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.

Wild Fire

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When I left my house at 7:45 am I noticed a HUGE plume of smoke over the mountain. Checking the internet, I found that there was a wildfire burning about 25 miles from my house or 17 as the crow flies. Ten acres were involved.

An hour later the fire had grown to 100 acres. An hour after that it was at 1000 acres and about two hours later it was at 5000 acres. Now, five hours later this fire has grown to over 8000 acres and entire towns in the hills have been evacuated and there are over 100 homes that have already burnt to the ground.

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My son’s teacher told me that his good friend lost everything in a fire several years ago. Today, when his friend saw flames a long way off from his house, he quickly packed his car. Having survived one fire he knew just how treacherous they couldbe. By the time this man and his family made it to the highway both sides of the road were on fire with lines of cars trying to make it out of the area.

It doesn’t help that we are having 30 mph wind gusts that are suppose to be around for another 24 hours.  The winds are spreading the fire here and there with spot fires popping up constantly. I fear for the people and wildlife who may not make it out of this firery hell in time.

Later in the morning I called my father who said, “Pack your car and go rent a trailer.”

I chuckled. He is over reacting I thought.

Later my cousin who lives in the area issued the same warning. “Be prepared,” she said.

And so, I went home and I handed two of my kids who are sick of the sofa  each an empty box and told them to fill it with those things that had meaning for them. I did the same while also creating boxes for each member of our family trying to determine what things were most important to their hearts and to their heads.

It’s a strangle thing putting your entire life into a few boxes. What stays and what goes is not as easy to determine as you might think. Of course, I put the box of important papers (birth certificates, adoption records, passports) into the back of the car. I took one painting that we obtained from my a few of my kids birth country and a bunch of old video cassette tapes that I have yet to put on DVD. The old family Bible went in as did a few photo albums, a necklace from my GG Grandmother, my writings, one of my stamp collection albums, our wedding picture, my husband’s bagpipes, my kids Eagle Scout pins  and an ancient Chinese incense burner. My GGGG grandmothers sleeping cap which sits in a shadow box in the hallway was included, as was my GG grandmothers vase, my kids early drawings, some of my daughters diving medals and a few souvenirs from our many travels. Most of the photographs I left behind, except for some of the older pictures, thinking that so much was online, that I could easily make re-prints if need be.

And so my car sits in the driveway packed and ready to go should we need to. I doubt that it will happen but with such a fast moving fire and such high winds I decided that it was better to be prepared than not.

Please pray or send positive vibes for those in harms way of this very dangerous fire. The fire is still a long way from us but it is burning so many others out of their homes in the mountains.

(Picture from my house)

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Update- It is now 2 p.m. and the fire has exploded to 17,000 acres