Kael Newton: If evacuated, what would you keep?
Most everyone is familiar with the dinner game begging the question, “If your house was burning down, what three things would you save?”
This mild hypothetical is amusing at least in part because of its hypothetical nature. There is no real danger of the imminent destruction of those things which compose one’s life.
There is no thought, at least beyond the most tacitly superficial, as to the true repercussions of such an event.
For many in Nevada County, this question was brought into stark reality Saturday with the sight of billowing smoke and the sound of air tankers overhead. This is not an entirely foreign experience, as most of us in this area have on multiple occasions been aware of wildfires adjacent to, if not quite directly upon, our homes.
Seemingly the entirety of the county’s law enforcement and firefighters converged on the tiny general store in Cascade Shores of Nevada City with clouds of ominous smoke overhead, roads into the community were closed, and many of us had to ask ourselves the far more real question: what do I keep?
Of course, you’ll likely get more than three things, and there is the comfort of insurance for many, yet these things offer little consolation in the face of the immolation of everything that composes a material existence.
Few enough of us would mourn the material trappings or odds and ends of a life well lived in America. No, it would not be the television sets or plush couches which would bring hard truths and ultimatums.
It would be the little capsules of memories contained in any family’s home.
Family photos, not secure in digital form (being from years long past) are torn from walls frames and all. Boxes of memorandum are jammed desperately into vehicles, as bags of clothes and toiletries are stuffed into suitcases — as if for some sort of manic, slightly less than enjoyable getaway it is discovered which shirts are truly your favorite.
The threat of destruction may be nothing more than that, and indeed with the work of the fine firefighters of this county it is increasingly appearing to be so. And yet to have the car packed and the house laid bare of so much brings a different sort of reflection.
Each reaction, from the existentialist ponderings of what nothing might genuinely be like, to the utilitarian itemizing of what is and is not essential, is unique to itself and simultaneously adjoined with the aura of expectation and anxiety.
The waiting, as with so many other things, is the worst part. For the residents of Cascade Shores and so many other areas, that is all there is to do for the time being. That, and ponder what to take.
For more information on Emergency Preparedness, go to http://www.AreYouFireSafe.com.
Kael Newton, a journalism student at the University of Oregon, is interning with The Union; he can be reached at NCPCIntern@theunion.com.
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