This year has been unique in a horrible sort of way. We are used to California having fires every year when the Santa Ana Winds kick in, bringing scorching heat that dries out the vegetation, making it vulnerable to the smallest spark. Once the fire starts, they are difficult to contain because of the same winds that started the problem in the first place. We hear of these fires every year…sadly it can seem almost routine…even though it shouldn’t. This year is different, however. This year the whole western coast seems to be on fire. The Redwoods are in danger. Washington, Idaho, and Oregon are also going up in smoke.
The Pacific Northwest has always been the rainforest of the United States, receiving rain approximately 155 days a year. Since Wyoming gets snow much more often than rain, and in recent years, we haven’t received as much of that as we used to, suffice it to say that we don’t even come close to the amount of rain the Pacific Northwest normally gets. This year however, has found the Pacific Northwest oddly void of rainfall. Wyoming, by a stark contrast, has had a very rainy summer. As someone who doesn’t like days and days of dreary rainfall, that has been a little much for me, but then when I look at the west with its fires, and the rest of the United States largely void of fires, I have to be thankful for the rain. It seems that the only place that is getting very little rain is the west coast.
I have looked at fire maps many times over the years, but I don’t ever recall the maps having such a lopsided look to them. Nevertheless, that is the look of the current fire map. There is only one significant fire that is not in the west. Our skies are filled with smoke that has rolled in from the west. The mountain is pale behind a curtain of smoky haze, and everything smells burnt…and I’m not even near a fire. I cannot begin to imagine how bad the smoke and the smells are in the thick of the fires. Town after town is being evacuated. Homes, hopes, and dreams are being lost…not to mention lives. It just tears at my heart to think of the devastation to some of the most beautiful rainforest areas of our nation. Places like the Redwoods really could be gone forever, and I can’t begin to imagine how long it will take to bring back the beautiful, moss and fern filled areas of the rainforest.
With family and friends all along the west coast, I have been in constant prayer for protection for them, and especially for rain with no lightning. There are some years when fires are so bad, that people can’t wait for summer to end, hoping that the cooler weather will slow down the devastation. I have a feeling that the only thing that will do that will be winter snow or rain, so for their sake, I will agree with their prayers. We have had bad fire years here too, but it never seemed to get quite as bad as it has on the west coast this year. Fires anywhere are awful, but when they are in an area known for it rain, it is simply shocking.
When a loved one passes away, you don’t get to see them on this Earth any more, but they seem to take up a new kind of space all their own, because they are always on your mind. You may not even realize that you are thinking of them exactly, but they are there in the back of your mind, just beneath the surface, until something happens that brings their memory to the forefront again. It isn’t always a sad thing when it happens, but sometimes it is. I think that as time goes by, we are able to look more to happy memories than lonely tears. I don’t think it is a bad thing to have your loved ones living in your memory, occupying a special place in your heart, or even always being on your mind, it’s just that sometimes it is a little hard when you are hit with a ton of bricks moment…when their memory is thrown out there so unexpectedly that it does bring tears, and you are helpless to stop them. Really, it’s the only way, once a loved one has passed away.
In many ways, we like having them living there, in the back of our minds, because it give us a warm sense of Heaven…a closer connection to it, maybe. Someone very dear to us lives there now, and like my search for new connections in my family history, just knowing they are there, waiting in Heaven for us to join them someday, makes me feel like I am a part of Heaven already. I guess that is really because a part of my heart lives there now, and really always has. It encourages me to keep going forward because for me and my family, there is an expected end…a destination. While my journey must remain here for now, and God is taking the time to show me the beautiful things He has made here, I know that someday, my own journey will take me to a place I haven’t and couldn’t ever travel to before, where I will see my loved ones in person again, but for now I must wait for that glorious day to arrive.
Each item I see that belonged to those I love returns them to the forefront of my mind again. Our memory is often triggered by something we see, hear, or even smell, because in our memory files, our senses are tied to those we love. I’m thankful for those ties really, even though sometimes the memories hurt a little, because it is those memories that keep my loved ones alive, in the back of my mind, waiting for their moment to grace my thoughts once again. I love each and every one of those loved ones, although I cannot picture all of them here. Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, a sister-in-law, and three nieces are waiting in Heaven. I love then, and they are always on my mind.