Transforming through Fire


The call came just as we were enjoying Vail’s beautiful scenery from the yummy location of one of its fine restaurants. As we marveled at big dark clouds building, the first we had seen in weeks of drought, the Maitre d’ came to us and said, “Your daughter just called. You need to call her right away.” When I did, she breathlessly told me that she had seen lightning strike in the forest just above our house, and now she could see flames. She had called 911, turned on the irrigation and was finding the animals.

“We’re on our way, Haley,” I reassured her. “Take a deep breath…and I will too.” And we flew to our car for a very tense, fearful 20 minute drive home.

We arrived at the same time the air tankers did, dropping their clouds of red retardant on the fast-growing fire. It was time to evacuate. We grabbed the animals and important papers. Haley had considerately packed a bag for both Mark and me – and later I could see by the contents that she had been as baffled by what to take as I was. There was a strapless bra (worn one time six years ago), my bathing suit – don’t evacuate without one! – and some other odds and ends.

As we scurried to load the cars with what we wanted to save from the fire, I answered a stream of phone calls from generous, loving friends offering help, shelter, whatever we needed. I found that aside from some photo albums, our fire safe, and a few items from my altar, there wasn’t much else that I really, deeply cared about. A beautiful pot my eldest daughter, Meadow, had thrown in high school, some of Haley’s paintings, a spoon my brother hand carved out of luscious cherrywood.
“Really, Susie? A spoon?” I found myself saying as I stood in the living room, holding the spoon and turning in circles, taking in all the contents of the room, the contents and memories of my life.
“Yeah, really,” I said aloud. “It’s all just Stuff. I can live without things. I have every Thing I need in my family and within myself. Whatever happens I can find within me all that I need to rebuild my life.”

I gave all the Stuff a big thank you for surrounding me with joy and pleasure. I offered a huge loving farewell to the log home that I helped build with my own hands. “You have served us well and I love you. If this is the end of that service, I thank you for the safety, love, shelter and protection you have provided.” Then I turned and calmly walked out.

We were lucky. The efforts of many firefighters got the fire under control and our home was never gravely threatened. And, after having released my possessions, I began a purge of closets, drawers, and attic, which continues today.

Fire is the element of transformation. And it transformed our fear into confidence. We realized that what is really important is the strength we hold within our beings, and of course, each other.

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