It’s no secret that the fictional town of Somerville in Braha is based on the town of Escondido, California. I have a strong connection to Escondido, for I spent much time there as a child at my grandparents’ ranch.
My grandparents named their farm Ranchito Vida Nueva, or the ranch of new life. For them, it represented the new life they would live after spending all of their married lives thus far living in different cities around the U.S., courtesy of the military. For the first time since 1929, they were settling down in one location, putting down roots. By this time their children were already grown and on their own, so it really was like a fresh start for the couple.
The wildfires in the San Diego area last week came dangerously close to their home. The Cocos Fire turned one of our favorite scenic drives to ashes. My grandfather always called the area Spook’s Canyon, and he told his grandchildren many stories about its heritage as an Indian burial ground, the place where a sanitarium caught fire and burned to the ground, trapping and killing the patients who couldn’t escape, and about the mysterious white lady who floats among the trees in the Elfin Forest.
At the end of the drive, we quietly made our way through the Harmony Grove Spiritualist Camp. My grandfather would tell stories about mediums and seances, about people reconnecting with their lost loved ones, and the high probability that ghosts were regular inhabitants of the area. It wasn’t a stretch for him to believe, especially since his grandfather and great-grandfather embraced the spiritualist movement that was popular at the end of the 19th century.
The fire roared through the camp on May 16, 2014, destroying 25 of the 29 homes, along with some of the other structures, taking with it more than a century of history at this peaceful retreat. Photos of the ruins broke my heart, but the video clips of the displaced residents and their resolve to rebuild gave me hope.
At one point, the Harmony Grove camp was part of Braha. Due to page limits and my inability to include it as fully as I wanted, I was forced to cut it, but I vowed that it would be in one of my sequels. I am so grateful that the camp lives on in my memories, and I look forward to watching the residents rebuild their little bit of paradise in the northern hills of San Diego county.