I had just returned from an intensive, productive business trip, delivering training in Istanbul, Turkey. The return home, though a short plane ride took more than 10 hours. I was exhausted.
I got up after just 3 hours of sleep to see the kids and send them off to school.
The morning started beautifully. My favorite outing, breakfast in a local coffee shop, I sat beside the window and the sun warmed my back as we shared the weekend experiences, plans and updates. An intimate meeting in love and appreciation, the calm before the storm.
I needed to catch up on my sleep and got into bed late morning. I heard that there was a fire…and I could smell it but assumed, as we do, that it was far away.
I tried to relax but the smell of burning was too strong…it started to catch in my throat. I opened the blinds to see the billowing smoke just as my phone started to ring with notices of the school being evacuated.
I didn’t even take my purse. Yelled at my boy, get your shoes, we have to leave. Grabbed the dog and the car keys and opened the front door to a wall of heat. Could barely see the car outside the house and stumbled out towards the school and the boy that was supposed to be there.
They didn’t know where he was. I headed back towards the fire to look for him. Trees, gardens and houses were burning all around me. This is what I imagine hell to look like. You can’t see, you can’t breathe, and you don’t want to think.
There was this intense focus. Just find the child. Just get out. Run for your life but do whatever you need to to find the child.
I realized that he couldn’t possibly be there. Drove back to the school and finally discovered that he had gone with a friend. He was safe.
I collected the other boys – we all needed to be together. And we had nowhere to go.
I explained that we could lose our home. It’s okay. We are safe.
My love promised me that he would leave the car running as he went from house to house turning off the gas, turning on water hoses where he could, spraying down the tress and plants and piles of wood that surrounded our house and others.
We were incredibly lucky. Houses around us were destroyed. Acres of woodlands flattened and yet no-one was hurt and our house remained intact.
Last weekend many of you, on the other side of the world, celebrated Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that I’ve always loved yet never really celebrated.
This year I did. Not by shopping or eating turkey. But by coming home to my house still standing, and cleaning and baking and cleaning some more – anything to get rid of the smell of burning.
I celebrated with profound gratitude the fact that no-one had been hurt, knowing the earth will renew and the properties and stuff will be replaced. That many will mourn their loss and yet we all remain.
Over the last 8 years, I have written a story every week and sent out my storyzine with only one exception – the week my dog died 4 years ago and I was simply heartbroken.
This is the second time in all those years that I didn’t send out a story.
My heart is not broken this time, in fact, I think it’s strengthened. By the miracle I witnessed and the beauty of a community almost broken and yet coming together with kindness and support and so much love.
You see, the police reported a few days later that it was politically motivated arson. It’s so easy to turn to hatred and thoughts of revenge. And yet I know this to be the opposite of our nature…and when I say ‘our’, I mean the nature of ALL people. And the one thing I know to be true is that there is only one way forward, it the path of peace.
The night we returned home, there was a knock on the door. Two children, with their mother in tow, from the other side of town (where the fire didn’t hit). Going from door to door around the neighborhood wherever people had come home, with a huge pot of soup and disposable cups – giving us what they could – food, warmth and love.
A coffee-shop friend, one of the other entrepreneurs who shares the space that I work in called me that night – are you okay? do you need a place to stay? where are you?
The friend from the Arab village across the valley who opened up his home for us – anytime he said, there is lots of space. And the medic from the Arab village nearly an hour away who heard of the fires and packed his bag to make his own way over to us – he said he knew people would be hurt and maybe he could help.
I refuse to be fearful.
I deny the path of anger, hatred and revenge.
Love is the only way.
It can be our only truth. And yes, the path may be hard and painful. But my hope and belief was not burned.
This morning I took my usual morning walk with my dog. Everything is scorched. There are no more rolling hills, tress and flowers filled with that rich green that I love so much. It’s a stark landscape of black and grey, still warm to walk through, making my nose itch and my skin dry.
This morning I saw such beauty in the starkness – like a canvas waiting to be painted, a new story waiting to be told.
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