Sally Gracie TwispBy Sally Gracie

“It’s been like swimming in sand,” Kathryn Heim told me.

Indeed. Those of us whose homes have been untouched by fire, each day made a list of things we had to do. We then either lost the list, as I did, or did other tasks that were not on it. The past days have not been conducive to concentration. I own four pairs of reading glasses but misplaced three during the emergency and often found myself searching for the fourth (usually with a flashlight after dark).

Out of imminent danger for the time being, we find ourselves anxious to clean up the mess we made during the power outage. I’ve been telling myself that if it took nine days to make the mess, it will have to take nine days to clean it up. What we don’t have to clean up is 50 acres of charred land or a house that didn’t survive the maelstrom. We are grateful, yet feel a vague sense of unease about this.

I am grateful — to the community and especially to three friends who helped me through.

My friend Amanda Johnson called out to me as she slammed her car door and ran toward my porch, “There’s a Level 2 evacuation. You’re leaving with us. What do you want to take?”

As I stood, momentarily frozen in place, this female dynamo went from room to room, stripping paintings and prints from the walls. “I want my photo albums, too,” I said. So she emptied the cupboard of two yards of heavy books and put them in our cars. I managed to gather the utilitarian necessities I had already packed.

Rover’s Ranch Kennels accepted refugee dogs during the power outage. Photo by Sally Gracie

Rover’s Ranch Kennels accepted refugee dogs during the power outage. Photo by Sally Gracie

Once Amanda had lifted 70 pounds of black dog into the crate in the back of the Matrix, and Willow had jumped in alongside, we left for the Johnson place up the highway. Brian, Amanda’s husband, and their three sons were still packing the RV.

The Johnsons’ destination was the Rhythm & Blues Festival grounds, which turned into an evacuee haven (despite some gripes that the festival should have been cancelled, it turned out to be a positive presence). As they filled their RV and SUV, I went ahead to my friend Olivia’s place, detouring on a whim to Snowberry Lane to find that, yes, my dogs could stay at Rover’s Ranch.

I slept on the porch at River Run Inn. There by the river, I saw the stars, and for the first time since the fire exploded, I was cut off from scarlet skies and Roman candles on the hilltops. No mushroom cloud blowups were visible when I woke to a sunny and clear Saturday morning.

I’ll never forget how much Amanda helped me. While my “real” family was busy defending their place (off the Loup Loup highway on the other side of the summit), where a Level 3 notice had been issued, Amanda cared for me as family would.

Amanda was unable to open A Salon Above in Winthrop during the power outage, but she plans to open by today (July 30). Her new space is above Nectar and her cell phone number is the same as before (call me).

I also owe thanks to my friends Kathryn and Patrick Heim, who filled their Rover’s Ranch kennel to capacity with refugee dogs. They generously welcomed my Beebe and her pal Willow on Friday and Saturday nights, while the Level 2 evacuation held in Twisp. The couple chose to “pay it forward” and didn’t charge those pet owners whose lives were disrupted by the fire. So many people have been paying it forward. The community has come even closer together than it was before the fires.

If you would like to share your stories, you know how to reach me: sgracie@centurytel.net, or 997-4364. (And weren’t you glad you had an old-fashioned, plug-in phone or a Verizon smart phone during the worst of it?)

PREVIOUSLY, IN TWISP