a life well lived

Monday, September 22, 2014

Paradise in flames 09/21/00

I was shocked to hear that a forest fire recently roared through my beloved Paradise. 

Paradise, in the Sierra Nevada mountains, is where I spent a summer with Lynn Asplundh and her brood.  I have a lot of wonderful memories of Paradise, but the one that came vividly to mind today was when a forest fire was raging nearby.  That fire, over 60 years ago, had over a 9-mile front.  We could watch it from where we were "camped" out.  Lynn had the car packed and it was headed out the drive in case we needed to make a break for it. 

I remember watching the fire in the not-so-distant distance.  You could see a flicker of flame at the base of a great evergreen, then - WHOOSH! - the flame would race up to the top of the tree and there would be a great explosion. 

When I think of the danger we were in, I quake in my boots.  At the same time, I would not have missed it.  See something like that, and nature's might becomes impossible to forget. 

I learned something else.  There are trees that only release their seeds when they explode with heat.  That makes me think of one of our family's favorite Australian Christmas cards, sent from Mim's dear friends, the Bennetts, who have a sheep station Down Under.  That  card had us baffled for many years, until either Kerry or Scott explained it to us.  It is of a field swept with fire.   

We could not see how a fire could be Christmasy.  Ah, but it is, because with the cleansing fire comes the opportunity for the land to renew itself.  Yes, fire is destructive, crisping everything in its path to a fare-thee-well, but because of it, new life can break forth. 

Another strange but true experience with fire, although not first hand.  Mike & Kerry and Karen came to visit during Scott's first year at college in Bryn Athyn.  That was the year of the incredible ice storms.  While timbers were being shivered here in Pennsylvania, New South Wales - at the height of summer - was sweltering under incredible heat.   It was so hot - 108F - eucalyptus trees were spontaneously exploding.  The news was filled with dire expectations of entire koala populations wiped out by the flames.  When people were able to get to where the fires had been raging, they were stunned to find most of the koalas had somehow survived.  That leaves me in awe.

What we do not know makes what we do seem piddly.

My prayers are with the people in Paradise, and with dear, once-upon-a-time Californians and long-time friends, Claudia Cranch Gladish and Margie Cranch Echols, whose sister, Nora, has slipped the bonds of earth. 

Love to all my dear ones - Gocky

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