View from a mile down the road:
If you didn’t know, after my last post about the shooting, my community has since been on fire (I just got internet access back). What a fucking week. I went from a town vigil to evacuating Adam’s mom to then evacuating myself and my family. Not to mention neighbors. I’m so proud of my little town for coming together.
So here’s the thing: we lost our house once in a fire. We lost everything.
I was the lucky one away at college, who still had clothes to spare. But things like memories, like the piano we learned to play on, the books we learned to read from, the photographs and albums—all of them gone.
Sure, people say stuff is just stuff and things are just things…but stuff and things are still always tied to memory.
In my house this week, people congregated. Evacuees sitting in my living room. Six dogs underfoot. And when the flames hit the hillside down the road, it was our time to pack.
You can’t possibly imagine trying to gather memories. I grab the pictures. My Macbook. The Nikon and a photo album. Five books from my library, in case I need to start another. But before all of these things, I gather animals.
I scoop up my sleeping chickens, place them into crates. Package my rabbit in the backseat of the car. We take apart my bed to get my screaming yowling hissing cat from out behind the mattress, and put her in the front. She scratches the hell out of me. I chase down my duck and goose, tackling them. Terrorizing them, certainly, but living is better than dead. My knees muddy. At first I care, and then remember suddenly I don’t. I wrestle with the hissing goose, and stuff her in the car. She’ll thank me for it later.
Probably, I have too many animals, which isn’t quite conducive in a situation such as this. Nonetheless, they all go with me, or we all go out together.
I pack clothing as an afterthought. All else is left behind.
Before you leave a house when there are flames around a corner, you just stand for a minute. Knowing that you may not come back to it. Knowing it could all be gone. It’s surreal. You try to think about what you have forgotten. You think, should I grab the artwork? Should I grab the plants? The pillows? Wall hangings? All of it becomes too overwhelming, and so you grab some random artifact, and leave all else behind. But still, you stand for a moment. You look. Memorize the floor plan. Pet the wall. I know, it sounds crazy, but you’d do it. You’d just kind of stand there, stroking the wall. Watching. Memorizing. Already missing what you have.
And then you pack off and head to your grandmother’s house down the road. Turn on the TV and watch the burning. Pour out some whiskey. Drive around the neighborhood and pray your home does not erase itself.
You don’t sleep. In fact, it will be at least another 12 hours before you get any rest. For me, it’s more like 20. You keep driving back to your house, hoping it’s still there. Better now to watch it burn, then to come back later and find nothing.
See, we are lucky. Our house did not burn this week. We are not yet out of danger, as the winds are kicking up again, but we are safe for now. Others aren’t so lucky. Pray for them and send them your well wishes. Donate if you’re able.
President Trump was wrong today. We do care about our land. We care about our forests, and how our land is managed. We gather rainwater in barrels; we wash our cars in the rain; we recycle and use green products; we’ve turned our lawns to drought friendly rock-paved gardens. Our Fire Departments are outrageously diligent. They saved my house yesterday from a fire that surely would have been its end. You have no idea how tired they are. How dirty, covered in soot. How engines are here from towns two, three, four hours out. Our communities are kind and supportive, helping one another to evacuate. In each others’ homes, taking photos off the wall. We care. We manage. But we are fighting a climate that we have, ourselves, globally created. Withhold your funding as you will; we will raise enough to eclipse the little that you take. We care. Our communities are strong, and will see the end of all this struggle.
Be safe out there. Give a lot of love. Pray for all the beautiful and wondrous acres that we’ve lost. Our home is hurting, but resolve runs strong. We’ll find a thousand little ways to put it back together.
pc cred: Nat Geo