First things first: great big happy congratulations to aNewsCafe on the success of the first online auction to benefit students affected by the Carr Fire (and the Camp Fire)! I watched the bidding with interest over the week-long auction and you, dear readers and bidders, are absolute superstars. From what I understand, the total amount raised exceeded the goal by quite some margin, and that is all because of you!
You won't be surprised that I had a special interest in the Carr Fire Phoenix. Imagine my excitement when the bidding began, and then my delight at the astounding and generous bid entered by Eleanor Townsend which won the day. I wrote to Paul Jones, the artist who created the Phoenix, to tell him about it. This was his reply: “Well, that just reduced me to tears! The knowledge that something so small could become so symbolic, treasured, and important is beyond belief. I am so touched by this! What a wonderful thing this has become, way beyond money. Thank you so much for sharing this with me, it’s warmed my heart, truly.”
Paul and I are already in cahoots for next year's auction. Even though he is busy with Christmas orders, I have a feeling he is already turning the idea into a design, in his creative imagination.
Doni had mentioned something intriguing to me about Eleanor's reasons for bidding, so I asked her if she would contact Eleanor for my own clarification. The response was even lovelier than I could have imagined, and I share it here, with you.
Eleanor wrote: “I was so pleased to have the winning bid for The Phoenix, and honored, too. It is such a beautiful, perfect, tiny creature, but also strong, with an air of defiance. How well Deb must have translated our collective thinking to the glassmaker!! In the same moment, though, I knew The Phoenix was not ‘mine’, nor does it truly belong to any individual. Rather, it is a symbol for all of us at A News Cafe. So I suggested to Doni that she might ask Matt Grigsby if he would be willing to be the custodian of our Phoenix, at his home in the heart of Redding. I have never met Matt, but thought him qualified for this high duty due to his early connection with Deb, and the very moving video he posted as the Carr Fire started. Thanks, Deb, for your tremendous thoughtfulness, and thanks, Matt, for agreeing to take care of ANC's Phoenix!”
I've seen the video that Matt posted. It brought me to tears, three thousand miles and a few time zones away. Not only that, but Matt is one of my favorite people in the world. Funny how so many ANC folks are among my favorites! But that's just because of how special you all are. I know that Matt is thrilled to be the custodian of the Carr Fire Phoenix, and I know he will keep it safe, as it means a lot to him not just in terms of guardianship, but on a personal level, too.
Eleanor, I thank you from the bottom of my heart, not just for your winning bid, but for the spirit in which you entered it. I also suspect that you did not do any of this for the sake of recognition, and so I hope you will not mind that I am sending you my deep gratitude so publicly.
I have had the privilege of writing for aNewsCafe for a little over four years now, if you can believe that. In that time it has been my great good fortune to get to know quite a few of you through our conversations in the comments to my columns. I'll be honest: sometimes I feel a bit friendless, way up here in the Scottish Highlands, especially since our move even farther north at the beginning of 2016. But I know that I am not friendless at all, not in the way it matters most. To have connected with so many of you, whether you have ever written a word in response to my writing or not, is something truly wonderful. It surprises me when Doni tells me I have fans at aNewsCafe, or that my name comes up in conversation sometimes among you. Unless you have ever lived a somewhat isolated life, you might not know how much that means; at least it does, to me. Thank you, to all of you, for letting this far-flung ex-pat be a part of your community, and for letting me come and visit you once a month or so. I like it here at ANC, among so many good people, both contributors and readers. We may not know each other in the conventional sense, but the friendship is no less true!