Photo credit: http://heavy.com/news/2017/10/santa-rosa-fire-missing-names-photos-california/
Five years ago we took our sons to see Alaska. The Final Frontier. We flew from our home in Brisbane to San Francisco then boarded a small cruise ship for a ten-day round trip hugging the Canadian Pacific coast. We travelled the famed Inside Passage from Vancouver Island in the south to Skagway and Glacier Bay in the north. It was a wonderful holiday; verdant, spectacular scenery and plentiful wildlife abounded, and the improbable, piercing blue of the four thousand-year old glaciers will stay with me always. But my fondest memory of that trip? The friendship we forged with the beautiful family we found ourselves seated with at dinner. From the stunning Sonoma Vallery wine region in northern California, our new friends had two teenage sons, just like us. For ten days we got to know these good people, marvelling at how our lives could be so similar and yet, so different. We dissected the ins and outs of our respective education systems, our economies, our health insurance and retirement savings schemes. The cost of a university education and of a good bottle of red – something for which we all had a great affection! Five and a half years later and we are now, thanks to the joys of Facebook, firm friends with these sweet, good people; privy to many joyous and, recently, heartbreaking moments in each other’s lives.
Our dear friends have been held in my mind and in my heart recently. Their beautiful home, on the western fringes of Santa Rosa in premium NoCal wine country, has been assaulted for the last ten days by a violent, terrifying and deadly firestorm menacing them on three fronts. 41 people are confirmed dead to date, 20,000+ structures have burned to the ground and 160,000 acres have been ravaged. Our friends have twice, under instruction from fire authorities, evacuated their home in the dead of night, only to be permitted to return to their smouldering street days later. Neighbours all around them have lost literally everything they possess, and valued community infrastructure including schools and hospitals has been lost to the voracious flames. Our friends and their families are all safe. Their home is, miraculously, unscathed.
I know what it is to fear for your life in an uncontrolled firestorm. Fourteen years ago, our family was caught in the deadly Canberra bushfires of 2003. We lived, with our pre-school children, at the extreme western fringe of habitation in the ACT. Our garden, in a newish estate, literally backed onto the national park. There was only one road in and out. The fire had screamed down the mountain (“screamed” is the right word; oh, the noise! It shall haunt my nightmares forever), jumped the Murrumbidgee and was racing towards the parched, droughted grasslands behind us. We knew we had to leave while we still could. We had perhaps an hour to evacuate. Sixty minutes in which to decide which of the many possessions in our big house were most important to us. But here’s the thing. When it came down to it; when our house and possibly our lives were on the line; when I was staring into the void of my empty car boot, nothing mattered. Literally, nothing at all. I had two small kids and a big car. I took baby food, nappies and our file of important documents. In the rational moments when I could have filled my car to the gunwales with the accoutrements of our life together in that beautiful home, I took … nothing. I had my children, and my husband was safe. It was a defining moment in my life.
Yesterday, Joshua Becker of blog Becoming Minimalist, received an email from a follower. It says:
“I’ve been following your blog for a couple of years … and have been on the road to reducing my belongings.
Last Monday I became a minimalist without even trying. The Tubbs Fire in Santa Rosa came through my neighborhood, destroying everything in its path, including our house and all of our belongings. We came away with our dogs, the clothes we were wearing, our cars, and a few things I had with me.
I want your readers to know this: When it’s all gone you won’t remember it. There are very few things I want to try to recover when we are allowed back in – just about three very sentimental jewelry items. Everything else is just STUFF.
But in the process, the blessings have almost outweighed the losses. We have friends all over praying for us. Another friend who is a bartender donated her tips for one of her shifts to us, to the tune of over $300. Our church building, which was right in the middle of the destruction zone, escaped unscathed and is now being used to bless the first responders and National Guard who are protecting our property.
I have learned that home is not a building. It is where my people are. We are staying with my sister. There are four adults and four dogs, and we are having such a wonderful time.
I have no plans to replace everything. We will rebuild our house and make it a home once again. And it will be a home that belongs to everyone.
Just wanted to share.”
Home is not a building. It is where my people are. Remember that, and let your life be built on this truth.
For Kathy and Warren, who know what home means.