Sunday, September 6, 2009

Priorities and Gratitude Discovered between the Flames and the Falling Ashes

The loud blaring noise of the water-dropping helicopters was comforting

The Angry Fire

Sadness of frightened wildlife, displaced from their natural habitat

It was just nine and a half months ago that I wrote about the gratitude, which victims had discovered, after their devastating loss from the Sylmar fire. That was the last time I wrote in this blog. Now, today, even more so than last November, I have a much deeper appreciation for the blessings in my life. The compassion, I had for those who lost so much last year, has grown.

Just one week ago, our neighborhood was under a mandatory evacuation order, due to the Station Fire. I was driving home from a hair appointment about eight miles away, when I received a call that we were being evacuated. As I got closer to our home, the smoke thickened, flames flared up and ashes fell like rain. My only thought was to get home quickly to rescue my dog and the mounds of old family photos. Suddenly, nothing else mattered.

In a moment of panic, I realized what was really important. A house-full of "stuff", the material possessions on which we place way too much value, suddenly were not the treasures we had thought they were.

It was an eerie feeling when I arrived home to find the neighbors loading their cars, my husband loading up his car - with mostly photos. A neighbor was inside, helping to remove the photos in frames that hung on the walls. The dog was anxiously pacing in the backyard, as the turmoil continued. It was quite apparent he felt our anxiety.

Our cars were all packed up and ready to go............... BUT, my husband didn't want to leave. We were ready, if the fire came any closer. I wanted to go, but I couldn't abandon the man I love. A few other neighbors remained behind, too.

For three days, we walked up and down our street, to the end of the cul de sac and back again - taking pictures and videos - talking to neighbors - watering the house - then back inside to see the latest news on TV, sometimes forgetting to eat and being unable to sleep. It's frightening to see your own neighborhood, with flames on the hillside flaring up on the TV newscast - not just any news either - it was always "Breaking News". And, it's even more frightening to be standing outside of your home to see those flames and feel the heat generated from them.

Last Saturday - the first day of evacuation - never having experienced anything like this before, I grabbed LOTS of old photos, some clothes, toiletries, dog food - and just threw it all haphazardly in heaps inside the car. What a mess. I thought, "Would I ever find what I needed after we left?"

Early Sunday morning, Murray (the dog) and I took a walk. Even with the high temperatures of the heat, there was a "chill" in the air - an eerie atmosphere. It was before the water-dropping helicopters began for the day. Our neighborhood is normally quiet, except for the occasional car driving by. However, on this morning, there were NO cars on the streets - no birds singing. The QUIET was so abnormally loud. It was strangely comforting when the helicopters began their daily routine.

Murray and I walked to the corner, and came face-to-face with three frightened baby deer. A sadness came over me, as I thought about the wild animals who've been displaced and driven out of their mountains by the fire and smoke.

Although it was still scary on Sunday morning, I removed many of the items from the car, organized it and re-packed it in a more orderly fashion. The longer we stayed, the more treasures I found to add to the car. With all the photos being priority, how could I have forgotten our wedding albums? Jewelry?

But, the area inside the cars reached capacity. It was then I realized what's REALLY important.

Excess clothes in the closet, extra shoes, collectibles, baseball cards, old toys, my old children's books from the 1950's, other sentimental items - no longer was any of this "stuff" the treasure we had cherished in the illusions of our minds. Surprisingly, reality set in. And, in reality, it's just simply "stuff".

Something I've learned to focus on, and believe in my heart ~ ~

There is ALWAYS something for which to be grateful - even in the midst of the crap and challenges of life.

Fleeting thoughts that passed through my mind, as we experienced last week's wildfire ~~

1. Gratitude for having donated many usable items to charity only one week earlier.

2. Gratitude for a disaster bringing neighbors together; for getting to know neighbors down the street, to whom I've never or rarely talked. We have some awesome neighbors on our street! I'm grateful to now know them.

3. Gratitude for the awareness of what is really valuable to me.

4. Gratitude for finally looking through the numerous old family photos, instead of allowing them to remain hidden and packed away. What's the point of having a treasure, if it cannot be enjoyed?

5. Gratitude for the peace and serenity of our neighborhood, which appears to be back to "normal" - unless, of course, your eyes happen to gaze upon the burnt charred mountains in the background, or you detect the faint traces of lingering smoke.

And, most of all, I am grateful for the firefighters, who worked so very hard to prevent any structure loss and to help keep our neighborhood safe; and who are still fighting this same fire in other areas, as it's only 49% contained.

The firefighters are amazing! To see them in action is unbelievable.

Although it's understood that they are our heroes............. it's much more apparent now, to me. I've always respected them, but now I have a whole new increased respect and appreciation for our heroes.

THANK YOU TO ALL THE FIREFIGHTERS - EVERYWHERE! Your hard work is greatly appreciated!


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