There are places you go where you feel your life change. Maybe it stems from my Bohemian Great-grandmother but I have lived in a lot of cities. Some of these so dear to me that I consider them hometowns. The first time I exited the coastal highway to Montecito I knew I had found my next hometown.
Those who are lucky enough to live in a place like Santa Barbara know everything grows here. The American Riviera they call it, an oceanic wonderland with coastal mountains ripe with avocado farms, lemon groves, olive orchards and an abundance of vineyards. To live in the communities of Santa Barbara–like Montecito–your homes cascade with fruit and flowers.
My home is ever full of roses. In fact, I made a vow to myself after a an illness that I would always surround myself with beautiful, healing fresh flowers. Peonies, hyacinth, jasmine, gardenias, sunflowers, lavender, but most of all roses.
And so it was. I found a little house in the heart of Montecito with lush roses blooming outside my windows. I had manifested my sanctuary.
Then came the fire.
As of December of 2017 the Thomas Fire had become the largest wildfire in California history. It threatened our peace, snowed down ash, covered our ocean and skies with an endless unbearable smoke, and eventually drove us from our homes. I evacuated to LA to the comfort of old friends, whose hospitality I still treasure immensely. I watched a digital fire map tracking the fire as it grew closer to my house each day.
Just before Christmas we were allowed to return. The fire had been contained and the brilliant work of 8,500 firefighters from across the state had saved many Montecito homes from burning.
As I drove in I toured my home. Flame retardant stained the trees. I saw flattened land where homes once stood. Empty gates protecting nothing but scorched earth, and ash everywhere, so much ash.
Yet, through it all my house still stood. As I walked through the gate, after weeks of evacuation, road weary and sick with smoke, I was greeted by the marvel of a single red rose. My lone survivor. Blooming out of a bed of ash she stood, a conqueror, as if to say, Welcome home. Home is here.
My Montecito Rose.