Remembering a disastrous fire.

Oct 25, my brother John, who’s an avid explorer, sent a note with several photos, from the former Paradise.  Here are his notes, followed by a few comments.

“…. California, that is

Two years after the big burn that pretty much wiped out this town of several thousand that was nestled in the pines in the foothills.

A local artist took advantage of a burned out big tree to craft this carved Phoenix rising – maybe someday it will. But not for now the hillside behind shows the devastation of the fire. 

Previous downtown area is  about 90% burned out shells or cleared concrete pads.

Some green and nice area survived but it’s going to be decades before anything gets back even close to normal.”

I wrote back to John:

“Your mention of Paradise brought back a memory from our AMTRAK trip [June, 2019].

We were waiting for the train at Salem [OR], ready for the final leg to Davis [CA].  An old guy (older than me), was waiting for the same train, heading to LA [Los Angeles] area.  He was very fit for his age, hispanic, very articulate, his muscle shirt revealed a very prominent Marine tattoo.  He was so proud of his Marine grandson, who had not long before completed Marine boot camp, and wore Grandpa’s belt at the graduation.  He was very talkative, and told us he and his wife had been in the Paradise fire and lost everything.  They survived.  Within a month, she was waiting to see a doctor and died of a heart attack in the doctors office.  He wasn’t over it, that’s for certain.  I wanted to take a picture, but it wasn’t appropriate, I felt.  I picture the guy in my mind as I write.  We weren’t in the same part of the train as he, so we never saw him again.
Stay safe.
Just talked to [son] Tom who said the Rocky Mountain fire in Colorado is the biggest ever in the state.  He thought it might end soon, as they’re expecting several inches of snow in the mountains.  Apparently not so in your area.”
A couple of other comments came on screen from others in the family: “It’s a heartbreaking tragedy. Hope survivors have found peace in wherever they’re living now.”   “Paradise as a home in the forest comes with some huge downside risk.  I suspect more than a few are rethinking the joys and pleasures of life in the forest preserves where you’re one match away from tragedy and disaster. Risk is omnipresent and takes prudent balancing wherever you hang your hat.” 
November 1, 2020:  I’ve thought a lot about the sentence which precedes this one: “Risk is omnipresent…hang your hat.”  It is true that we spend a lot of time, if we have that luxury, of trying to assure safety of whatever is important to us.  It is also true that sometimes we go to great lengths in the opposite direction of safety – sometimes with intention, sometimes not.  If you take a few moments, I would guess that everyone can list examples of each in your own life; things that worked, or didn’t.
Long ago, in my working years, I ‘burned out’ (I didn’t know that at the time), quit my job, and ended up  unemployed for a full year.  It was an opportunity to restore and regroup, but at the end it was terrifying.  It was literally half a lifetime ago – near 40 years.  I often reference that time as “the best and worst year of my life”.  There were worse, and obviously there were better.  It happened.  Here I am.
At the beginning of that year of unemployment I happened to be visiting my sister and family at their home and went with them to their church on Sunday.  In the church bulletin that day was a short essay on Risk which has always spoke to me and I’ve used often, and which I offer to you now.  An opportunity, if you wish, to reflect on how risk has impacted on your own life.  Have a great life.
I am not sure of the authorship of this quotation.  It is sometimes attributed to Leo Buscaglia, sometimes ‘anonymous’.  In the source I saw it, there was no specific attribution.  Whatever, the thoughts are of value.
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