Summer has certainly visited her wrath upon us this year—from fires to pestilence to drought to flood. If I was more into signs from the Universe, I might just be battening down the hatches in anticipation of 12/21. Of course, if summer goes on much longer, there might not be much left when the world ends.
Each time the Fates visit some horror on members of the human race, I wonder what I’m supposed to do. Ultimately, I’m left feeling insignificant, overshadowed and buried by the magnitude of the problem. Never more so than this year.
This year it was personal.
My wonderful friend and beta reader, Barb Nickless lost her house and everything in it to the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado Springs. Our lives, Barb’s and mine, intersected at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference years ago. I got the better of that deal. Barb was instrumental in the birth of my Lucky series. She and another wonderful friend, Maria Faulconer, have read every single firggin’ word I’ve written since then. God Bless them—there is a special place in heaven for those two. My stories are the better for their input.
And I am a better person because they are in my life.
There’s a special bond forged through the creation process—at least that was my experience with Barb and Maria. So, you can imagine my complete emotional implosion as I watched the fire race over the Rampart Range, consuming houses with the rabid voraciousness of a bear awakened from hibernation. Barb and her family lived right in the path of that wind-driven inferno.
I saw a photo of the smoldering remnants of their neighborhood on FaceBook before I’d heard confirmation from Barb. I thought I could figure out where their house had been, but the whole place looked like the surface of the moon. Gone were the swing sets and mailboxes, the bicycles laying in the grass, the hammocks slung between the trees—the landmarks I’d always navigated by—so I wasn’t sure I had the exact right frame of concrete foundation that had once been the stage for so many family memories. Turns out I did.
Now, I’m lucky to say, I don’t have much personal experience with loss of that magnitude, so I was clueless how to help. How do you rebuild a whole life from scratch when all you’ve got are a car and the clothes you’re standing in? Yes, Barb had the most important things: her family and her memories. But all the tangible connections to her past and her hopes for the future were gone. How do you begin to recover or even cope with that?
Almost worse than that, Barb, who is also a brilliant writer, lost all of her research for current and future projects, all of her notes, all of the mementos that grounded her yet tethered her to her dreams.
When I would talk to Barb I could hear the loss echoing inside her, pinging off the emptiness there. I had no idea how to help, or even if I could. I read a few articles written by a psychologist who had lost his home to a fire seven years ago and his series was helpful, but still inadequate. It was as if we all were wandering in a foreign land with no map, trying to find the road home. My friend was gone, separated from me by a charred wasteland.
Then Barb went back to dig in the rubble of her home.
The prospect horrified me. Sifting through the ashes for some memento of the past sounded completely heart-wrenching. I remained unconvinced of the merit to this…until she pulled up the first, fully intact, souvenir.
Here’s a photo of Barb holding up that little miracle.
Yes, it really is one of the original WANNA GET LUCKY? coffee mugs I had given her. Don’t you just love the irony? Turns out Barb did, too.
That resilient little bit of unimportant crockery brought my friend back. Laughter burbled forth, as well as a healing bit of dark humor. Hope, a window to the future, arrived in the wake of giggles.
The three of us, Barb, Maria and myself, used to end our emails with the acronym STTY, which means stronger today than yesterday. Now, more than likely it will be WGL?
The ties that bind friends can pull us through even the worst and help us find our smiles again.
How do friends help you?