“This is Jeff on Kathleen’s phone.
family just left I hope they can get through town looked like war zone
I am staying back to try and protect both houses fire coming down fast behind petersons low battery trying to be smart with usage power out in Chelan Leann has her phone
Please acknowledge receipt of text”
I had not been on social media or listened to the news all day, so I had no awareness of the fires that were raging east of the mountains. Immediately, I envisioned the fire coming down our hillside and my brother standing outside with garden hoses. My heart sank picturing our two family homes burning up in flames and my brother in harm’s way. I told him “Please be safe. Houses are not worth your life.”
I soon found out our homes were not in immediate danger. As Mother Nature would have it, the lightening did not strike on our side of the lake. It struck closer to the town of Chelan and on the other side of the lake near the State Park. For the moment, our homes were not in harm’s way. However, anyone who has spent any time in Chelan knows it would be foolish to feel any sense of comfort in that fact. Winds in Chelan pick up fast and shift without notice. Our houses stand on the narrowest part of the lake. If the fire can jump the Columbia River I imagined a fire can jump to where we live.
Sadly, the families across the lake were directly in the path of the fire, and unfortunately several homes could not be saved. Many are still in danger.
I have never met anyone who lives on that side of the lake. If they walked past me in the grocery store I would look beyond them without any sort of recognition. But in some strange way I feel like I know them. We sit on our sundeck and look at their homes perched on the mountainside. We drive past their docks every day during our morning ski and afternoon boat cruises. Just like us, they have families and traditions rooted in the love of Lake Chelan. Yesterday the Seattle times wrote about the Wickenhagen family whose loss over their home, a home that has been in their family for four generations, has left them in a complete state of shock,
I would have felt shattered having lost the piano my mother loved to play, the boat my father loved to drive, the kitchen where my mom cooked her famous blueberry French toast, and the stairs my dad built to connect our home to the water. As I thought of all the ways in which this would have broken me, I tried to find ways in which I would have found the strength to rise out from under the rubble.
I thought of the futility of making our mark in this world with the things we buy or own. We do not leave our mark by the boards we lay and the nails we use. We make our mark by the lives we change and the relationships we build. It is not about the floor we stand on, it is about our loved ones who stand next to us. It is not about the walls we’ve built to surround us, but the laughter those walls hear. It is not the home that creates the memories, it’s the people.
The dear Wickenhagen family, as well as many of the other families who have lost their homes over the last few days, have my deepest prayers. Their home may not have had the strength to withstand the burning embers of Mother Nature, but surely a family who has loved and lived in a home for four generations will.
God bless all the firefighters who are working tirelessly around the clock. Strength and positive thoughts to those who are still at risk. Much gratitude to the volunteers who are selflessly helping the wonderful people of Lake Chelan. Godspeed to the families who have lost their homes and prayers they will rise up from the ashes to build again.