Winter Hours: Closed for Season
Tara Schram | Cressman Road, Pine Ridge
It was Friday afternoon and we had heard about a fire, but had no concern as it seemed to us that it would be put out well before it reached Cressman Road, after all it was pretty far away, nothing to be too concerned about. By Saturday night my husband and I would take turns sleeping while the other stayed awake, checking for updates and assessing the increasing smell of smoke that we were experiencing.
On Sunday morning as I opened my front door, I could not see my parent’s house through the smoke. This house was so close to mine that I could usually stand at my front door and talk to my parents as they were standing at their front door.
My husband’s older kids were visiting for the weekend so we got them calmed, packed and on the road assuring them that everything would be ok and to head back to the coast. Then we began packing kids, dogs, helping my parents to also pack up, we got a very few things from the house and caravanned out in 3 cars between us.
In the first hotel that we evacuated to, every time someone got on the elevator we could smell smoke from all of the clothes and hair that were soaked in smoke from the many of us who had fled down from the mountain.
My good friend from the coast came to pick up our 8 and 12 year old sons to get them away from the chaos as we started figured out what was going on. Just as she arrived at the hotel we received a picture of the house. I could not process what I was seeing because our home and everything we had was reduced to a very small pile of ash, it didn’t make sense to me. I was trying to picture how this picture could be our house. I tried to compose myself so that the kids wouldn’t know yet, we wanted them to go with their friends to have a good time and a little distraction. We kissed them, said good bye and then I went and knocked on my parent’s hotel room door to let them know that everything was gone, everything. My mom’s confusion and shock were also almost too much and I definitely felt that I could not help her at all, I was a little stunned myself. I wanted to tell her that everything would be ok but the place that she and my dad had poured everything into so that they could retire there, after raising 17 kids and giving their lives to others – this place meant to be their peace for the remainder of their lives … it was gone, all of it. We got through that conversation and the moment of shock and then it was straight to the business of sorting things out, first of all, where were we going next when we had to leave this hotel…
And so began the journey to rebuild, restore and redeem. We would move 9 times before we got back to our property. During that time and since we have never felt closer to neighbors, had more faith restored in human kindness or truly grasped the value of relationships and people as opposed to “things”.
I was reflecting recently and this is what came to my mind:
Goat racing, scratching the pigs with sticks through the fence, feeding the chickens, walking down the dirt road with my mom who said “If I could give you a pill that would keep you this age forever, would you take it?” These are some of things that I remember growing up. It was warm, safe, comforting and beautiful.
I made a choice, I married a man who was unwilling or unable to see me, partner with me, or be kind to me. So when I walked out of that I was amazed to find that through the pain, God brought restoration and something better than I could have imagined. And now I am surrounded with boys, young men, a husband who adores, loves and takes care of me.
Alcohol – fun, exciting, empowering, boring, tiring, defeating, destruction … walking through the darkest days, the ugliest of myself and then out of that into light – again imagine my surprise that through pain God birthed growth, insight, responsibility, humility, new life, a better life.
Losing a pregnancy that I had so desperately wanted – devastation and depression. Again, here comes renewal, rebirth, and new life. By surrendering to the pain, being open to the future, trusting … I found more of myself – my true self- the strong, confident, generous person that was hiding behind self-pity, shame and anger.
A few life experiences that prepared me for the Creek Fire and what total devastation that was. Pack the car, the kids, the dogs, the parents while coughing through thick smoke and hope that “it won’t make it this far, right?” Within two days we were not only told that everything was gone, everything – but sent a picture of a small pile of ash which was what was left of not only all of our “stuff” but our comfort, safety, warmth, place of memory making.
I can tell you with honesty that at this point my inclination was that, once again, there must be something better on the other side. But walking through the valley – the fear – the pain – the loss – the explaining to our kids, little hearts and faces with no control of what was going on, that was not easy.
But here I am again on the other side of it. I’m transported back to walking that dirt road with my mom. It’s warm, safe, comforting and beautiful. Our landscape has changed, our dwelling is different but not worse, not lost, just different. The friendships gained and built upon, the understanding of what is truly important, the pulling together of community, the character building in my own kids, the witnessing of new growth and new life coming up from the earth on a canvas of black and mirroring something similar within my heart … I can’t think of a better picture of “beauty from ashes” and when you boil it all down, strip away all of the layers of emotions, planning, logistics that come with walking through a chaotic and devastating thing such as this wildfire – this is what I get… this is what I see “beauty from ashes” and I feel gratitude.