My Faith In Humanity Restored Through Ballet (Stories Of The Camp Fire)

img_9134

Last night I had the privilege of attending the ballet and what an evening it was! Sure, the story was slightly delayed for the season but out of the ashes the most famous ballet in the world arose in all its glory, tradition, and pageantry in a borrowed theatre here in Northern California. And the story of how this production came to be is perhaps better than the beloved Nutcracker itself… because in this story my faith in humanity was restored.

Now I am not a huge fan of ballet. I don’t often attend performances.  Since I am a writer, I am a lover of words, and without those sometimes my attention strays making ballet somewhat problematic. Needless to say, attending what I thought was going to be an “amateur” performance; I suspected the night might be filled with pokes and prods to keep me awake. Was I ever wrong.

Last night I discovered the Northern California Ballet. Since 1983 it has been producing full-length classic ballets such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and A Midsummer’s Nights Dream. Besides production, the studio has also taught hundreds of children dance skills that have led some to professional dance careers. It is a mighty place full of hope, dreams, and plain old hard work. There are no slackers, slouches or amateurs here!

As the holiday season was fast approaching Northern California Ballet was rehearsing their version of The Nutcracker when disaster hit. On November 9, 2018 the Camp Fire swooped through the town of Paradise killing 85 and wiping out the majority of this close-knit community. It goes on record as the deadliest fire in California history. But that is just the beginning of the horror. In addition to all the lives lost, almost 14,000 homes went up in smoke and so did the studio and storage shed belonging to the Northern California Ballet. With such a fast-moving fire no one had time to save anything. NOTHING. The kids no longer had clothes, school supplies, or a warm bed. They no longer had the comfort nor the routine of dance. Gone were their ballet costumes and their dreams of dancing on stage…or so they thought. Yet, when hardship and devastating circumstances arise somehow folks find the strength to fight back and find a way to turn tragedy into triumph which is exactly what Northern California Ballet did. And last night it showed. The dancers were talented, elegant and polished. They danced with real joy radiating from their faces. The world was their oyster and they were the pearls.

How did they accomplish so much in so little time? Just plain dedication and hard work. But an even more important ingredient was the global ballet community in general. As it turns out companies from all over the world donated costumes, backdrops and props. The Eugene Ballet Company, dancer Angela V Carter’s costumes from Ballet New England’s productions, and both large and small studios from Iowa to Florida found ways to give to their sister in need while volunteers sewed and stitched late into the night. And so, a vital community resource went from a studio of smoke and ashes to an on-stage performance in just a little over two months. Now that is what I call dedication. I also call it a miracle.

In addition to the dance itself music was provided by a live orchestra hiding out in the orchestra pit. These musicians were also from Paradise and many had lost their homes in the fire and their precious instruments as well. Yet, somehow they managed to come together (borrowed instruments and all) and play magnificently. Watching a ballet performed to live music instead of tape is an honor these days and I felt blessed to do so.

By coincidence I went to Paradise last week. It was my first trip up there since the fire. The devastation is immense. Unless you have survived living in a war zone you have probably never seen anything like it. It is shocking. It is horrific. It is incredibly sad.

 

Yet, after tonight’s performance by Northern California Ballet, I have hope for this world. People are amazing. Their resilience astounds me. Their fight to rise again gives me hope. Kids who dedicate themselves to their craft no matter what are inspiring. And the generosity of an arts community to their sister in need are exactly the kinds of acts of compassion and love that the world needs to see.

So fear not and have hope. There are heroes walking amongst us and tonight they were all on stage at The Nutcracker for the world to see. I wish you could see them too.

img_9135

Please visit the Northern California Ballet site to learn more. http://www.northerncaliforniaballet.com/?page_id=33

Also, they could use your financial help. Here is their GO FUND ME page. I hope you will give generously.

https://www.gofundme.com/small-ballet-studio-destroyed-in-paradise-fire?member=&utm_source=sendgrid&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=contacts-v2-invite-to-donate

 

A Miracle

Yesterday I spent the morning in a courtroom. No, I wasn’t on trial for murdering the guy next door who blares his music at 1 a.m. though the impulse is sometimes there. It wasn’t for a parking ticket or a jaywalking offense. It was for something much better…an adoption!!!

My dear friend (I’ll call her M) started down this path many years ago. While she and her husband (K) have two of the nicest boys you will ever meet; M felt like their family was incomplete. Her desire for a girl pulled at her heart for so long that she was unable to ignore it no longer. But first she had to get K on board. It took a while but once K made up his mind there was no turning back. They have worked hard to become a loving family of five.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart. There is the fingerprinting, the intense and intrusive background checks, the numerous day-long adoption classes you are required to take, and social worker visits that happen so often that often it feels you are adopting them. And then there is the paperwork. Mountains of it. Enough paper to clear acres of pristine forest. But perhaps the worst part about adoption is the waiting and uncertainty. The amount of faith you have to have to love a child with all your heart, even though you know there is a chance that their birth parent may try to reunite with them, often to the detriment of the child, can be crushing to your soul. Yet, you just keep loving despite of your own fears that a social worker could arrive at your door at any time and leave your arms empty once more.

sign-up-to-receive-my-free-adoption-newsletter-and-q-a-mailings-ylLmTf-quote

Adoption is fraught with challenges. It is often conceived in fear. In addition, there is immense loss felt on the part of the child even if their birth parents were less than stellar.But when it is done right it is the most miraculous thing in the world. Somehow  families are created despite all the chaos and the gift you receive with the first hug that your child spontaneously gives you and the first time they call you Mom…well… there is nothing like it in the world. It’s like stumbling out of the forest into a sunny field full of wildflowers.

And so I was honored to be able to sit and witness the legal creation of this family especially since my three adoptions had been such a blur. As I sat there watching the sunshine unfold and M trying not to cry; it gave me time to appreciate all that I have been given through adoption and how much richer my life is because of it. And while I distain the word “lucky” in the same sentence as the word adoption I do have to say that the Smith family has been lucky all the way around. Miss S now has the best set of brothers who willingly share all they have and teach her in such loving and touching ways. She is lucky to have found the best set of parents EVER.  People who are there for you no matter what, who provide unconditional love and lots of laughs. They provide patience and support, and spend time well spent reading and playing with their children, and exposure to new and wonderful experiences outside of their home. Together M and K make every day the best that it can possibly be for their family. They are the kind of parents every child deserves.

The Smith family is also lucky to have Miss S enter their lives. She brings her own fiery brand of temperament into a household that lacked her kind of undeniable and exuberant spark. She also brings that girlishness  that was so wanted into a testosterone ladened home. Miss S also brings a fresh look at life and an exuberance for it that makes everyone around her smile; her constant joy reflected back to them on her beautiful and radiant face. I do not know of any family made for each other more than this one. Lucky. Yes. Blessed. Yes. Content. Yes. Complete. Finally.

And so my friends, may you always remember the gift that each of you received today and when life’s little irritations arise may you always look back upon this day to put a smile on your face and give you some perspective. You are the family you dreamed of and what you have created all together is, indeed, a miracle. YEAH!!!!!

superman