At about 12:30 p.m. today, I received a voicemail recording via Alert Orange County from the City of Anaheim’s Fire Department warning of a mandatory evacuation of East Anaheim. I have never had such a call until now and it explained why the sky was so smokey brown, even in Huntington. All across California fires are raging. My social media news feed has shown posting after posting of fire damage in Napa and Sonoma’s wine country as well as Anaheim.
According to the LA Times, more than 14 fires across eight counties has destroyed more than 1,500 buildings and structures with one death reported. This is among the worst in California’s history. Combine that with the reported 1,000 homes that evacuated in the Anaheim Hills, which has seen 2,500 acres destroyed as of 3 p.m. and still blazing.
This is now hitting home on two fronts. Major fires in both Northern and Southern California rage as people affected leave their tangible belongings behind to lose to a force out of their control.
One of my favorite places to visit are wineries in Northern California. It was a weekend pastime for 16 years when I lived in the Bay Area. The pain of my friends, who live there and nearby, is visceral in their distraught messages claiming that Napa will never be the same again. For those who have lost their homes, businesses and place of employment, these fires will imprint on their future lives. For those who are merely watching it all unfold on the news or through stories shared, I want to say, “This is happening, but it’s not happening to you. It’s not your pain to feel.”
Life is not permanent. Everything changes. The catalysts for change can be self-imposed or universe-imposed. The latter, while some may feel is unfair, is necessary to force growth. Every low has an equal high, as is the ebb and flow of this journey. Who are we to say that we know better in our limited minds and experiences, which are only a blip in the yarn of all time? What matters is whether the fire that burns within you is stronger than the fire that burns outside of you.
Through destruction we can recreate our lives in ways that would never have been possible through the lens of complacency. If things did not change, if death and destruction were non-existent, we would not learn, age, fall in love, create families, build businesses, or experience anything new. Creation and destruction are two sides to the same coin.
Some plant life cannot grow without fire. For many years, forest rangers tried to stop fires from burning in the mountains only to find that it’s the only way to allow redwood saplings to grow. Now they have controlled burns.
I’m sure you remember 9/11 and in the aftermath, most said that New York would never be the same again. That the holes where the twin towers once stood would be a scar forever. Now, with the rebuild of the new World Trade Center, they are quite literally beacons of light.
They are beautiful works of art, much more so than their original architecture. Now when people visit them, they feel compassion, love and empathy whereas before it was merely business as usual. The strangers standing next to you visiting the memorial are no longer strangers. There is unification in that memory and because of that tragedy, much was built, people were moved to do and be more than they were prior to, and the whole country came together.
How will you choose to see these fires? How will you learn from them? How will you grow in your compassion and caring for others? How will you view all the blessings you have in your life that are taken for granted? How will you open your hearts and homes to those in need?
Will you take this opportunity to see where past symbolic fires in your life have brought you some of your greatest joys?
Let’s take time to reflect on how we will use this destruction to create something bigger, something more than we are on our own.