One of my favorite places in the world is a little town called Glen Ellen. It’s just a wide spot in the road, a way-stop on a 2 lane highway that cuts through the hills of northern California.
There’s a lodge, a restaurant and bar, next to a general store. Down a side road is Jack London State Park, where the famous writer developed some of the first sustainable agricultural techniques. It’s a beautiful park, set in the oaks and steep coastal hills north of Napa.
The town is truly quaint. The bar and grill next to the lodge had a homey feel to it. The staff made a stranger feel welcome, as did the folks at the bar. This was a working-class establishment, not the tourist place down the road, and I was chatting with people who were happy with themselves, living the life they wanted. I felt their satisfaction. This was after a day spent walking in the footsteps of Jack London himself, seeing the land and the books that shaped his life. It was then I made a choice, to quit working a meaningless job and get back to what I enjoyed, to work as a journalist and be happy with it. And that’s what I did.
I look back at Glen Ellen fondly, and recently, when I remarried so many years after losing my wife to cancer, I decided to bring my new Missus back to the town where I found myself again. But I put the trip off. We had other things to do. And now, the news is, Glen Ellen burned, consumed by that hundred miles of fire lines that have ripped through the homes, farms, wineries, and parks of that beautiful country north of San Francisco. Horrible to think that this little slice of heaven has been destroyed by fire, that those hardworking, family people I’d broke bread with that day have lost everything, maybe even their lives. I so regret I hadn’t taken my new bride this beautiful place, but I know, the loss I feel is minor compared to theirs.
There are so many calls for help in this year of tragedies, and now we have one more. You can donate through the Red Cross, or United Way – or, a good way to help with several problems at once, you can go to gofundme.com – they will share your tax-deductible donation with several verified campaigns.