Welcome back to the Zen Sunflower. Or if you’re here for the first time, Welcome.
I just spent a week in Santa Fe, New Mexico at a meditation retreat center. I had the chance to study with advanced meditation teachers to deepen and enrich my understanding about resiliency and encountering challenging emotions and painful moments in life.
And, as it turned out, I got a chance to put this to work immediately. In fact, right in the middle of my workshop.
I received word that wildfires were raging out of control in my home state of Idaho while I was peacefully studying meditation in New Mexico. I was in a situation where I did not have regular cell service or access to computer. But intermittently the cellular service would rise to life and a text from someone would ping into my inbox. And through this haphazard process I learned that my parents had been evacuated from their home because of fire danger, that their community had fires burning out of control such that all routes out of town were blocked, and they were heading to the local community center for safety.
I was helpless. Too far away to help. I couldn’t even manage phone calls to offer a sympathetic ear.
For 24 hours I did the only thing I could do. I sent healing and compassionate wishes to my parents, the fire-engulfed forests, and to all the people who were frightened and facing property losses. I sat very close to my sense of helplessness. My heart ached thinking of my mother standing in her drive watching the fires burn down the hillside toward her home. My eyes welled with tears when I thought of simple small town folk who had built their homes tucked into the woods to be nearer the deer and huckleberry bushes. And how they faced losing their beloved forest sanctuaries.
People I’d never met before this workshop in Santa Fe stepped in to offer me kindness and support.
Finally I was able to get my mother on the phone. She told me of hearing the roar of dry forest wildfire drawing down the hillside above her home and seeing the red flames shooting 25 or 30 feet, spewing embers as trees exploded from heat. Knowing her home was in the path of a wildfire out of control. With no sentimentality, she told how she said goodbye to her home and loaded up her photo albums, a beloved hand made quilt, some drinking water, and her pets. She and my father were just climbing into the car when the winds shifted. Quite suddenly. And the fires turned.
What remained after the fires turned were people who filled buckets and dug fire lines and helped save homes for others. People who opened their homes to others whose homes were on fire or lost. Shared meals. And shared stories full of the realities and unpredictability of burning fire and loss. Like the brave couple who knew their home may burn but left for their long awaited trip to England anyway. They consciously acknowledged the possibility of complete loss before leaving. And this couple, still on vacation in England, did lose everything. Or the two citizens in a private pickup truck loaded with a 100 gallon water tank who doused a small fire that had started under an industrial propane tank preventing imminent explosion.
This is advanced training in resiliency. Showing up and being mindful. Being human in this human life.