I was half asleep, the smell of smoke came through the window, my body aware but my mind pushed it away.

“It’s far away, probably a brush fire in the distance.” Back to sleep.

A little after two in the morning, the phone rings. It’s my sister-in-law: “You have to evacuate, now. We’re coming over.”

Disoriented, I jump up and start gathering belongings. Pets, passports, a change of clothes, my great grandmother’s earrings. A few photos. My beloved antique copies of The Great Gatsby and Alice in Wonderland. Jung’s Red Book that sits on my mantel.

We could see the flames on the horizon, the neighborhood across the way burning.

Before shutting the door, I say goodbye.

For hours, we didn’t know if we had a home. I felt myself leaving my body–action focused, texting my community, problem-solving next steps.




The magnitude of what was happening hits.

In shock knowing so many lost everything.

Blocks and blocks of homes turned to ash.

It wasn’t until sitting in a hotel room, glued to the news — trying to comprehend one of the worst fires in California history– that gratitude washed over. Grateful to be with my family. Grateful to get news that our homes were still standing, grateful for all the first responders, the community rallying together.

I’m writing this knowing so many people have lost their wedding dresses, their baby pictures, their baseball card collections, family heirlooms, pets and even family members.

My heart aches for their loss. It aches for the shootings, natural disasters, and tragedy in the world right now.

I know I’m so lucky and there are so many out there who have lost so much. It feels weird writing a post at times like these. However, times like these also help put things into perspective.

I look around and see what I took with me in a new way.

These are the things that rose to the surface, above all others. These are the physical items but also the intangible ones–the values and priorities that took on new urgency:

Writing, self-care, meditation, cooking, long hugs with friends and family. Snuggling with my dog, saying hello to the neighbors, holding hands with my partner while falling asleep–all become more important.

I start seeing all the mental clutter — excuses, insecurities, to-dos that need to be let go of. These are things I wouldn’t pack with me if it came down to it.

What will I regret not doing or not creating?

What needs to be started now?

If you’re being called to create, to do, to be in new ways, right now is the time to start. @wordselectric (Click to Tweet!)

Unexpected fires pop-up, literally and figuratively, that bring clarity once the smoke clears.

For me, this experience has been an invitation to live more intentionally, to practice more gratitude, to be more present in my own life.

We just never know what’s going to happen. This is not about acting out of fear but out of integrity and alignment.

We are given so many moments in our lives to do what’s most aligned and meaningful at the end of the day. Our job is to seize them.

What are things in your life, that would become more urgent, if faced with having to let other things go? What are you pulled to create? What are you excited to contribute to the world?

Love on these questions and act on them with curiosity and courage. Everything you need to start is alive in you–no literal fires necessary.

Now I’d love to hear from you. Do you have something you want to prioritize in your life? Share in the comments below.

Jackie Johansen is the founder of Your Words Electric. She writes about the creative process, writing and entrepreneurship from a spiritual perspective. She is the creator of the free guide, “How to Access Creative Flow” and the free e-course, Find Your Voice Medicine. Head over to Your Words Electric for inspiration, writing strategies, and these free resources.


Image courtesy of mcredifine.