One year after the October 2017 Northern California Wildfires, we celebrate our recovery. Next week is the anniversary, October 9th. Here are a few photos of our rebuilding stages, our house that was dead center in the middle of it all.
For all but two weeks of this past year we did not live at home, because we had no electricity or water. We lived instead in vacation rentals and apartments, sometimes a friends’ house or rental unit–eight different places, four different counties. With 90,000 evacuees, there was a housing shortage.
We visited our house frequently, met with the contractor and sub-contractors, and tended to the physical repairs. Filled the bird feeders. The house had not been consumed by the fires; just damaged. We lost our storage building filled with clothes, tools, and keepsakes; a guest cottage, and the forest.
With 8,900 structures lost in the firestorms, repair work was slow, and often shoddy.
Chainsaws and chippers are a common sight.
People suffer all the time–earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, school shootings, cancer, war, assault. Some of it from natural disasters, some of it from hateful activity.
In the midst of the chaos and disaster in this past year, what I found was far more love than hate.
Sometimes the gifts were obvious, like a friend buying us dinner, or letting us stay in their home, or family coming across the country to help. Other times the gifts were less obvious, like a simple smile, or someone just listening to my aching heart. Phone calls, emails, texts, cards, packages, songs, meals. So many WordPress friends who sent messages, remembered, extended kindness.
People ask, what do I need to know about insuring my home in case this ever happens to me? There are many answers I can give. Inventories, tasks, insurance policies. But what is the real answer, what do we really need to recover from something like this?
Love and kindness.
But what about when the insurance adjustor was unreasonable and hammering, what then? She lied, she denied, she fought, made “mistakes” in their favor to the tune of $45,000.00. Do I give her love and kindness?
No. In that case, I gave myself love and kindness–usually by going to a movie, or reading, sometimes the French bakery. Sometimes I just laid down and cried. My partner and I, my wife, we walked a lot, walked in the winter fog and counted cormorants.
Today is a windy day, and it’s the first week in a year that I am back at my own desk. The dead trees outside my window, I notice for the first time, don’t bend and sway in the wind. They are stiff, and rattle. A raven rides the thermals. A finch landed in a dead tree, apparently content with stiffness.
We all go on. The lucky ones, the survivors, we go on. We learn, we suffer, we hope.
And we give a hand, or lend an ear, and we help each other.
What have I really learned? Not to ever underestimate the power of love and kindness.
Written by Jet Eliot.
Photos by Athena Alexander.