What you lose in a fire are your links to the past…

We had word last night that the wildfire in California had swept through my eldest brother’s place in the Sierras. The extent of the damage isn’t known right now because the battle against the fire goes on. What I can tell you is the land there is some of the most beautiful in the world; rolling hills covered in spreading oak trees, sparkling streams, bright blue above by day — and at night the stars in the midnight sky glimmering so close you reach your hands up to feel the universe streaming above you.

The practical aspect of the property is that, beside the house, my brother and sister-in-law have built a business there, so there is the residence in jeopardy and also two buildings where they do precision technical sewing (within specifications of a thousandth of an inch) to make arms for robots, pieces of rocket ships, cooling-suits for people with medical conditions, and probes that explore the bottom of the ocean.

Beyond that, in the residence you will find the books that contain the copper-plate inscriptions of my grand-parents and two life-times later the five year-old scrawl of yours truly. There’s a pile of postcards my attorney grandfather wrote to my grandmother everyday from downtown Chicago, a camera of my father’s, paintings by my mother. There’s the table and chairs where the family gathers for every meal, and have done for many generations. Or there might be, I don’t know at this point…

What I do know is most important; that the legacy of the past goes on in the lives of those who escaped the fire, and right now that appears to be everybody. Godspeed to the firefighters, and to all in the fire’s path.


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  1. September 14, 2015

    Oh lordy. Am keeping all fingers crossed that you and your family’s past is not lost. xx

    • September 22, 2015

      It was close, but nothing was lost!

  2. September 14, 2015

    Thinking of you all, with relief and hope . . .

    • September 22, 2015

      My brother returned to the property a couple of days ago, I am so relieved to be able to say that. xox, V

  3. September 14, 2015

    Your family is our family. You are all in our prayers. Stay safe.

    • September 22, 2015

      Thank you so much. My brothers are both safe at home now, prayers answered.

  4. rschulenberg
    September 14, 2015

    Up until the time I read this I had no knowledge of a connection to this inferno, only sadness for those involved. This really has brought it home to me! Whether it’s a flood, avalanche or fire, what irreplaceable possessions can one save? Fervently and full of hope, I’m praying that all of this (and so many others) are saved!

    • September 22, 2015

      The property squeaked by, half a mile away in one direction is burned desolation, and in the other direction the California we love. Huge hugs, V

  5. September 14, 2015

    Good luck to them. This is awful.

    • September 22, 2015

      The fire is 80% contained now, and their properties spared — but it is sad to note that 901 homes and buildings were destroyed, and 42 damaged.

    • September 22, 2015

      Somewhere in all this I developed some tummy problems, the doctor asked if I were under any stress and I blithely said “no,” but now that I know the place is spared and all are back home it’s suddenly cleared up, hm…

  6. September 15, 2015

    Unbearable, I feel like screaming for you, but the very way you write about the family and the natural landscape you love proves that character, passion, loyalty, vision will prevail. Love from England, (where climate change is having less devastating but still visibly detrimental effect on weather, countryside – “seasons” don’t happen, floods are regular – something beautiful has gone).

    • September 22, 2015

      Nerve-racking, I have to admit. Just a few of days ago the evacuation order was lifted. The place is still there, and the fire stopped only half a mile down the road. I owe you an email. xox, V

  7. rschulenberg
    September 22, 2015

    I wonder if now they are thinking about ways of storing irreplaceables somewhere where they wouldn’t be as vulnerable? Maybe Burbank?
    I hope I’m not courting disaster by saying that living here, I’m at least away from wild fires! What other unfortunate events there might be are to be seen! There’s alwaysThe Drought!

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