Watching the news, looking at maps, reaching out to neighbors, keeping a pulse on the communal experience of being evacuated…
Typically, when the course of life brings difficulty and suffering, it is fairly limited in experience – an internal struggle moving outwards or a finite external struggle moving inwards. Something that you talk with your close friend about, seek guidance or counsel about as you learn, grow, integrate – hopefully towards health. We all know that life, like the ocean, ebbs and flows. There are joyous “easy” times on the mountaintops where the soul soars and there are times in the valleys where darkness does not allow you to see the journey and joy is a chore. It is in these latter times that our inner self is exposed. The valleys are when we come to the end of ourselves and reach for the Divine.
Every morning at 7am, we watch the morning CalFire briefing, ears pricking at mention of the areas that are as dear and familiar to us as the back of our hands. Then we move on into this temporary routine we have created in a 21′ trailer on my brother’s property. With our 5 children and one on the way, we seek to create normalcy in a strange place. We attempt to be the stability that children need to feel secure while being honest with them about the fear and grief and sadness that we are constantly feeling. They have their own griefs – a favorite toy left behind, a book from their aunt, wishing they could sleep in their own beds, desiring to climb into their tree fort and daydream in the “old way”. My 10-year-old just wants to bake in our own kitchen.
I am not, by default, a very emotional person. I think before I feel. But in this time of evacuation, I find that emotions are taking me by surprise in any quiet moment. I think of our backpacking trips to Homer Lake and tears of joy and sadness leap into my eyes as I remember the crawdads jumping out of the water to the great delight of my children, who quickly popped ’em into the boiling water for supper. I think of our regular trips to Lassen Park, where my kids have logged over 100 miles of hiking. I think of the babies that I have delivered all over – from Mill Creek to Greenville to Indian Falls to Susanville and everything in between. Homes that were made sacred by bringing new life into them are now burning or gone or under threat. These flames bring waves of disbelief, grief, sadness, and a deep sense of irreplaceable loss.
When we were preparing for evacuation, I looked at my beloved home and there was so little that I wanted to take. But I think of the mountains that I grew up in behind Clear Creek and the woods where my kids create their pretend worlds and I am shattered. Helplessly, I wait to hear whether they will stand or be burned. Waiting, still waiting. How much more will be lost, will my home stand, will my 19 acres of old growth wilderness burn…..? And here, in this valley, I hear ancient words chanting through my soul to be at peace, to trust without knowing the future, to BE. So, I take a lot of deep breaths. I attend to my children with their own sorrows and joys. I raise a song of gratitude that a new life is growing inside of me in the midst of the chaos, not despite it. I have attended around 600 women in childbirth and gone through natural labor myself 5 times now, and I can resolutely say that joy comes in the morning, made all the sweeter by the struggle of the night. I try to hold on to the courage I have learned from childbearing.
So, in the struggle which is real and near and difficult, I pray for our communities. I pray for those who have lost everything and those who are living in fear of losing everything. I pray for peace and growth in the midst of the valley. And I pray for the storm to be calmed.