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The year 2020 began with such promise for residents of California's Bay Area. New Year's Day was a holiday to boast about to friends living elsewhere, a day to pat ourselves on the back for living in such a beautiful part of the country.

Little did we know then that eight months later we would be collectively pondering whether 2020 might go down as the worst year in Bay Area history.

First came the pandemic. Then, if that wasn't enough, scorching temperatures and rare lightning storms last week touched off hundreds of wildfires.

We live in a region renowned for innovation that has solved some of life's biggest puzzles, often giving us a false sense that we can deal with anything nature throws our way. Last week was hardly the first time Bay Area residents were reminded of the risk of underestimating Mother Nature's power.

The more than 50 Ohlone tribes that roamed this region for 10,000 years understood this. As Malcolm Margolin wrote in his book, "The Ohlone Way," "The Ohlones lived in a world where people were few and animals were many, where the bow and arrow were the height of technology ... and where (how difficult it is for us to fully grasp the implications of this) people did not yet see themselves as the undisputed lords of all creation."

They respected nature and survived by dealing with whatever disasters came their way.

But we must press on, confronting and dealing with today's challenges, collectively working to emerge even stronger than before and preparing for the next test that will come our way.

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