Things I Lost In The Fire

Image

Things I Lost In the Fire

“So that’s how we live our lives. No matter how deep and fatal the loss, no matter how important the thing that’s stolen from us–that’s snatched right out of our hands–even if we are left completely changed, with only the outer layer of skin from before, we continue to play out our lives this way, in silence” Haruki Murukami. 

When I was a teenager my house burned down in an electrical fire. It was a controlled fire by most standards and we didn’t lose everything.  We moved to the top floor of an apartment building and a few years later during a bad storm, it was hit by lightning. Another fire. 

I never thought about how it affected me. No one was home during the first one and I was away at grad school for the second. I hadn’t lost my room in the first fire. Most of my things were on the roof and covered in soot and ash. It took a long time to get that smell out. 

 I happened to sit next to a woman in a restaurant who had just lost her house in the Malibu fire and was still in shock.  She was telling me about her lost photos. I remembered that I kept my albums and photos in fireproof boxes in a downstairs closet close to a door. They could be dumped in a nearby garbage can and rolled away quickly. I’m not normally that organized. I realized as I spoke to her that I have always lived my adult life with the knowledge that things can be lost instantaneously. 

We all process events differently. What I remember most about the first fire is the dream. The night before I had a very vivid dream that I was walking in debris in my new shoes. I kept wondering why I had worn the shoes. There was a hole in the right shoe from the debris. The next morning I got up and put the new shoes on with trepidation, wondering if I should wear them. Hours later I was walking in what was left of the downstairs and looked down at the wet burned wood  and there was the hole in the right shoe. I never really processed anything but the fact that I had a premonition about it.    

 I thought at the time  that it was just stuff. Kids don’t think a lot about memories.  I  listened to the woman tell me about her lost mementos.  I understand now why I saved every toy and all my children’s schoolwork from birth through high school. I didn’t have anything like that from my own childhood after two fires.  

 She started talking about her books.  Every once in a while throughout my life, I remember a book that I am sure I have. I don’t have it because that library was gone. I think this is what happens after a fire. You don’t remember everything you lost all at once.

Our homes should be places of safety.  Because so many strong memories are formed in our homes, they are very special places to us. House fires can never take those memories away but we lose the feeling of safety which is more of a loss than the stuff. I never dwelt on why this happened to my family twice. We just stayed in the moment and did things one step at a time. Life is busy after a fire and not always in a good way. The best thing is not to stay in the past. It was strange to look back and reflect on that time in my life. I know that this woman, her family and the people who were affected by the California wildfires will get through it also.

Fly safe,

JAZ 

Advertisements

How Travel Changed My View Of The World

How Travel Changed My View Of The World

We should come home from adventures, and perils, and discoveries every day with new experience and character” – Henry David Thoreau

The world news catches my attention in a way it has not before I started traveling.
Meeting someone from another country changes you. You gain entirely new perspectives on the world from the conversations you have and the meals you share. You realize what you see in the news is not reality and friendships can be formed in all corners of the globe.

I learned very quickly that humans aren’t so different. We have a family we love and jobs to go to during the day. People are generally good to each other no matter their backgrounds. We all want to be safe, happy, work, do what we love and be loved. While we go about it differently, we are all after the same things in life. Negative stereotypes disappear when people are exposed to new cultures and places.

I have learned that relative wealth—the wealth we have in the West in the form of opportunities and a government that generally provides basic services and support—does not isolate us from similar common human experiences. Though I have never gone hungry or wondered about my next meal, I do understand loss.

Even amidst poverty, I always feel a commonality of shared experiences—a desire within a person to better themselves, or perhaps a parent working day and night in the hope of a better life for their child. The circumstances of people I have met while traveling are often so seemingly different from mine, but yet underneath, deep within the travel experience were common themes. I found common hopes and common fears within each person’s story. Witnessing this, hearing the stories and feeling the kindness all over the world, has broadened my sense of self, and my understanding of the threads of connection that bind us all.

Fly safe,

JAZ