The Thomas Fire Is Not an End But a Beginning

It’s been roughly 36 hours since the Thomas Fire started just west of Santa Paula, and less than that since we lost our house.

The above photo – the still smoldering ruins of our home – was taken by our friend and neighbor, David White, who trekked up the hill to Meditation Mount. It’s all quite shocking and surreal. My heart is broken, and yet full of gratitude. I am feeling tremendously blessed to have everything we need. We want for nothing, and need only to sort out where to stay, with many doors having opened for us by friends and strangers alike.

Last night, neither of us could sleep for hours. We found this morning that each of us were systematically going through the house, remembering each of AliSun’s paintings, or a treasured piece of art from Istanbul or Mexico, or an admitted luxury like a beautiful lamp or a Le Creuset pot. It felt important. None of it is recoverable, since we weren’t able to get renter’s insurance, choosing to live in a community zoned as an extreme fire danger. We all make choices and we take responsibility for those choices, right?

Our actions are our only true belongings.Thich Nhat Hanh

We do our inner work, cultivating love, compassion and peace, as a foundation for when we are most challenged. To be a loving, compassionate and peaceful person as the literal and metaphorical fire rages around us is a gift and a blessing. It brings a sense of ease, an ability to breathe, a perspective of clarity.

We express gratitude to those who have opened their homes. We express gratitude that we have at least one of two cars, some clothes, our computers. We express gratitude that we evacuated, and didn’t go to sleep in what became a tinderbox at dawn as the winds shifted north. We express gratitude for each other and our community.

And so we move forward. Into our new life, a new beginning, having virtually no idea what that looks like. It will probably feel quite exciting as the ash settles and the green shoots appear.

For those who have offered a room or a guest house, here’s our Airbnb profile. We’re good guests, promise.

For those who don’t know Meditation Mount or simply want to revisit the enduring beauty of the place, here is the website and the Instagram profile with lots of photos, most of which I took along with some lovely contributions from Brian and Art.

Here’s a favorite photo below – how I choose to think of the Mount in my heart. The double rainbow spans both the Peace Poles. The one in the foreground is warped from the fire in I think 1999, which came all the way up to the buildings but damaged no structures. The second Peace Pole was erected in an act of resilience and strength.

The following was what I posted on Facebook yesterday when I received confirmation that we had lost our house.

I saw this three minutes ago on David White’s feed. So my thoughts are extemporaneous. How I’m feeling in the moment.

This was our house for three years, Ali Sun Trees and I. Before us, Ellen Hall, Paul Stanton and many other amazing beings were so blessed to have lived here in Tree and been a part of the Meditation Mount community.

The Mount was as much HOME as anywhere I’ve lived in my life. It’s where I grew so much as a spiritual being, where I learned how to lead meditations, where my heart filled with love, compassion and humility every day.

And every night I closed down the Mount, collected the donations, locked the gate, and walked out to the point. I looked out over Ojai, with the moonlight streaming down, or a sky full of stars and the Milky Way, and I was filled with gratitude.

I knew that I wouldn’t be at the Mount forever, and it was such a special opportunity to live with beautiful souls – up to the very last minutes late last night with Tim Hall, Art Durand, Corinna Bloom, Stephanie Sacha and Cisco.

I’m so glad I didn’t take it for granted. I am filled with gratitude to have been presented this opportunity to live and work at The Mount. (edit)

And my heart is broken, of course. How much, I don’t even know at this point.

I would just ask – help those in your community. Seek out your higher self. Cultivate love and compassion in everything you do and with everyone you meet.

We’ll be fine. That which Meditation Mount stands for still burns bright. Again, I’m deeply honored to have been part of this group endeavor, and I wouldn’t trade my experience for anything. Peace and blessings to you.

Comments 12

  1. Oh Tyler, I am so sorry….i have a couple of pics of u as a younger man i will send…later…grieve, but as u said be thankful…love, Marcia

  2. I have a private lovely home you can stay with a friend in in Santa Barbara if you need it Tyler my phone is 805-667-2115. Thank you for the beautiful post

  3. so beautifully written, tyler, i am in tears just picturing the devastation.. the sights and smells of burnt buildings, possessions, all material belongings scattered in a cremated form. rick and i were married at the mm overlook some years ago. the bright november sunset that framed the east- end orchards especially blessed our union.. .ojai will always be our real home! i lost a house and all that was inside in 1994… i was unable to take the higher road that you speak of ( having replaced way too many things that i thought i couldn’t live without) but since then, whenever i lose or break something now, i barely spend a moment caring about the loss! life is the most precious treasure … i am sorry for the trauma you and others are enduring and send love to you and ali in hopes of ease in this time of transition. know that you are welcome to come visit us in so. oregon when/if you so desire.
    much ,

  4. Some of my son’s ashes are there overlooking the valley at Meditation Mount. The day he died my daughter and I first went there to grapple with the enormity. What does the bench say….joy is…it isn’t clear to me in this moment. We have been going through this fire as well, but so far our house stands. I am wondering over what I took with me in the moments of evacuating, and what I didn’t take. If all goes well we have many extra luxuries that I will happily share. The special art will not be the same. Your life after the fire is not the same. How beautiful that you connect in love with the devastating universe. Powerful stuff here. Hope to be a light and help as you are offering others by sharing your experience.

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      Joy Is A Special Wisdom. The bench survived the fire! I hope your home is untouched and glad you are safe. Blessings, Deana!

  5. HI Tyler and AliSun, Thank you for this inspiring site, allowing us to experience with you and to respond. So much to let go of all at once … We are with you in our hearts and with what we have. You are welcome here where I live in MiraMonte any time – for an hour, a day or more – as you figure out your next steps. We have a lovely back garden, a sauna, and bikes to enjoy. Also items to share if needed. Take care, sending love, Suzie

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  6. Tyler – Thank you for all the wisdom you share here. my heart goes out to you and Ali-Sun. I would like to bring you a pot of vegetable soup. Where are you staying?

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  7. Always appreciated your presence there, and our interactions in instagram … nice to read how much you appreciated and enjoyed it there… sending so much love and light your way … gratitude you evacuated too! ✨

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