It’s normally a lively Christmas Season full of parties, pageants, and performances – including outdoor concert venues for musicians, strolling carolers, and elaborately festive church services, but this December 2017 is different. Santa Barbara along with Montecito, Summerland, Carpenteria, Ojai, Santa Paula, Ventura and other nearby cities are having quite the challenge with fires, smoke, power outages, and evacuations.
We musicians wait till the last hour to hear if a gig is still happening, we check the air quality, look at maps to see if the location has been evacuated, and no one can say for certain what will happen if the winds stir fire and ash up again. We are all truly playing this season by ear.
Many people have decided to leave town during this uncertain time to stay with family out of state. Most of my musician friends are still staying around. Perhaps we are still hoping to play parties and events we agreed months ago to do. A few of my musician friends have even been evacuated twice! During an emergency like The Thomas Fire you can learn who your closest friends are – Perhaps they are the first people you call to ask, “Is your electricity out over there too? What have you heard? What are you going to do?” In our case it was bandmates and musical partners who texted immediately and kept each other informed when suddenly whole towns went dark.
You know how they say a disaster can bring a town together? Evacuated folks are moving in with friends living further away from the fire. Several friends of mine have elected to move back in with their ex-spouses – just until it is safe to move back to their own places, they are quick to add! We commiserate about the lost income, trouble we have getting into the holiday spirit, the ash flying everywhere, the masks we must wear outside. We mourn for those who have lost homes and everything in them. We celebrate the days when the air feels less smoky and the sky is not a weird orange hue. We cheer the brave 8500+ firefighters who are doing a tremendous job containing this raging beast by keeping most homes and people safe. We are saddened by the car accidents, and especially for the loss of fireman Cory Iverson and for his family’s pain.
My husband and I are counting our blessings of still having a home, but bags are packed just in case – by the door. Top of the list to grab and go are his upright bass, a piano quilted wall hanging my sister made, and our now grown daughters’ baby books. Ready to also be rescued is the book of my jazz holiday arrangements I spent over 4 hours putting together after playing a gig in Summerland 2 weeks ago, the night the fire broke out. Looks like tomorrow I will be bringing it to an outdoor downtown mall gig with our quartet Jazzy Bell Jingle. I am really ready to get out, play tunes with great musician friends, and hopefully both bring and feel some Cheer and Christmas Spirit!
During this time of waiting my album Peace Prayer is having it’s first time 2017 digital release. Album contains calming hymns & originals with a hint of jazz. May it help bring you Peace this Season! (And hope for a Happy 2018).