Two years. Weird, that it seems more like ten years now – of course, 2020 has been ten years long, right?—but then, when I reflect on “that day” it comes back like it just happened. Weird.
It was – about now, 3 p.m.— that I finally arrived in Chico from Paradise. It was a three and a half hour drive that normally takes twenty minutes, but I wasn’t alone on the road that day. I drove to the home of a wonderful friend who invited the entire family – four adults and four dogs—to stay at her cozy little home while we were evacuated. We thought it would be a couple of days at the most. It turned out to be three months. This was no typical “evacuation” – this was the day of the Camp Fire, and before the day was over, our entire town was decimated.
How do I feel today? First, so grateful.
Grateful that we all got out safely. Grateful that, somehow, our home survived, too, though most of the homes around us burned to the ground. Grateful to our extraordinarily generous friend Rachel, who more than just took us in; she made us feel welcomed and loved and never once burdensome, though we invaded her space for much longer than any of us had imagined.
Sad. Remembering our town the way it was “before” is what makes it feel like it happened much longer ago. Friends, family, businesses that have not returned. Routines that will never be the same.
Scarred. Now, when there is smoke in the air, or reports of fires nearby, or when a landmark or building or sign is no longer where it once was …. suddenly there are feelings and tears, anxieties and worries that weren’t a part of our reactions, “before.”
And – but – also, hopeful. Progress is being made. People, families, businesses are returning, ever so slowly (especially now because of the pandemic), but life is beginning to sprout on “the ridge” like the daffodils that came, almost too soon after the fire, to remind us that nature continues, growth occurs even after what seems like total devastation, and we must move forward, too.
It is good, and right, to remember this day. But I remember with a combination of feelings too complicated to truly explain, synthesized into what feels like growth, for me, for all of us, as we continue this journey of life. And so my overriding feeling is hope, mixed with gratitude.