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SMOKE — Where There Once Was Water

Today I must write. I’m not sure that I’ll find the words, but here we go…..

I cannot see the mountains. 

I am surrounded by them, but the smoke is too thick. 
Daily temps are soaring beyond 110. 
115 yesterday. 114 in this moment.
I’m off-grid, and not even the rays of the mighty sun can penetrate this smoke.  
So, no AC.  

These are strange times….

California is on fire. Again. But this time it’s different. 
This time it’s the 2020 version, and it’s more suffocating somehow. 
This time we cannot ignore the pain, the loss, the utter devastation all around us.  It’s just too thick. The air quality in Northern San Luis Obispo County is ranking amidst the worst in the world.  
We are choking.

The wildfires currently raging here are some of the largest in our state’s history. My uncle and my beloved (and quite ancient) grandfather are being evacuated from their home in Santa Cruz. My dear friends in Big Sur are fearing the worst. Farmers & Ranchers I know and love in Sonoma County & beyond are evacuating their livestock and praying. And there are too many other fires & too much more loss to list. It’s breaking my heart wide open.  I cannot begin to imagine what these times are like for our first responders.  From the depths of my being, THANK YOU.  

It sounds like Hurricane Genevieve has some leftovers to share, and soon …
There’s a flash flood watch today for the Cuyama & Santa Barbara mountains, just to the southwest of me. Over burn areas from previous fires, presenting unique hazards. Thunderstorm & dry lightning warnings for the Bay Area & Central Coast, through Monday. The lightning is of particular concern. More lightning means more fire.  

If I’m perfectly honest, when you stack a pandemic, a heat wave, and raging wildfires, all on top of each other, it feels like a bizarre game of Apocalypse-Jenga.  Like someone just removed the wrong block, and we have front-row seats, as the whole tower tumbles.

For those of us who have been working in the climate sphere, this is the “perfect storm” we’ve seen coming. This is the “perfect storm” we’ve been hoping to avoid.  And by “perfect” I mean terrible, devastating, unforeseen, and unimaginable.

The man in the white house says we Californians need to rake the leaves in the forest, and that will solve all our fire problems.  (please excuse me while I throw up in my mouth).  The man in the white house also believes that climate change isn’t real.  He has no idea what he’s doing, on so many levels, and the time to vote him out, gone, goodbye, is near. 

As the world burns, I continue, in the spaces in between, to plug away on my life’s largest project, a feature-length documentary film, titled, aptly, “Where There Once Was Water”.  It’s a story, as you might imagine, about California.  A few people have asked me recently for an update.  Although I do try my best to provide somewhat regular updates – via email, Kickstarter, blog, social, etc. – the request for an update is totally fair.  It’s been a VERY long road – a much longer road than I expected – and if you’ve supported this project in any way, and you feel you’ve been left in the dark regarding updates & progress, I offer you, today, my most sincere apologies. Truly.

I’ll be honest. I expected, in my naivety, to have the film done in 2017. It’s now, quite loudly, 2020… a year we will never forget. That difference in expected completion dates is, admittedly, significant.  And frustrating.  It has caused some bouts of guilt, on my part – as an Artist & Storyteller, as a certifiable Type A personality, and importantly, as someone in whom you’ve invested your money and your trust.  I promise that I will not let you down.  But I’ll admit, at times I’ve wondered if you already feel that I have.  My hope is that you still believe in me, after this long and winding road.  The light at the end of the tunnel is near, and in fact, is brighter every day.  We are so close, my friends.  We are not there yet, but we are very, very, close. 

If you’re hungry for details of what that all means… here it is. The VO is locked. The script is locked.  Multiple rounds of feedback, from a diverse audience, have been solicited, collected & incorporated.  The final substantial round of edit notes is in the hands of my trusty & steadfast editor, Garrett Russell.  The musical score is being composed & produced by the very-talented & generous Brandon Maahs.  The steps that remain are all about polish … so that we may send this baby out into the world, all shiny and beautiful, sounding clean, looking clean, and formatted appropriately for the Film Festival audiences that await (whatever that may look like, all things 2020 considered). At this point, it feels really good, and necessary, to say earnestly… we are very, very close.

And for some important perspective, and gratitude…
I have 474 Kickstarter backers, whose generosity, way back in 2015, (!!!), made this project possible. Their support literally birthed this film into existence.  They believed in me from the very beginning, which, as a newbie filmmaker, is a HUGE thing. If you are one of these humans, THANK YOU. 

I have hundreds more people – friends, colleagues, businesses, family members, strangers, friends of friends, neighbors, farmers, ranchers, clients, podcasters, media peeps – who have contributed in some way since the inception of the project, whose generosity has kept this project alive and moving forward, even after all the Kickstarter funds ran out. If you are one of these humans, THANK YOU.

It’s been five years. And although 2020 is far behind the completion-date I imagined, I have to trust that the Universe does indeed work in mysterious ways. Because, in all honesty, 2020 seems like *just the right time* to release a film about water, restoration, and importantly, about hope.  A film about healing our relationship with the natural world, through the water & soil that gives us life. Many of the folks I met and interviewed for my film are working, day in and day out, on solutions.  On healing.  On restoration.  And I cannot wait to share their stories, their ideas, and their work, with you, through this film.

As this project has unfolded, slowly, achingly, I realize… I have never loved a project so deeply.  I have never felt such exhaustion and overwhelm.  I have never grown so rapidly, so broadly.  

And as this strange year unfolds, I realize, I have never felt this many goosebumps, this much heartache, this much tenderness & terror, and also, this much deep knowing, that somehow, through all this pain we are feeling, through all this loss, through all this grief that is bubbling to the surface, that there is a better version of us yet.  One that we may find, through the endless heartbreak, the endless smoke, tears, grief, and un-knowing.  A version of us that we may create, anew, that serves each other and our Mother in ways that are needed now more than ever.   

“I have never… “ feels like the feeling of our times.  
I hope we can lean into the hard lessons being presented to us right now.  
I hope we can continue to lean on each other….  
To offer support when we’re able.  
To ask for support when we need it.

 And ultimately, on the other side of all of this, I hope we can say…. 
“I have never… seen a world so beautifully transformed” 

It’s hard to see through the smoke.  I’ll admit.
Right now it just feels like survival.
But as the smoke clears, from the ashes of 2020, may we become Love. 
Love for each other. For ourselves. For our planet. And for our future generations.

I love you friends.  I hope you’re okay out there.
As always, thank you for YOU, and thank you for listening.

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Photo by Xu Haiwei on Unsplash