Suddenly, I felt the Village hold my body, I felt the air fill my panicking lungs, I found my center to be greeted with an inaudible message from the Village itself. “I will be fine, I have fed your body, mind, and soul to make you strong enough to gather and rebuild anything that is lost. Let me go though this ceremony. The sacred fire, Lohokni, does not have malice in its heart. Creator has a plan for all of us beyond this physical plane. Protect what’s real to you, I will be here when you return, make me beautiful when you come back. I believe in you.” Instantly a calmness fell on me triggering the focus necessary to grab and protect what was important to me in that moment and think though the journey of survival and regrowth.
November 8th was the beginning of something sad and beautiful. The (Woolsey) fire was not going to hold back. It moved with speeds that I have never seen or imagined possible, blazing through without concern of our earthly possessions. Countless homes endangered and lost to a scale I hadn't seen before in my lifetime. During all of this I saw something else that touched my heart, the people; Not the profession or wealth class, gender or skin color. I saw the raw humanity latching together to protect each other's homes and family. I felt the illusion of segregation that infects our human race lift as we fought to live and protect what was important to one another. Although the fire may have felt like a ferocious villain destroying everything in its path, it also burned away our predispositions down to our human core of love and compassion for one another.
November 15th was my first time reuniting with the Village after the fire was contained in the Malibu area. Seeing the wake of such a powerful force along miles of once flourishing mountainside beachfront property was humbling. As I approached the gate to the Village I was both nervous and excited. I knew that the fire had touched her one way or another but I had no idea to what degree. Pictures and phone calls can carry news only so far. Once my senses united with the Village I drank in the damage first, I saw the scar left from the “fire ceremony” along with the great loss of one of our Chumash ‘ap (houses). In addition to the entirety of Nicholas Canyon Creek though to the beach and all the riparian habitat restoration that I have participated in restoring since I was 15 years old.
The sadness was overwhelming but my gratefulness for how much was left standing was stronger. I remembered her message to me and I feel the strength for rebuilding and restoration. I look forward to beautification with a new sense of appreciation to have such a sacred place to share our humanness with one another. At the end of my realignment with this new reality I feel excitement. Through this journey I saw the love that I had hoped existed in humanity. I saw the togetherness that sits deep inside of everyone and that we are all now a step closer to. It is through this oneness that we can try and find understanding to avoid disasters like this one. To find harmony with our planet we must first find harmony with ourselves. Our unity will shine one day finding the overlap between logic and love. Shared knowledge and inspired action will lead the way to a sustainable balance with all living things. Points of view from a few can influence many out of apathy.
Written By Kote Melendez, Wishtoyo Chumash Village Site Manager