Coming Home

Make no mistake about it. We are the lucky ones. With so many families displaced by the Camp Fire (over 45,000 people, and over 13,000 homes burned to the ground) I am lucky that the only thing we have to worry about is a slight stench of smoke which has permeated our home.

We have lived out of boxes for two weeks and I feel incredibly lucky to have had those boxes with us at so many points during this crisis. So many people did not even have time to grab their valuables much less simple things like toothbrushes and a change of clothes. They literally ran with the clothes on their back into the thick black smoke to get away from the flames that were whipping from tree to tree above them.

Today, I started unpacking the car. What I realized was that everything I had packed had deep meaning for me and most were old family things belonging to relatives I had and had not met during my lifetime.

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I saved that 1893 stamp, worthless to anyone but me. It is the one that was taped together by my grandfather and I down in his basement after an epic failure at removing it from an envelope destroyed its purity. Along with it,  came my fifth GGrandmother’s lace sleeping cap and the christening dress that was my 4th GGrandmother’s wedding dress repurposed.

I took my kids adoption records and their citizenship papers, my third great grandmothers carnival glass salt and pepper shakers, and the pot we bought at the souk in Morocco; the one where we almost lost our daughter, probably never to be seen again.

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I took as much artwork as I could fit into the car. Pieces that we have collected during our travels like the deity from Argentina, part of the collection of Japanese woodblock prints and the breastplate we bought from the potter in my husband’s town of origin in Ireland on our 25th Anniversary holiday.

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I took old photographs, the Civil War Sugar bowl belonging to my 3rd maternal grandmother and my GG grandmothers white calling card bowl. The Buddha rode shotgun guarding the collection of celadon pottery that I bought while in my children’s country of origin.

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Everything I took had deep personal meanings and connections to the past. Everything had historical/familiar significance to me and to those who came before my time. And while these items are only “things” and I can’t take them with me when I die; they bring meaning to my life now and I am grateful to have them.

I am glad to be back home. In a home lucky enough to remain untouched by a fire that killed so many. I can’t imagine having nothing left of my life but ashes and soot. I can’t even wrap my head around how that must feel. But this I know…it isn’t the collection of things that we have that are the most meaningful, it is the collection of people, our tribe, that we call our own that bring us our greatest joy.

Now go and give someone you love a hug. Then look around you and think about what you would take if you had to flee. It only takes a minute to determine what is of value to you and unfortunately sometimes a minute is all you have. So be prepared.

Thoughts About The Camp Fire in NO CA

With the fire slowly creeping forward and containment at 35%; I have decided to leave for a bit for the coast, which is not immune from the toxin filled air.

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The smoke is so heavy that breathing is becoming more difficult and it is seeping through the cracks in my house like a snake slips and slithers through the smallest of holes. I have to wonder that even if the fire does not reach us will the smoke smell permeate our home making it smell like a barbecue shack for years to come? How does one get rid of that deep-fried charcoal smell anyway?

B just called me as he drove to work. He says the smoke is so thick that it is like driving through pea-soup fog making driving more hazardous than the normal commute. Toxins from the fire will have effects on the average persons health for years to come and so you begin to ask yourself do the risks of staying outweigh the risks of leaving?  Yes, we want to stick around to guard our house against the fire but most of all we want to protect ourselves from the lower than pond scum looters that prey on situations such as this to enrich themselves. Yes, almost everything is replaceable except that feeling of violation that may never leave.

The death toll now stands at 56. It appears that it will reach well over 100. So many people gone. So many folks who made the community what it was no longer alive to contribute to the re-building and bring the enthusiasm that is needed for such an endeavor.

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The border of the fire now stands less than 5 miles from my home. The winds are blowing the pines to the right just a bit. My solar panels are no longer producing power. The birds have stopped singing and the deer have a desperate look to their eyes. The skunk has a slightly gray parlour to him and so do I.

It will be nice to leave for a bit. Nice to be where the air smells fresh and the sky is actually blue rather than brown. I feel for those who have no choice but to stay waiting in lines to have their licenses re-issued, take a shower, try on donated clothes, find a rental, talk to FEMA and the insurance adjusters. Sometimes being in shock protects you until it can no longer do so because you are just plain weary and you lose hope.

Yes, for so many there is a lot to do. A lot to overcome. And so far I have had little to worry about. I am one of the fortunate. Yet, even if we lose our home  I think I can say with confidence that we will still be one of the lucky ones…because we have one another and we are still alive.

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