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.



  1. 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!

    • 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…

  2. 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).

    • 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

  3. 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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