By Jené DeSpain, October 25, 2020
By Jené DeSpain, October 25, 2020
My Dewalt drill, my ratchet set, a trusty level, a pair of screwdrivers my Father gave me as a child are some of my beloved, tried & true tools that have steadfastly been a part of every one of my homes’ enhancements for as long as I have been on my own, creating my own places. I love tools. I love tinkering. It’s part of how I infuse myself into the apartments and abodes I have joyously called mine. I’ve been known to tear out a dropped ceiling, install a new tiled shower, or wallpaper every bedroom of many an apartment I have rented.
When the Cold Springs Fires started, I knew my best friend’s home in the Okanogan valley was possibly at risk. She grew up there and fires are a regular aspect of living in Central Washington. There have been many a close call, but somehow she’s always managed to escape the flames. This year, she and so many others, were not so lucky. She called to tell me the lakefront cabin her family had built years ago was absolutely gone. My heart sank. Memories of her birthdays, holidays, and endless Summers up at the cabin ran through my head. She asked if I could come up as soon as possible and help her re-build. I immediately scanned my schedule to see where could I sneak in a break to go see her. She also asked if I could bring my incredibly talented arborist friend to help clear the numerous Ponderosa Pines that once stood towering over the landscape. Their deeply charred remains would have to be removed to safely build on the land again. We packed up my friend’s truck and headed north with a collection of chain saws and the coolest arborist climbing tools I’ve ever seen.
I wasn’t prepared for the loss. Is there really any way to ever prepare one’s self to return to the site of what once was “home” after it’s been destroyed in a natural disaster? After a tour of the property, we established a plan and got to work. The stately trees that once offered shelter, protection, and shade now were a lingering danger. We went to the truck, I was given two hand held chainsaws and directed how to safely operate them, and I headed up the slope to start cleaning, clearing, and hauling the fire damaged limbs off the felled trees. Covered in soot, debris, and charred bark in a just a few minutes in, I settled into the familiar comfort of working with a power tool. The satisfaction of the weight of the saw in my hands, the mental focus that quiets out the noise of the world around as the blade whirls under my direction, the reward of a tired body at the end of a long day of physical labor. It was a bittersweet scenery. Hard and heart wrenching to cut down such once gorgeous trees, trees much older than any of us, who had been such wonderful company over our decades up at the lake. Yet healing to move forward towards re-establishing a place for us to create home. It was an honor to be called to be there, to be a part of the crew who had the dignity of engaging the emotional work clearing the fire debris from the land, to be entrusted to tend to the task of starting again.
To anyone who was impacted by the fires this year, to anyone who lost their home; my heart is with you. I send my deep condolences for your loss and wishes of compassion and hope for the homes awaiting you in your future. For the soothing comfort you will build there.