I can’t believe that four years have passed. It seems like the Station Fire happened just a moment ago, and that my life before the fire belonged to someone else. And I’m one of the lucky ones… My house didn’t burn.
As August descends once more I look back on what was lost, what remains, and what has begun to be restored or rebuilt. I remember how fiercely I felt about the forest before the fire swept through it. I remember how tentative and fearful I became afterwards. I remember the hollow feeling I had in my heart when I lived in exile, renting a house in the West Valley while my home was boarded up and empty because the fear of debris flows kept me away.
Even now, years after returning, I am still disoriented. I still can’t find things in my house because so many things were moved by others and put away in different places. I cannot imagine how others feel, my friends and one-time neighbors who truly did lose everything to the Inferno.
It’s not all bad, though. The forest continues to restore itself in terms of foliage and furry critters. (The ground squirrels have run rampant and unchecked for so long that they’ve gotten plague again. Hopefully that will kill them off, but I digress…)
People are finally building and rebuilding in the Canyon, but progress has been slow, and it seems that even the most stubborn folk are losing their will to return. It is still difficult for me to walk to Wildwood and see all the empty lots where quirky houses and so many wonderful trees once stood. It’s lonely, too. There used to be so many dogs to visit along that walk. Now there are only two, and one of them isn’t very sociable.
I guess that’s the problem with August. The Anniversary always makes me nostalgic and wistful, remembering and grieving for things lost and people who have moved away. I know it will pass and I will get on with my life, going to work, paying my bills, and trying to improve on things as best I can. That’s what we all do, wherever we are. That’s what life requires of us.
So once more I will face August, host my Memorial BBQ and invite my fellow survivors to gather in the forest to share our memories and stories of things past and present. It’s what I do to cope, to face the emptiness. It never goes completely away, that emptiness, but that doesn’t mean I let it rule me.
For I have promises to keep….