Thinking about Evacuation

Dear Liza,

Let me start by reassuring you. We DID NOT have to evacuate. The nearest low level evacuation zone was ten miles south of us. But we have been breathing smoke for days, and seeing the fires advance, so … it was on our minds.

Miles away, but still terrifying…

We saw news photos of families living rough, using their car hoods for dinner tables in soot-covered parking lots. They had taken food and water, and were grateful to be getting by. But evacuation is more than just, “What do I need for a few days on the road?”

Evacuation is also, “If my house were completely destroyed, what do I want to save? What is worthy of space in my vehicle? What possession is AS IMPORTANT to me as food or water?” Ah, now you see. It’s about trade-offs.

The important things

Each other, of course, and dear Mouse the kitten. Important papers, insurance, passports, the things that prove you exist, have rights, and own stuff. Food, water, sanitation things, especially in a Covid flavored time, are vital. Clothes, of course. But then what?

Computers? Probably, as much of our information and family memories are stored in them. Family heirlooms? Yes, but which ones? Photo albums? Stuffed dog Sammy, or the WWI German helmet? The three volume Shakespeare collection or the twenty pound Picasso book?

Sammy and the Dude

For us, one thing that we knew would be in the car was a painting by our neighbor, David Gettman, more than forty years ago. This oil painting of a bicyclist has been a centerpiece of our houses ever since, and a new place never feels like home without it. We all agreed it was worthy of space. It is art and friends, history and beauty, all at once.

The Bicyclist in our Salinas house

Looking forward, we are expecting rain. The fires are becoming controlled and our air more breathable. But the climate, even in mossy Oregon, is changing for the drier, and we may well be in this situation again.

We can’t carry the fear of evacuation in our hearts every day. But maybe we will be more prepared, mentally, for next time.


Grandma Judy

Author: Judy

I am a new transplant to Portland from Salinas, a small city in Central California. This is a blog about my new city.

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