Thursday, December 6, 2018

What would you take with you?

Last week I had a good chat with my friend Allie, who used to live in Paradise, California until four weeks ago today. She told me that everything but her fireplace and a trio of white cast iron table and chairs were gone, the patio furniture with not a mark on them! Everything else burned to the ground in such intense fire that when she and her husband finally were able to go back last week to see if there was anything to salvage, the few things they tried to pick up crumbled in their fingers. More than heartbreaking.

It seems Paradise had a close call with fire a while back, so Allie attended a fire preparedness workshop to learn how to be ready in case it should happen again. Then she came home and went around her house, seeing the small but treasured things that she didn't want to lose in a fire, something she strongly recommends that we all do. She also collected important documents and took pictures of her family's belongings, to keep them on a memory stick. Everything important went into a couple of bins that she stored in a handy place so that if she needed to evacuate in a hurry, she was ready.

Unfortunately, the fire came more quickly than anyone realized, and for Allie, the most immediate concern was collecting her four dogs and picking her elderly mom up from the local nursing home. The bins had to wait, and by the time Allie turned toward home for the bins, the roads out of Paradise were gridlocked, and there was no way to get back into her neighbourhood for them.

All of it is a huge loss, but Allie's the kind of person who puts a positive spin on life. She mentioned that she and her family have a fresh start, unencumbered by the collected things that they didn't really use or need. They are starting over with a mind to live more simply and sustainably. But every day she remembers something that she wishes she could see or touch just one more time. She misses her neighbours, who have scattered all over the area. And she's not sure if her family will be able to rebuild on their property until the soil is tested for toxicity. In spite of many challenges, Allie's still counting her blessings, the lives of her loved ones in the main, and the friends and family who have been supporting her through this crisis. Her heart is still intact because she treasures the really important things in life.

After my conversation with Allie, I looked around my own environs, wondering what I should put into a treasured objects bin. What's really important? I don't have a lot that I can't live without, and my head is full of memories that may or may not fade with time. I think I'd want a few photo albums, and maybe a journal or two. Personal ID and certain documents are important... and maybe favourite pieces of art by my kids? It's hard to know what I would really miss, but it's worth thinking about. In the end, of course, it's not so much the things as the relationships that are really valuable. And so my tangible treasures might be a few items from dear ones who are no longer here, baby pictures, and music that's gone out of print...

What would you not want to be parted from? And do you have an evacuation plan? You just never know when you might need one.

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