This article is being republished by Yellow Scene Magazine from the author’s blog: Poplitix, by Ann Tinkham
I have a pit in my stomach and an unshakeable nauseated feeling that I’ve come to know as grief. I grieve for the families who lost their homes and precious things in Colorado’s Marshall Fire. I grieve for the people who lost beloved pets in the blaze. I grieve for our community that lost its sense of safety. I grieve for our planet that is dying while greed and the profit motive blaze uncontrollably.
I also have survivor’s guilt. Guilt that I still have a home. Guilt that I’m surrounded by my treasured belongings accumulated over six decades of life. Guilt that because of the direction of the wind, others’ homes were destroyed while mine was spared. I was just a mile from the pre-evacuation zone.
But I’m no fool. I know that if the wind had shifted to the north, my home could have been in the path of the raging inferno. I could have been fleeing for my life in a thick cloud of smoke, flames spreading all around me, stuck in a line of traffic with panicked drivers steering away from the hell blaze, glancing at my home of 20 years for the last time.
Last year, as the summer days grew shorter and tapered into fall, I thought with a huge sense of relief, that we had made it through without a massive wildfire near Boulder. Sure, we had poor quality air from the hundreds of fires that burned in the West, but at least we had made it through mostly unscathed.
Little did we know that in six months, hurricane-force winds would ignite, act as flame throwers, and torch two towns in the most destructive wildfire in state history. In the winter. Thanks to climate change, the fire threat is now year-round. And it’s not just in the foothills and the mountains. It has come to your town. It has come to my town. It’s not a matter of if but when.
As I quickly thought about what I would pack if we had to evacuate, I realized my list was short—irreplaceable things like family keepsakes and art. But I also realized that what’s irreplaceable is a home you’ve built from dreams and hard work. Sure, it’s just a structure. And sure, permanence is an illusion. But home is where you rest your head and heal your heart. It is your temple, your refuge. It’s where you learn, where you create, and where you love. It is the foundation from which you soar into your life. When it is taken from you in an instant, reduced to ash, you lose your bearings and forget who you are.
Just ask Dorothy, who thought she lost hers in a cyclone. There’s no place like home.