flames. Eventually, we had to evacuate—as did most people in the area—and we ended up in Stinson Beach with our family, employees and friends. Once the fires died out and we were free to come home, I felt we needed to do something to help the thousands of people who had lost their homes. My son Tyge and I went to Costco and bought bedding, clothes, food and supplies, and delivered them to the nearest establishments that were set up to house the people who had lost everything. We were even turned away a few times because so many people had the same idea.
What to do? How to help? I asked myself these questions over and over, until something meaningful revealed itself to me. My dear friend Norma Quintana who had lost her home of 28 years was staying in a friend’s home in Napa. She had a short time there and needed to find a place to stay while she looked for a new place to call home. I immediately invited her and her family to stay with us and she gladly accepted. I was thrilled because I felt like I was actually able to help them begin the process of healing after losing their home and a lifetime of memories.
The “Chateau” turned into the United Nations overnight. Norma is from Puerto Rico, her husband is Chilean and they have two adopted children from Chile and another from China. They all moved in and our family grew just like that! It was an incredible experience for all of us. I was able to have a better understanding of what it means to lose everything and also live with many personalities. I was accustomed to growing up in a family of eleven people, so bring it on! We celebrated the holidays together and created many new memories that we will all carry with us for years to come.
Norma I. Quintana de Puerto Rico (as I call her) is a true survivor and renaissance woman. She returned to her home that had burned to the ground and began foraging through the rubble to find some remnants of her past. As a professional photographer, she began to capture the images to help bring back some of the physical reality of her past. She found jewelry, kitchen utensils and other found objects. She began to catalogue all of these pieces, and word spread about her project as it took shape into Forage from Fire. Her work is not at the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art and she has a solo show opening at San Francisco Camera Works that kicks off on October 4th from 6-8pm. It’s truly a must see.
I am sending my heartfelt love and condolences to all of those who experienced a loss during the fires and my hope is that your healing and rebuilding process is underway. It is during times like these that we have an even better understanding of ourselves and through the hardship we grow and transform into something that we could have only dreamed of or imagined.