January, after the Storm of 1982

San Lorenzo Valley, Santa Cruz Mountains

The great storm of ’82 is still very much an active force in our hearts and minds. I find myself daily continuing with thoughts stemming directly from that experience. One of the most interesting memories from the first couple of days when “progress” had slammed to a halt was how clearly we all recognized the essentials – warmth, shelter, water, food, family and friends – even those of us who weren’t flung into that realization by tragic deprivation, clung tightly to these things. The hurried pace of getting back and forth from the “job” vanished as we took care of real life. Sheer necessity engendered the incredible outpouring of energies by workers faced with monumental tasks, whether they were volunteer firemen, road crews or neighbors working to shovel mud or carry food to those without facilities. The motivation was not of filling up the nine to five workday to bring home the paycheck. That’s why people accomplished so much.

You could see the reality as parents and children in rain boots walked together in the muddy streets. All the impatience we felt towards the end of vacation as the kids got restless and bickery was suddenly transformed into comfort and gratitude of being together. You could see it as people walked through town, scanning every face, greeting each other with hugs and tears, trading stories, acknowledging how much friends mean. How warm the fires and blankets felt in contrast to the rain and frost! How dark the night around the edges of the flashlights, but how well we were able to get around with our few candle flames compared to the blaze of electricity we thought we needed! How little water it actually takes to survive even though everybody has dirty hair!

This was a relatively small disaster compared ot a big earthquake or a nuclear catastrophe. We got bored and edgy pretty soon without the TV, we missed our baths, but we are granted, most of us, the luxury to use our hardships as adventures and lessons about what we do okay without. We are given the chance now to see what we are left with when the supply lines to “civilization” collapse. We need to follow up our instincts and meditate without hysteria on what we missed or needed this time that we could provide ourselves with better.

One thing I thought about a lot as people began to return to the normal routine of driving away from home to work, was how glad I am that my work deals so directly with my essentials. When the usual network halted, I was left doing pretty much what I was doing before – growing food, splitting wood, taking care of kids and animals, fixing my roof, fixing dinner. It feels good to have the skills to take care of yourself. What if you couldn’t leave your block for a week? What can your friends and neighbors do to strengthen bonds that would serve in times of trouble and help replace the support systems from outside that might be cut off?

When you worried about the blocked roads affecting supermarket shelves, what did you have in your pantry, or in the winter garden? You could have had leeks, cabbage, carrots, beets,  kale and turnips, even in a hard winter when lettuce, spinach, chard, beets and broccoli were all frozen.

Our emphasis at Camp Joy this summer will be very local. The San Lorenzo Valley may masquerade as a placid bedroom community, but it is really a rugged and rural mountain area, easily isolated when nature cares to assert herself. Vegetable gardening is especially important this year. It will continue to be difficult to buy good local produce due to the medfly quarantine.

Because of the storm damages, agricultural prices will be high. We will be giving classes regularly on skills we feel are important in a vulnerable area like this. Please take advantage of any knowledge we can share about gardening, beekeeping, animal husbandry, holistic health care and first aid, food storage and preservation, etc. That’s why we’re here.

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