Being with Changing Times

Chaos happens.

It feels like we’re amidst uncertain times. How do we ride this wave of change? Is the Sonoma County blaze, which ravaged our cities and countryside last month, leaving so much disaster in its wake, a freak accident? Or is it the herald of big changes underfoot, as unusual climactic conditions portend things to come? How do we be with all the not knowing? How do we be with disaster?

First, my heart goes out to all those who are suffering with the loss of their homes, what they’ve worked hard for, and their beloved family and pets. Its unimaginable. The stories are still pouring forth, tales of bravery, and tales of terror and loss. And my gratitude goes out to all the first responders who put their lives on the line to protect other people, without you we’d have nothing left.

My family prepared to evacuate, as downtown Forestville was listed by the Sheriff’s nixle alerts. While this seemed a bit far reaching, there was a lot of confusion, and with the internet going down and cell phone towers jammed, it was hard to really get a handle on how close the fire was. Many people rushed to the grocery store and gas station, many places had “Cash only” signs, as no internet means no ATM cards. It was confusing, heightened times, with an apocalyptic, surreal feel.

Adding to the experience, my partner Travis works as a mental health counselor in Santa Rosa, and he was coming home after midnight on Sunday, he had texted me “Windy there? It is here! Hope you’re alright!!! xo”. In the morning, I learned about the intense energy of driving home through high winds and ash falling. Then we learned Fountaingrove burned, where he works, and he worried about whether he still had a job. Meanwhile, he continued supporting clients evacuated to houses not far from the front lines.

As I inventoried what I needed to load up the minute the winds shifted, I realized that nothing really mattered but for our lives, and the lives of our animals. Anything else was truly just a bonus, but not really needed. Ultimately we needed shelter, food, love and connection of family and friends.

Fortunately I’d had a dream of fire for the past few years, so I had a practice run on this one. In the beginning I’d be packing box after box of stuff and loading them into my car, and diving back in for more, trying to beat time before the fire consumed my home. But after a couple years of that dream, I finally got down to grabbing my cell phone, which has a camera, and leaving. (Meaning, I eventually left even my pro camera behind.) I remembered this of course and it settled my nervous system right down – this was not new to me. I knew I’d be ok, with nothing. Since in waking life I did have the luxury of a little time, I did pack up pet supplies, my school books, laptop, and some easy art supplies, of course!

My mom, on the other hand… only needed her car keys. She’s clearly got a more advanced level of relationship to her things.

Everything is Impermanent.

Is the mantra that was uttered around my home for the week as we watched the weather and sheriff alerts like a hawk, waiting to see if the winds shifted our direction. While I initially thought 10 miles was ample distance, I then learned the firestorm that night moved 10 miles in little over 2 hours. At any point, I may have to suddenly leave my office, and rush home to throw all my animals in the car. I was likewise watching the horse stables, only 2 miles from the evacuated district, with the fire visible on the ridge. Emergency plans in place. Staying calm, I continued supporting people, remaining aware and flexible, ready to leap into action.

What was clear to me was how easily and quickly we can lose everything. However, I don’t think the philosophical answer is about being detached. I could not be detached to all I’ve built, my artwork, my collection of books, heck, my wonderful closet of carefully selected clothes. Any more than being calm and centered means being detached to one’s partner, family, or friendships. Just to be clear, I get attached. To all of it, and all the people in my life. This notion of “detachment” is the polar opposite of rampant materialism – and the healthier place to be might be somewhere in the middle, or rather a mixture of both. We are attached to our way of life, our house, our belongings and momentos, and yet they are impermanent. No guarantees. We’re attached to people in our lives, and yet we all die. The more we love them, the more its going to hurt. Its not about stopping the hurt, as that means we don’t let ourselves love them as much. Go ahead and cry your eyes out, something our culture doesn’t teach us is ok. Its ok to grieve, deeply, painfully, as the release of that grief does wonders to your body and ability to heal and love fully, than years of repressing that feeling or changing your thoughts around it ever will.

I had my own experience with losing my home this last Spring. It did not burn down, but Travis and I were asked to leave due to the housing crisis in Sonoma County. This place was the first sense of home I’d had in over three decades. A place I’d wanted to buy and live at forever. After a lovely 9 years, gardening and having livestock and a horse, everything suddenly changed. Instead of burning up, we had to literally give away most the things we owned. We couldn’t get a storage space big enough for an entire home, farm, and art studio. The task of moving was the hardest in my life, having never been settled for so long and built up so much, and we really did give the farm away along with most everything else that was not something we wanted to pay to keep. Its been a year since we’d been given notice, and we still grieve the loss. Life has been nowhere the same nor will it ever be. We’ve been hustling to keep all our animals ever since, waiting for a new place to call home to land. I feel like a Bay Area housing crisis refugee.

Everything is impermanent, and nothing is guaranteed. There’s been a lot of grief and acclimation to process. I’m a Cancer rising, so home is part of how I feel settled and strong, where I retreat to for getting nourished. Instead, I find myself in a transitory situation in Sonoma County, no solid sense of home, no continuous privacy I’ve thrived so well on. Purgatory is what I’ve dubbed it, an inbetween space and time of my life. And entirely grateful we landed somewhere, parked our camping trailer and animals, and were invited to hang out for a bit.

Just Roll with It.

Meanwhile, I get to practice daily being with the unknown, and uncertainty,  and its a practice to find peace and calm inside, not a destination. I do my best to show up 100% for myself, my clients and class participants. Its one of the many takeaways from the soulcentric painting and breathwork. A practice that has been helping me for many years, to be able to stay steady in the eye of the storm. Something I love helping others to learn!

For now, I keep listening, sniffing the wind, and doing my darnedest to stay patient, allowing to unfold what and when it is true and authentic for us to take action. Recently, I was gifted a place to make art for a couple months, I can hardly wait, as my studio space is what I miss the most. Though a mixed bag, our living situation is a rare gift, as living with family has a very unique set of challenges. One of the biggest gifts has been the opportunity for deeper healing with family, which can only really happen at such a comprehensive level by living in community, tribal style. This has been a growing edge. And with it, some deeper understanding, and healing, with my ancestral lineage.

What a perfect gift for this time in my life. I certainly could not have planned that, or chosen it for myself. Sometimes the correct path through is also a little difficult. That’s when good support comes in.

Sometimes Plans are Too Small.

I’m asked many times what my plans are, and all I can say is, I’m open to being guided where I can be of the highest service to humanity at this time. Whether that is here, or elsewhere. As long as I can to take my community with me wherever I go! A blessing in this day with technology.

For those of you I know and love in Sonoma County, I’m connected here through family, my work, and the fact I’m in grad school here working towards my doctorate for the next 5 years , so regardless of where I go, I will be bi-located, and continue having my practice here in Sebastopol. I’m in a place of deep listening, instead of ‘manifesting visions’ that are too small, and having deep gratitude to the Universe I’m held, one step at a time. It takes a lot of trust, and my SoulCentric Painting practice helps every step of the way, to trust the energy I feel, guiding me to the next little step, even when it doesn’t make sense. We’re working to build our foundations in a way that is more solid than ever before in this late-bloomer’s life, so stay tuned, and I’ll take you with me on this wild journey.

Time for Extra Care.

The tension in Sonoma County that week was palpable, and I sure felt it in my body too, just ask my massage therapist. I felt like it’d been a year since my body was worked, and it’d only been two weeks! While I continued to support clients during the fire, thanks to the work that has allowed me to stay calm and centered in times of crisis, I’ve been getting extra personal care now that it’s over. I can’t emphasize enough for everyone touched by the fires, to receive extra support right now, on all levels – emotional, physical, and psyche/spiritual.

For those who lost their homes in the October fires, I’d like to invite you to join in my classes and workshop for free, for the month of November, and receive support through this difficult time, with allowing yourself to feel, to grieve, to express whatever your authentic experience might truly be. We’re all grateful you are still here.

If you wish you could come to these groups and events but can’t, remember that I offer private sessions in SoulCentric Breathwork, Painting and Bodywork, in my office and online, and I’d be honored to support you. I would love to see you soon, one way or another.

Much love,

By Mardi Storm

Healer, therapist, artist, supporting others professionally since 2002. Working in community settings and private practice, offering private and group work. My art has been published and is on public display.

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