We live in the forested foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains, a vibrantly beautiful area full of towering pines and oaks and cedars. I love where we live; it means access to mountain lakes and shaded walking trails and easy backpacking trips in the summer. It means being able to ski and snowshoe and sled in the winter. It means a rural community with not-too-long-a-drive to reach all that a big city has to offer. It means experiencing each of the four seasons in turn. It means beauty.
Unfortunately, it also means that we are smack-dab in the middle of fire season, a situation which is only exacerbated by the state-wide drought.
Even if you don’t live in an area where wildfires are a concern, I’m sure you’ve seen the images plastered across the news lately. Images of Yosemite (if you haven’t seen this time-lapse video, it’s worth a minute of your time), of the raging King Fire (the first sentence in that article astounds me. Arson? Really?), of the blaze that decimated the small town of Weed.
These stories are common this time of year. Every summer, wildfires whip their way through the forest, threatening lives and property as they consume everything in their path. This is a risk we take, living among the trees. I know this, and yet it hasn’t been real to me until this past weekend.
A fire broke out Saturday afternoon. It was a paltry fire, a baby fire, its progress halted after it had ravaged a mere 247 acres. You won’t have seen anything about it on the news, unless you happen to live close by. But this fire was different than the fires burning elsewhere in this state, because this fire struck close to home.
Five miles. That’s what separated us from it. Far enough that, given the number of people fighting it and the terrain between us, we were never in harm’s way, but close enough to give us pause, to keep us refreshing the local fire news page just in case. Close enough that we know people directly affected. Close enough that, as a steady stream of air support crossed the sky above our home, I found myself thinking about what I would take with me if the call to evacuate came.
I made a mental list. I didn’t get very far. There was the obvious – Jonathan and Katie, of course, the pets, the manila folder labeled “Important Docs” – and the not-so-obvious. My laptop (many priceless pictures, there, taking the place of the photo albums of days-gone-by). My journals. My grandma’s jade. The box of memories from little A., hidden under my bed. Beyond that, I was at a loss.
What do you take with you, what matters most, when the fire is at your door?
Later, Jonathan admitted that he, too, had thought of what he would make sure to take if the fire had forced us to flee.
“Would it have been ridiculous,” he asked, “to save the cabinet doors?”
An aside, here. A moment to discuss cabinet doors, lest you think my husband’s priorities are wildly misplaced.
Our cabinet doors are not just any cabinet doors, bought from some big box store, made on some assembly line somewhere. Nor are they custom-ordered, crafted by some local artisan. No. They are much more than that.
First, a history lesson, a bit of back-story, if you will:
Once, there was a house in Houston. A house with mahogany siding in the dining room and tongue and groove oak floors. A house … well, to be honest, I don’t know much more of it than that, as this house was gone long before I came into the picture. But this house was owned by Jonathan’s Granddaddy, and he tore it down to make way for something new. First, though, he salvaged everything of value and stored it away, hoping it would eventually be put to good use.
Then, years later, Granddaddy moved west and brought his treasure trove of wood with him. After sitting in storage for so long, it finally found new homes: the floor in the hallway of Jonathan’s cousin’s home and in our own living room, and the mahogany siding? Well, the mahogany siding was re-purposed, turned into cabinet doors.
Jonathan and his dad spent many hours this past spring bringing life to that old wood, turning it into works of art masquerading as something as everyday as kitchen cabinet doors. And I’m the lucky woman who gets to have them in her home.
And so, when he thought of saving the cabinet doors, he thought of saving more than pieces of wood. He thought of saving history, of saving memories, of saving hard work. He thought of saving something altogether irreplaceable.