The week of November 7 to the 14th is one few people in the state of California and in Ventura County will ever forget.
It’s been an unnerving week where our sense of safety has been shaken.
Like many, I woke to the news of a mass shooting at Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA. This time the tragedy was eighteen miles away. Twelve young people killed. The 307th mass shooting in 2018. (I will spare you the photos).
Another blow descended on Ventura County less than 24 hours after the shooting: the Woolsey and Hill Fires.
A tornado of turmoil has hit this county.
Much of the week I kept busy with the Red Cross and checking in with my sister and brother-in-law whose home was in the line of the wildfires.
Luckily her home was saved, but not her neighbors.
Last night, the shock and stress of the past week hit me. I couldn’t stop thinking of the people at Borderline and those directly affected by the fires.
I journaled because the feelings had to go somewhere:
“You were full of hope and laughter, music blared a great dance tune, lights flashed, new faces appeared, familiar ones were greeted. A chorus of friendly voices, the scent of perfume mingled with leather and draft beer. This was a place to relax, have fun, make plans.
The booming crack of gunshots, bullets, stopped the laughter. Some ears recognized the deadly sound. Each bullet shattered a life, safety, hope. Each shot created chaos and turmoil in the state’s safest city.
Minutes later you, a sergeant, sacrificed your life. Cops run into emergency’s, even in the presence of an active shooter. Twenty-nine years on the force, one year to retirement; to future plans.
The dawn rose over groups of traumatized parents and the loved ones of the men and women inside of Borderline. Later, a couple of miles away from the scene, many of you waited to hear of your children, hoping against hope you’d wouldn’t hear the worse news of your life until you did.
Stoic police officers gathered in the same area, keeping frantic media away from the families. Soon you wiped away tears as you glimpsed the police motorcade, on the lobby TV, take your fellow officer from the hospital to the coroner’s office.
You couldn’t be with the hundreds of people lining the streets and highways who came to pay their respects because you had a job to carry out.
Meanwhile, your spouses and loved ones stuffed the crushing dread of ‘it could have been my husband, my wife, my son, my daughter,’ down into their ribcage.”
In the midst of this turmoil, the Santa Ana’s, the devil winds, we call them in Southern California blew through our mountains and valleys. Firestorms blew in the south, east, and west of our cities. The winds had no pity as they sucked up brush, trees, cars, animals, homes, and people in their fiery path.
Hundreds of evacuees waited in their cars in supermarket parking lots watching a surge of red-orange flames crest over ridges; slide down hills, wondering if their home was gone and praying it wasn’t.
We choked on smoke as highways closed, flames on both sides. Evacuation shelters opened up in several cities, staffed with Red Cross and other volunteers, taking in the elderly, families, and homeless.
On the sixth day of fires, we still had the smoke.
Cell towers burned, cable lines melted, the internet went out and some people actually complained.
Today, the seventh day, the Camp Fire still rages. It’s devasted a town, killing 48 people, with 103 still missing.
For the last three months, you’ve read numerous articles, watched campaign ads, listened to your favorite cable news (mine is MSNBC)debate issues and swiped through social media.
This is the year of the vote.
Today is the day of reckoning.
Voting is important for my mom and my daughter. They realize what’s at stake for women in this country.
Last week I sat with my mother reviewing her mail-in ballot. She’s legally blind so I read every candidate statement and pro/con of all the propositions in a voice that’s twice as loud as I normally use because she’s also hard of hearing.
I repeated myself, often.
But that’s okay, Mom takes care with who and what she votes for every time. She draws the line on the ballot herself although she has to put the paper four inches from her eyes.
The process takes a little over two hours.
The next day, my daughter came to me with her mail-in ballot. This is her first time voting. After reading the candidate statements she declared,
“Some of them say a whole lot of nothing. I don’t want them to tell me what they’re going to do but what have they done.”
The procedure took her one hour. That’s a huge amount of time for a Millennial. “Can’t they streamline this process?” she says.
One hour, two hours, that’s okay for the privilege to vote.
People of color and their allies fought hard for my right to vote.
I’m super-proud of Mom and my daughter for voting. That’s three generations of women voting in this family.
Many people today will stand in two, three hour lines before or after work in states where November weather is cold or rainy.
Many of those people are parents who will juggle work time and child care to go vote. People who use canes, wheelchairs, and have mobility issues will find a way to go vote.
There is so much energy in the air I can feel the spirits descending.
November 1st is generally referred to as Día De Los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día De Los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels).
November 2nd is the actual DÍa De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead).
The past week in America has been particularly sorrowful. Perhaps, honoring the departed on November 1st and 2nd is helpful to you.
During our childhood, we had altars year round. They always contained the Virgen de Guadalupe, Sacred Heart of Jesus, votives, and one or two photos of someone who recently passed.
To celebrate the Day of the Dead people make altars or ofrendas (offerings) to their deceased. This can be at a cemetery (like in Mexico), in your living room, kitchen, bedroom, wherever you like.
This year my mom made a Day of the Dead altar in the living room. One side of the altar contained the photos of her deceased sisters and brothers, sister-in-law’s, and cousins. The other side, as you can see, has photos of her parents and my dad, and Cesar Chavez, who my mother admired so much.
My sister’s ofrenda dedicated to the memory of her husband, friends, and our relatives:
An altar in the library of the high school where my sister works:
Ofrendas and altars are our way of visiting with, remembering and honoring our ancestors and loved ones who’ve departed.
If you are thinking of making your own altar (you still have time) check out these past posts.
I leave you with these poems from sddayofthedead.org/poems
“In the indigenous, aboriginal perspective on death, both life and death are mere aspects of a common duality or eternal cycle, as denoted in the following Native American poem from North America:
Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on the snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain.
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there, I did not die.
What is Death?
What is death? It is the glass of life broken into a
thousand pieces, where the soul disperses like
perfume from a flask, into the silence of the eternal night.
Through the Eyes of the Soul, Day of the Dead in Mexico
Be as happy as you can, oh king Tecayehyatzin
You who appreciates the jewels that flourish!
Will we live again?
Your heart knows this:
We only live once!
¡Alégrate en extremo, oh rey Tecayehuatzin,
valuador de joyas florecientes!
¿Acaso una vez más vendremos a vivir?
Tu corazón lo sabe así:
¡Sólo una vez venimos a la vida!
Xayacamachan 1510 A.D.
If you have any questions/comments, please let me know. Thanks!