Keep the faith!
From Angelo Parisi, retired Kenwood Post Office employee
Two years ago I lost my home in the Valley Fire in Lake County. To anyone facing the first days of this challenge, my heart goes out to you. The road ahead is long and can be daunting. I remember feeling as though my life had been stolen. My home, my possessions, my community, all taken in a single night. Suddenly there was no longer a time or a place for any of the things that had filled my life. Suddenly I was homeless, shopping for toothpaste, underwear, forks, spoons, and all the basics of everyday life. Suddenly I was making major economic decisions, when only the day before I had all my ducks in a row.
Before the Valley Fire there were almost 200 homes in our Lake County community of Anderson Springs. After the Valley Fire only 19 remained.
Before the fire, our canyon was deeply wooded with pine, oak, fir, madrone, and manzanita. After the fire, almost nothing green remained. Our deep, cool forest was reduced to an ashen wasteland. The first winter, it was almost impossible to know whether anything of the forest had survived. Anderson Springs had become a dark, bleak place filled with heavy machinery sending up clouds of toxic dust as they removed the twisted remains of what used to be our homes. Road closures, detours, and delays were constant. Virtually everyone was traumatized, emotional, and on edge.
And something else was happening. Amazing stories of courage and generosity began to emerge. Family, friends, neighbors, and total strangers helped each other in ways that crossed all former boundaries. The fire brought out the best in almost everyone. I now have a deeper love and respect for family, friends and neighbors. My hope and faith in our society and humanity in general has been strengthened. Our community is stronger than ever.
The situation began to improve almost immediately. In less than four months the debris from peoples’ homes had been removed. In spring we were surprised by abundant meadow grass and a remarkable wildflower bloom. By summer we could see that more than just a few trees were still alive, and new trees were springing up everywhere. The forest is rebounding faster than I ever would have imagined possible. We are watching a miracle slowly unfold before our eyes.
It has now been two years. Construction of our new home is nearly complete and beautiful homes are going up all around us. Life is returning to normal. We have become accustomed to the altered landscape. With fewer trees you can see the stars at night, and our gardens have never had so much sun. We are marveling at the resiliency of the forest and of ourselves.
Though I wouldn’t wish a devastating wildfire on anyone, it has turned out to be one of the most remarkably meaningful experiences of my life. Have faith Kenwood, and stay strong. Nature comes back in the most perfect way, and so do we.
Angelo Parisi used to live and work in Kenwood. He retired from the U.S. Postal Service, Kenwood Post Office, on Oct. 6.