“The Road Home,” Sept. 1, 2020

Sometimes, when the road ahead is littered with our fears, the best we can do is to keep moving, knowing the worst may be waiting around the bend, but hoping and praying for the best.

I hope you’re better at that than I am. Two weeks ago, when we saw smoke boiling over a ridge behind our house, my husband and I started packing. Wildfires move fast, and we aren’t as quick as we used to be. But we were mostly concerned about breathing the smoke.

Another fire had broken out not long ago, so close we could see the flames. But in minutes airtankers were circling it, and pretty soon, it was out. We felt sure this one would be, too. But the smoke kept getting worse.

My daughter’s family lives a few minutes from us. When I phoned to warn them, my son-in-law promised to be careful.

So my husband and I zipped up the emergency bags we keep packed with necessities for a few days. We stood for a moment by our car watching the smoke and praying for the firefighters.

Then we left our home in their beautiful hands and drove into town to my sister-in-law’s place. We took no keepsakes or other treasures. We thought we’d be back soon. We were wrong.

The following day, evacuation orders were issued for several areas, including ours. The road was closed. We couldn’t go back.

My heart ached for all the things I wished we had taken with us—things I might never see again. Then I looked down at my wedding ring and smiled. When we left home, I almost forgot to take it. But something reminded me and I ran back to grab it off the sink.

Two days later, my daughter and her family were evacuated and came into town to stay with us. It helped us to be together, poring over news reports, laughing at 8-year-old Henry’s jokes and trying to stay positive.

Meanwhile, I wrote a column about being evacuated and began to hear from readers all around the country who emailed or posted on my website or on Facebook to say that they were thinking of us, and praying for us, and wishing us well.

Never doubt the power of a few kind words and thoughts and prayers. To someone who is trying to silence her fears and hope for the best, they can mean the world and then some.

The big break came with a change in the weather. The forecast had called for more dry lightning, the kind that had set fires throughout California. But the storm missed us. And the fog rolled in from the coast and inland through the valley.

Two days after they were evacuated, my daughter and her family and their neighbors went home. We were thrilled for them, and hoped we’d be next.

Crews were spread thin with hundreds of fires around the state burning over a million acres. But they fought hard to keep the Carmel Fire from advancing to the Village.

We checked maps online daily and watched it inch to within a mile of our place—but never closer. Our neighborhood was spared. Yet, a few miles east of us, fifty homes were destroyed.

Finally, eight days after leaving home, we were cleared to go back.

Carmel Valley Road is a two-lane country highway cradled by rolling mountains, dotted with horse farms and vineyards and fields of wildflowers. Rush hour traffic is a herd of mule deer and a flock of wild turkeys. Those of us who know it well like to slow down and enjoy the ride.

It’s especially lovely now with makeshift signs everywhere shouting “Thanks, Firefighters!” from a close-knit community that feels so blessed.

I wish you could see it.

Tough times bring out the best in us. When tragedy strikes, a God-given goodness rises up to remind us of who we are and why we care for one another.

Fear can be a hard road to travel. But when paved with grace and lovingkindness, it always leads us home.


  1. Thank you for this reminder when times are fearful. So glad to hear you can return home.

  2. Carolyn Merriman says

    So thankful your home & those of your family’s were spared. Firefighters are angels with sooty faces & big boots!

  3. “Fear can be a hard road to travel. But when paved with grace and lovingkindness, it always leads us home.” I’m going to print this out and tape it near my laptop where I can see it while I’m writing and reading. It was a great line to end your last two columns. It was an even better one for the rest of us, given all the termoil and chaos we are enduring as a nation and in our individual lives. Continued blessings.

  4. Patti Peters says

    So glad you and yours are safe. I still remember Carmel Valley Road, and others when hubby and I would ride the back roads, so beautiful (back in 1978-9). Sad that the weather and fires are destroying peoples’ lives. Stay safe Sharon and thank you for your words.

  5. Peter and Connie Rankin says

    Great news Sharon!!

  6. Cindy Welch says

    Good to hear good news these days, thankful you and your family are safe. So many painful stories are being lived out across our country, I pray we are learning the lessons God has for each of us and can pass that along to the next generation. Thank you for your example in action with your grandchildren.

  7. Kate Sciacca says

    Amen. Our Vacaville kids experienced the same relief you embraced. Ash and smoke… but a home and memories still standing. God is so very good. Thanks for the update 🙂

  8. Sheila Thompson says

    I’m so glad you are safely home!
    We were in Los Angeles area in October, 2007 when the Santa Ana
    winds caused multiple fires to break out. As a Midwesterner, I was terrified
    to see fires on the hillsides, smoke causing an eerie sky, & ashes in the air!
    I always remember that time when I hear about the California fires & pray
    For the firefighters & residents. Stay safe!

  9. Barbara Ballard says

    I’m very thankful that your home was spared, but I’m even more thankful that YOU were safe. As I told my son once, “cars can be replaced, but people can’t”. You are more important than any possessions.

  10. Paula D Jennings says

    Bless y’alls hearts….Thanking GOD for sparing your Home and your Son’s home. I know others were not as fortunate and my heart is broken for them and my Prayers for Comfort and The Peace that Passes ALL Understanding. GOD is so good and we have NO Answers here. Just hold on to your Precious Family and to the “Things” that mean so much to you….the moments you have together to Hold and Love each other. Praying for you and your family…….💟

  11. I’m glad your home and family are safe. A few years back visiting our daughter in Oakland we went to the Nspa Valley. There were many signs thanking the firefighters. Safe safe.

  12. Thankful you and your family & homes were spared. Thankful firefighters are ready to fight back the flames. Thankful to God Almighty for his love & protection. Praise God! My prayers are ongoing for CA & CO…residents & firefighters. Katie Musgrave

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