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Rituals, Rallies, Benefits: #ThomasFire Recovery in Ventura February 2018

February 2, 2018

STOP SIGN. Ventura’s Botanical Gardens were devastated by the Thomas Fire

In John M. Synge’s tragedy “Riders to the Sea,” the final words come from the widowed matriarch Maura:

…may He have mercy on my soul, Nora, and on the soul of every one is left living in the world. Michael has a clean burial in the far north, by the grace of the Almighty God. Bartley will have a fine coffin out of the white boards, and a deep grave surely.

What more can we want than that?
No man at all can be living for ever, and we must be satisfied.

I don’t know when Ventura College chose to produce the opera version of this classic one-act play, but it is timely. The play focuses on the losses of an Irish family as they struggle against nature, and most specifically, the sea. Like Maura, we grieve our recent losses to nature from fire and flood.

In addition to depicting the struggle of people who live between the wild and urban spaces, the play portrays the ways the Irish integrated their pagan traditions with their Catholicism.

We too are searching for ritual and ways to process our grief.

Performances will be presented “in the round” by Ventura College students in VC’s black box Studio Theatre located in the VC Performing Arts Center 4700 Loma Vista Road, Ventura, CA 93003. Tickets are only $5 but quite limited and there are only three performances: Fri, Feb 2 at 7:30pm, Sat, Feb 3 at 2:30 pm and 7:30 pm; run time is 40 minutes. Tickets available at the door or online at Parking is $2 on Friday and Free on Saturday. The play is directed by Brent Wilson with music director David Richardson and featuring Ayla Dumont as Maurya.

Ventura exists in a narrow strip of land between the sea and the rugged, steep hills and mountains of the Transverse range (read more here) which are laced with hiking trails, scenic drives, and homes nestled above, beside, and in the barrancas. Several times a week, I would hike a three mile loop at Arroyo Verde Park above Ventura College or hike up and back in the Ventura Botanical Garden above City Hall or walk along the Promenade to the Ventura River. But those two hillside options are closed, and no one can say yet when they will open.

Yesterday after dropping my son off at school, Cisco and I sat in the car at VC using the wireless trying to figure out where to go for a walk. I really wanted to go to Arroyo Verde Park or the Botanical Garden but of course both were closed because of the Thomas Fire which swept through these areas.

It isn’t just that I want to hike and that the dog needs exercise: it’s that I’m overwhelmed by the grief about how much has been destroyed in our town. These two areas are such a part of daily life for so many people — places where we can enjoy nature and the beautiful views of the ocean so close to town.

Even though we didn’t lose any property ourselves and while we know people who lost loved ones in the mud, and I am grateful recognizing it could have been far worse, there is still so much to grieve, and I recognize that my indecision today is part of my mourning.

A friend made a few suggestions of places to go, and I drove into the hills to find one trail but was overwhelmed by the destruction and deterred. I decided to go with a friend who lives below the Ventura Cross to walk up that road with our dogs. The fire came very close to her house and because of damages, she has yet to return home for good.

The Cross, located on the hill above the San Buenaventura Mission, holds a special place for our community, and for me. Like Two Trees, the Cross is a marker — it says we are here.  When I was a student at Ventura College, I used to drive to the Cross and park near a grand eucalyptus tree which I would climb and sit in; it was a quiet place where I could think or not think. I didn’t know about meditation then but that was what I was doing. On my walk yesterday, I marveled that it still stands, as majestic as ever. Like the Cross, which suffered damage to one side, it still stands.

There are many ways to heal. For me, being in nature alone with my dog or with a friend or family is ideal, but being in community also resonates.

In addition to “Riders to the Sea,” there are two events to consider for this Saturday Feb. 3 and one for Sat. Feb. 10.

On Saturday Feb. 3 from noon-1pm, you’re invited to #ProtectOurCoast and participate in a “No New Offshore Drilling Rally” in downtown Ventura at City Hall, then join hands across the sand.

Because even though we may be grieving for what happened because of the fire, we still need to protect our planet. And this is a beautiful way to do so.

Join us as we join Hands Across the Sand in Ventura to stand against the federal plans for opening up our Pacific Coast to more oil and gas drilling.This Ventura event, in the ancestral home of the Chumash people, is part of a coastal day of action in communities up and down the California coast.

On Feb. 11 I organized an event where we joined hands across the sand.

12:00 noon
Gather in front of Ventura City Hall and walk to the beach

12:45 pm
Gather at Promenade Park (in front of Crown Plaza Hotel) to stand together and link HANDS ACROSS THE SAND.

There will be an information booth about the federal offshore leasing plan, how to submit comments, and a place to sign up for the bus to Sacramento on February 8 to protest and speak at the public hearing about the leasing plan. For details visit: Questions & to Volunteer:
Kimberly Rivers, CFROG:, cell: 805-727-1393
Tomas Rebecchi, Food & Water Watch:


While the concert is sold out, you can probably hear pretty well around Plaza Park. I’m guessing Leashes Brewing will be very popular Saturday afternoon!

Text To Donate: ReliefVC At 50155


  • Zon Candela: 4:15pm-4:45pm
  • Colbie Caillat:  5pm-5:35pm
  • Rob Write: 5:50 pm
  • Big Bad Voodoo Daddy: 6:00pm-6:40pm
  • Olivia Newton John: 7:00pm-7:35pm
  • Kevin Costner + Modern West: 8:00pm-8:40pm
  • Super Duper Kyle: 9:00pm-9:30pm

Because there is so much going on this weekend, the following event was moved to NEXT weekend:

Tracy Hudak invites you to participate in a national event, the People’s State of the Union*.

Bring any of the following (or just come as you are):
~ A story about a time you felt a sense of belonging—or the opposite—to this nation or your community.
~ A piece of art or an object that represents something powerful to you in relation to our fire.
~ A snack to share.

*The People’s State of the Union is organized by the citizen-artist network, the US Dept of Arts & Culture. Folks around the country are hosting story circles during the last week in January. Stories that are shared can be uploaded to their website to be a part of the Poetic Address to the nation that will be written by writers and poets and broadcast on April 15th. For more info:

There is much still to do. 

In the future, there will be more opportunities for community, for healing, and for helping.

When I read the following message from David Byrne and heard this song, I was struck by how wonderful it would be if we could sing together here in Ventura as part of our healing process. Byrne writes that, “This month, I performed with this group whose shows consist of teaching large groups of total strangers a song arrangement that they then all sing together. Usually, Daveed from the group teaches the main melody, arrangement and harmonies to the audience and then he and Nobu guide them, but last night the lead was handed off to me on the Bowie song “Heroes.” We did it in the lobby of the Public Theater…not a real venue or stage, but it worked fine.

What happens when one sings together with a lot of other people?

A couple of things I immediately noticed. There is a transcendent feeling in being subsumed and surrendering to a group. This applies to sports, military drills, dancing… and group singing. One becomes a part of something larger than oneself, and something in our makeup rewards us when that happens. We cling to our individuality, but we experience true ecstasy when we give it up. So, the reward experience is part of the show.”






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