‘I was supposed to go to the neighborhood gym, I wound up running for my life’

Paradise, town devastated by California’s deadliest blaze
The wildfire in Paradise, California

I was supposed to go to the neighborhood gym I had just joined, to get my free one hour session with a personal trainer. Instead, I wound up running for my life. It was the morning of November 8, 2018, the day my beloved town of Paradise burned to the ground.

Throughout my 67 years, I had moved innumerable times. I lived in the four corners of our country, from NYC to Florida, and finally California, first the San Fernando Valley, next the Bay Area, and ultimately the lovely town of Paradise, nestled in the Sierra foothills.

I felt at home at last, having returned from my second time living in Florida, where I moved after a divorce.

I was working as a caregiver and a massage therapist, had lots of friends, a delightful 2 bedroom apartment, which I shared with my cat, Angel. I was part of a wonderful, close-knit 12-step community, and spent my summers swimming at One Mile, a huge in-ground pool located in resplendent Bidwell Park, which was fed by Chico Creek.

Swimming in natural bodies of water is my bliss, and June through September I was very blissful! Life was pretty perfect. I did wish for a romantic relationship, but I was in acceptance of my single status, and was at peace with myself and the world.

Well, that world got turned upside down, and it took 2 months shy of 2 years to get it righted. During that period, which seemed never-ending, I moved 6 times. Walnut Creek with ex-in-laws, living with an elderly lady with dementia, and winding up with dear friends with whom I planned to spend one night, but wound up staying for 3 weeks due to having contracted acute anemia.

The wildfire in Paradise, California
The wildfire in Paradise, California

After a hospital stay and transfusions, I headed up to the historic town of Dunsmuir, where I resided at the Hotel Dunsmuir, owned by a former employer. I received free lodging in exchange for part-time office work. After living there for a year, I was asked to move, as the hotel was undergoing renovations.

So, once more, I packed my bags, and wound up living in a friend’s mobile home, also located in Dunsmuir. She too, had lost her home in the Camp Fire. A number of months ago, she broke the news to me that she and her fiancée were going to move out of state, and that she was putting her house up for sale.

Oh no, not again! As always, my higher power was on the job, and I received a call from the manager of the subsidized senior housing complex in Mt. Shasta.

Although I had applied for a one bedroom, and there was a wait of 1-2 years, I was asked if I would be interested in a studio apartment, and the rest is history. I have been happily ensconced here for 3 months, and have never felt such blessed relief in my life!

Today I look out my window and am greeted with a view of trees, hills, birds, snow-capped Mt. Eddy, and a vast expanse of sky. Located in my backyard is Mount Shasta, over 14,000 feet of snow white mystical majesty. I have cultivated a new set of local friends, in addition to my old ones, with whom I keep in touch with on a regular basis.

The writer, Rona Macy
The writer, Rona Macy

Some of my dearest have also relocated, so I must make do with phone calls, texts, and Facebook to keep our connections alive. I miss our personal contact more than words can say, but this is not a perfect world, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the decades, it is that an attitude of gratitude will get me over the highest hill.

Although this year has been fraught with many challenges, nationwide, worldwide, and personally, I am finding myself centered in my heart, thankful for my new home, grateful for my almost 10 years of sobriety, and surrounded by my family of choice.

I may not have any relatives, but boy, oh boy, am I ever rich in love! So glad to have a happy ending to my story. (Still waiting for my big romance!)

About the author:
This story was submitted by Rona Macy to Positive Outlooks. 

If you wish to submit an essay (reflections on life), personal story (inspirational or humorous) or something that you witnessed that inspired you, please read submission guidelines.

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