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Lesson Transcript

California Fires
"We're okay, but they won't let us go home and we're not sure whether they got the dogs out or not."
This was day one of the California fires last fall. My brother and his wife left for work that morning, and by the time they heard about the fires, the road to their mountain home had been closed. Their two dogs and two cats were stuck in the house, along with all of their possessions. They had had no idea what was coming, so they hadn't taken anything with them.
As I sat across the country in front of the Internet, trying to determine whether or not my brother and sister-in-law's house was safe, I tried to imagine them out there in California. They were staying with "flatlander friends," or people who do not live on the mountain. While they were grateful for the hospitality, they were also on edge.
Not knowing what was happening and having to live in unfamiliar surroundings was wearing on them. Finally, word came. Fortunately, rescue workers had taken the animals to a shelter, but the house was partially burned.
About a week after the fires, residents were allowed to go back up the mountain. When I visited about three weeks later, I was awed by the destruction. Nothing remained of many of the houses on my brother's block but burned-out shells of cars, metal bedsprings, some broken pottery, and glass melted into unrecognizable sculpture.
The trees stood black and skeletal against the blue sky.
The amazing thing is, my brother and his wife took this fire as a sign that it was time to really live their lives. They are in the process of selling their remaining possessions, their land, and their repaired house. They plan to travel the world until the money they are allowing themselves runs out. My brother calls the fire his blessing.