Monday, September 23, 2013

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Positive Power

What if...

Our world needs good energy now? 

What if...
Every time You or I shift our own energy out of the cloud of uncertainty, disillusionment, fear or pain, We shift onto a plateau of positivity and enhance the world for everyone?
I believe this is a piece of the gift that monks, nuns, priests and sweet, prayerful grandmas have given us through the generations.

But, what if...
We must now understand that the need for positivity has extended beyond what those in sanctified rolls of concentrated prayer/meditation can provide alone.

You and I need to join the chorus of hope in every detail of our lives and teach our children that looking at the positive in Every situation is the only future with potential to maintain the freedom we expect our next days and years to hold. Expect a positive tomorrow.

Grab hold of the light in every moment with both hands. It is the future. 

When challenged and struggling to find the light in a situation...
Be grateful for anything. Your gratitude will guide you back to a place of light.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

To Speak for a Fire Storm- Southern California

I never thought I'd witness a cumulo-nimbus (thunderhead cloud) be created from a wildfire, much less watch that thunderhead morph into a spinning funnel cloud. I had watched the videos in advanced fire behavior training suggesting such a thing was possible. I understood the mechanics of it from this training, but my instructors iterated (so as not to scare young squad bosses like myself) that such extreme fire behavior was exceptionally uncommon and not often seen by the average wildland firefighter. That iteration was back in the 1990s, before the breath of global climate change raised an eyebrow and before sprawling urban interface strained parched forests on a long-term basis.

The Grand Prix fire (among the first of the 11 arson firestorms set in the greater Southern California area in September/October of 2003) gave me this harrowing and pointed life first. I was a fire information officer. Prior to this moment, most of my efforts were spent in the fire information trailer, feverishly typing press releases with the constant and ever-changing status of the beast out my window. Twelve hour days typing an ocean of hot, roiling and ever-changing information with wind gusts up to 100 miles an hour pummeling our mobile trailer, left me drained and seemingly in need of a breath of hot, smoky air.

The wind died down enough in between press releases for me to leave the trailer: take a break. It was an in-between moment; the calm and exhausted 2 pm hour in fire camp. A time when all firefighters are fighting fire, reporters are generally gathering their thoughts in their vehicles or getting a bite to eat while we camp workers get a rare moment of quietude. I stood behind the information table watching with tummy turning awe, the ever-present cloud of smoke to my northwest moving/roiling with lightning in it's upper, ice-capped hump. It had become a cumulo-nimbus. I must have gone pale in color- I never expected to see this event. Never in my life; this is what we see in story books...

A young free-lance NPR reporter (refreshingly humble in demeanor) came to me looking for an update in fire status, curious perhaps of my pallor. The wind was increasing. My long hair whipped in the exotic, surreal energy of something rarely seen by an everyday average American girl.

I gave the reporter the latest press release, but remained ashen and distracted at the monster I was watching grip the San Gabriel mountains. The energy in that moment was monumental, other worldly.

Like any quality reporter, the NPR correspondent's curiosity was peaked at this FIO distracted out of her mind watching smoke rise. I recognized my own intensity and found the words to explain the mechanics of the natural phenomenon literally building in front of me. The reporter whipped out his recorder as I emptied my brain in a torent of what I'd always expected would be nothing more than mystical stories of strange past events. He asked me to start from the beginning, which concentrated my words.

All the while, the lightning filled thunderhead was gaining strength and funneling. The wind was gathered from all around us, desiring to suck us all in, though our distance and weight divined to resist the trepidatious temptation. Nothing else mattered in that moment. The few people outside were unable to look away. Gripped to abandon their charted course.

The dominance of the energy this tornado created sucked the energy from every part of a 10, 15, 20, 30 mile radius. Power lines near the fire edge sputtered and arched, firefighters close to the front fled. Even a few port-o-potties tumbled toward this firey monster.

It demanded my energy with it.

I spoke for the fire in that moment. Narrating physics in a perfectly non-scientific, yet palatable manner: Narrating an energy bigger than anything I'd witnessed before.


The NPR reporter left, only to be replaced by an endless wave of new regional and local reporters and other fellow fire information officers who picked up where I left off.

I lost my voice soon after that NPR interview, quite against my will. My cell phone didn't stop ringing for days after that. I tried to answer, tried to speak, write, help all the scared souls standing in the path of this storm but I stopped answering it.  Overwhelmed into a wordless fog.

Something shifted inside of me after narrating that moment in timeless history. Status quo lost relevance somewhere deep and my exhaustion was so consuming that I could not recognize it. I have been recovering, resting for 10 years now in some ways.

Fire does speak. I'm just now clearing that hot frog out of my throat...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Broad Squad - Great Northwest

Someone coughed, "...broad squad...". It stuck. The semi-anti-feminist in me (double, partial negative intended) said, "Yeah. I like that."

The cougher meant it as a legless joke and no doubt ended up a wee bit uncomfortable when I announced that we would be called The Broad Squad. The girls didn't mind. None of us found it in any way offensive. Of course, the men among us never breathed the term again, afraid of some slanderous lawsuit claiming harassment of one form or another. But the joke lingered through muffled smiles of our male counterparts while we ladies were happily strutting this culturally 'racey' title.

I was in charge. Three of us ladies and a big old fire engine. Why not? It was in keeping with the times of elevating women into traditionally male dominated roles.

So, the day we Broad Squadettes blazed out of the fire station, code red and ran into a local crew resurfacing part of the mountain highway was my first note-worthy test as a squad boss. A long-bearded local with a stop sign came to the engine window to talk to me. "Sir, we are responding to a fire. Can you get us past this road block fast?"

After seeing me and looking passed me to my crew, his jaw drops and instead of getting on his radio to let us pass, he stands on my engine step to get a closer look. He says, "You're all women..??!!"

I roll my eyes. "Yeah. You're right." I can't tell if he's more bewildered that we're all beautiful women or simply women.  We were way up in the forest where women were not so common to begin with and he didn't look like the type who went to town often.

"Sir, I have a fire to put out. If you choose not to let us pass, I'm taking you With us. And, I'm not as sweet as I look when bossing people around a fire."

He stumbled off the engine step at that, yelling into his radio, "Fire engine with three Women coming through...".

I rolled my eyes again. Men.

The Broad Squad laughed All the way to the fire, which turned out to be a simple 1/8 of an acre lightning strike kicking around on flat ground beneath the tree it started in.  Piece of cake to put out with Beauty (the name I coined for the engine we used at the moment). It was fun, and rather educational to the long-bearded fellow still reeling from his discovery that women Can drive an operate fire engines.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Stollen Marshmallows - Zimbabwe

We hired a taxi to take us camping.  Stop.  I'm still questioning this bizarre decision.  Who hires a taxi to go camping?  Really!  I come from the west coast of the United States.  I've experienced and seen many strange things, but this concept still boggles my mind.

In fact, the old lady carrying a school marm's desk on her head just outside of Lower Gweru, while walking down the road with a baby strapped to her back was actually less bizarre to me than the concept that we hired a taxi to take us into the savannah to go camping.  Even I looked at my camping companions and thought, "Americans are strange;" knowing full well that I was speaking of myself!

Jaime became boyscout extraordinaire on this adventure- a strong theme for Jamie, as you may be noticing.  Starting our campfires, directing where to place tents, exploring our surroundings, strategizing 'toilet facilities', etc.  I looked after the food.  I did not expect my assigned duty to become the hardest job of all- that I would blatantly fail at by the end of this adventure.

The campsite was relatively unimpressive.  A little glorified bush campsite a few kilometers outside of Gweru.  We packed our own water in, as well as food.  The land was dry: rainy season a distant memory.  A hike provided a beautiful little 'lookout' lodge nestled above the expanse of the Gweru flatlands on a rather large rock outcrop.  This lodge was much larger and more ornate than the lookout towers I know well in the United States.  Perhaps because it's purpose was quite different.  I assume it was meant as a hunting observation lodge.  Wildfires in Zimbabwe are unimportant; hardly worth a second thought to Zimbabweans and certainly not something they would watch for or bother to waste resources putting out.  But, then, timber was not so much of a commodity in Matabeleland, as I was used to in the US.

We were charmed by the 3 young monkey's crawling and playing near the lodge.  They provided a thrilling degree of amusement to we unsuspecting Americans.  The little monkeys wrestled and chattered, hopped and stopped to inspect this band of huge, goofy looking pale primates in front of them (namely- Americans).  Eventually, the little fellows scattered back into the savannah at the call of their elders.  Adventurer Jaime (an American biologist) could not resist the urge to follow the little guys and observe their world- our friend Alek in mildly resistant accompaniment.  Alek had been in Zimbabwe longer than Jaime, thus feeling an obligation to 'protect' his fledgling American companion from Jaime's own potential gung-ho-ness gone sour. I returned with my less adventurous friends to our campsite to indulge in a bite of lunch and the comfort of a nice novel.

Jaime and Alek didn't stay on their observation mission as long as I'd assumed they would.  Though he never said so, I suspected that the thought of getting lost in the African savannah and the very real threat of stepping on a spitting cobra while walking through the bush or, worse, disturbing the zen of a black mamba with their relentless personalities hell-bent on revenge for the slightest infraction (for those who don't know, mambas can chase a man at speeds of up to 40 mph through the bush, then raise themselves up on the very tip of their tail and strike a tall man directly in the throat- after which he will surely die within 2 hours).  Of course, once I got to know Alek, I have no doubts that Alek provided Jaime ample dissertations referencing the dangers of the African savannah along their bush wack.  Alek was nothing if not an over-protective professor of science and the saving of one's own skin.

Considering that we were stuck without a vehicle in this campsite for 2 more days, I found Jamie's reservation and Alek's adventurous tempering toward scouting far away from camp admirable.  The last thing I needed was a dying husband on my hands- (I am hardly the nursing type).

It wasn't long, of course, before we discovered that Jaime didn't need to go looking for the band of monkeys.  They were ever so happy to find us.

Around the campfire we sat laughing largely about the 'unique' things we'd seen in our Zim stay so far. In the dancing light of the fire, we captured sight of movement: quite a bit of movement, I might add.  I was all but in a panic, of course, envisioning a lion, hyena pack or worse a pit of roiling, angry mambas come to chew us to bits- I've never been accused of lacking imagination!

Jaime and a few others didn't have to go far to discover that it was our monkey colony brethren observing US like caged animals.  It provided Jaime perfect excitement and his chance to observe the observers.  Jaime did in no way think that He was the caged animal being sized up.

The night passed in fits and spurts.  I slept like a cat up a tree and awoke as grouchy as that treed cat would be.  Jaime slept much better once he finally crawled into the tent.  He and the monkeys spent much of the moonlight sizing one another up in what I can only call this 'dance of male curiosities'.  Who among these two dominant males would eventually be bested?

I crawled out of my tent to our friend Alek rekindling the fire and chewing a bit of breakfast.  As we began to emerge from our tents, Alek put a few cans of beans over the fire to warm.  He and I sat chatting softly with our cups of instant coffee imported directly from my mother's good will Stateside.  There they were, the three baby monkey's every bit as precious as before. Delightfully wrestling, climbing the tree, dancing, chattering and in Every way enchanting the lot of us silly Americans.  In nothing flat Jaime and the entirety of our fellow campers came out of our tents to sit by the fire and watch this amazing show of 'nature'.

Jaime didn't even bother to zip the tent up in his exit.  Note that most of the camp's food resided inside our tent, since as the one married couple among the group, Jaime and I had a large tent.

Alek noticed that our cans of beans were boiling over and quickly grabbed them off the fire, placing them a few feet away from the fire circle to cool.

The 3 baby monkey's shifted to the side of our camp opposite of where Alek had placed the beans.  The babies had our full attention and knew it.  All seven of us Americans were completely mesmerized by their every move.

I don't recall how long it took for the trance to be broken, but eventually someone realized that our beans were gone and something was rifling through Jamie and my tent.  The baby theatre troupe continued their distraction (as it was becoming clear it was), but we slowly started coming out of the trance.

I looked around and found Grandpa Monkey hiding strategically in a tree behind the tents, a couple mamas hiding in bushes behind the theater troupe and several what I can only call monkey warriors hiding in various places very near our tent city... some actively, stealthily removing items they found to their liking.

When I looked up again, Grandpa was devouring one of our cans of warmed beans from his perch.  His assistant dangling the one bag of marshmallows we'd all looked so forward to roasting- as they'd been a rare find in a unique store that catered to the strange taste of ex-patriots.

Once satisfied, Grandpa monkey hooted loudly, signaling something that sent the brigade of monkeys scampering all around us in a funnel cloud of hilarity, annoyance and moving food.  Jaime and Alek took up sticks, not to hurt the monkey brigade (we were still naive enough to think them all adorable), but to scare them out of our camp.  Mind you, even the largest of these monkeys might have reached our knee at full height.  Though avoiding the swinging sticks, the monkeys pretty much ignored us and got on with their intended business in spite of our shrieks and uncertain dance moves.

After being cleaned out of our food supply (the little buggers even took a few cans of food- which left us morbidly giggling to this thought, "How does a monkey open a can?"), our toothpaste and some of the water we were rationing; we spent the rest of the day lying low- not so eager to observe the wildlife any further.

Alek grumbled, "They even took our marshmallows!  Do you know how far I had to walk to get that bag of marshmallows?"

If the truth be told, it was quite evident that We had become the targeted wildlife on this safari.  Humility hit us all over the head- the natural world is Much smarter than we may choose to give her credit for.

It was one more day and night before we expected our taxi friend to drive back into the savannah to pick us up.  The brigade of monkeys may have taken off with our food and much of our water, but they did not bother with the bottle of rum we'd brought for good measure.  There we sat on our last night around a campfire passing the one thing left to us by a troupe of monkeys - rum.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Journey of Mt. Mulanji- Malawi, Africa

"You Can't be serious."  I'm quite certain Mia and I said it at the same time with equal ferocity.  Jamie got it in his adventurous head that we had to climb the second tallest mountain on the continent of Africa (Mt. Mulanji in Malawi).  To know Jamie, you must also know that when an idea is in his head, the Only way I'll be getting it out of there is typically years worth of quiet, feminine head work.  Well, we clearly didn't have time for that.

Political unrest in Zimbabwe was rising again due to elections (voter intimidation was no laughing matter in Zimbabwe at the time).  The US embassy pulled all American diplomatic workers (Peace Corp being an arm of this) in for a few weeks, yet again, to a compound that was easily monitored and protected- should the unrest become dangerous to foreign aid workers.  The idea of being stuck in a walled compound with 100 other Americans with little more to do than look forward to eating red beans for breakfast and a combination of sadza and gazelle stew for dinner for two weeks or more was anything but appealing.  Zim television at the time consisted of highly government controlled "news" and 'Bay Watch' reruns- and we wonder why Zim men thought all American women were 'lifeguards' happy to accomodate desires... (understand that Zimbabwean women are not permitted to show their legs in any way shape or form.  Breasts are for babies- they hold no charm, but legs? taboo).  Having already been through the 'Bay Watch' infatuation stage of life in our teen years, Jamie and I had no idea how two weeks more of constant Bay Watch could keep us from going stir crazy.  And though we enjoyed our fellow Americans' company, our adventurous spirit pounded strong in our chests.  We needed to see the world.  So, we took the unusual offer.... "or you could travel at your own expense for two weeks."

We took an international chicken bus.  Money was in short supply.  Travelling with chickens and African nationals sounded good... to Jamie and Mia.  Though usually willing to go along with Jamie's adventures, I rarely would have raised my hand and said, "I have an idea: let's take a chicken bus for 18 hours- that has no restroom, rarely stops for breaks, with no air conditioning, sitting 5 adults to a school bus seat with the occasional chicken or goat running down the aisles into a developing nation we know nothing about!"  Jamie, of course, was deeply intrigued by such modes of transportation and Mia was not far behind him in adventurous spirit.  So, I followed.

We wound our way through Mozambique, Blantyre Malawi and plenty of hiking from one chicken bus to the next.  We were en-route for Mt. Mulanji.  Whoever told my husband that we can climb Mt. Mulanji owes me a stiff drink!  You know who you are and I am Sure you are out there....

Curious souls can check it out at

Mia, more adventurous than I and in better shape, giggled at the thought, but felt my pain.  We conspired to back Jamie off of this mission by sheer force: "Neither of us is in good enough shape to climb Mt. Milanji with all our gear.  Jamie, we will only do this if You carry All our supplies and leave we women free to carry only our own water and snacks."  Bloody hell- he said, "Sure."

To my delight, a lovely hotel complete with flush toilets and hot showers was available to us at mountain's lower village.  Though ordering anything outside of sadza and mystery meat stew in the attractive, though unused restaurant proved to be a 2 hour wait.  We did enjoy the chicken when we got it and had faith that it was as fresh as any chicken we'd ever eaten... having heard the beheading in the yard behind the kitchen during our wait.

He had to cattle prod me to prepare our supplies for climbing the looming mountain, but Jamie had help from Mia who was also growing excited to be a mountaineer hero.  Up we went, travelling in the back of little bitty pickups on pot hole filled dirt roads.  Safety was no concern, nor was the puppy in the middle of the road near an enclave of rondovals (huts); this driver was all gas and no brakes- a skill we discovered common for most Malawi drivers of 'public' shuttles.  We held on for dear life (though I'm less certain the puppy in our way had such an advantage).

As required, we hired a guide.  Jamie could have easily hired a sherpa to carry our combined backpack, but was feeling strong (and a wee bit stingy- from this wifely perspective) at the trailhead village of the mountain.  I was wearing relatively new hiking boots that did not fit well- bad idea.  Up we went through the winding, beautiful trees of a foreign forest.  The trail was mostly an 80% grade- few flat spots and in no way switch-backed.

Mia discovered that our guide's company was preferable to the bickering married couple she came with- can't say I blame her.  Jamie and I grouched at each other the entire way up the mountain.  His strength waning with a 45 pound pack on his back and my feet burning from new boots.  Arguing was, at that time, quite like us.  Jamie growled feverishly at me every time I returned one of his exertion moans with a quip, "you could have hired a sherpa!"  I was relentless and he was seething.  Mia and the guide were smart to stay well up-trail from us.

Along the trail, we found moments of pure wonder.  Ladies and girls from the village at the base of the mountain were carrying huge bundles of tree limbs neatly tied together on top of their heads, eloquently and effortlessly walking (their skill was such that they appeared to be floating) down the mountain burdened with large wood bundles.  The guide told us that these women collected the limbs from the lumber operation up the mountain to bring firewood to their kitchens.

When we finally entered trees in the clouds, the wonder of barking green monkeys became our gift to witness.  They were shy creatures, owning the treetops and somewhat hard to observe.  Unlike many of the primates we'd met in Zimbabwe, this species remained quite uncomfortable with the presence of humans (or, perhaps, non-native humans).  But, the experience of being within their habitat and the few glimpses I got were magical.

We then came to a timber extraction operation.  Both Jamie and I had worked in the United States in timber country.  We were both quite familiar with US timber extraction practices.  In fact, one of Jamie's uncles was a lead US sawyer and educator of mechanical sawing practices.  What we found in the Mulanji forest was a step back in history in our perspective.  Men were using crosscut saws and hand bow saws to not only fell these old growth trees, but were milling boards from the logs right where the tree fell.  The care these timber workers took with each board was resonant.  Every tree, every cut had meaning and was quite intentional.  Their pace was slow by our knowledge of modern forest management mechanics and the forest did not seem to mind the gentle, small-scale extraction of this timber operation.  No scar was left as each and every limb, piece of hewn lumber was used.

Timber sherpas carried two freshly hewn boards down the mountain at a time.  Each board varied in length and width.  No two were the same.  They were beautiful, the boards, the strength of these sherpas, the slow practices we witnessed.  But, what struck me strongest was the quietude.  The forest, even in the midst of a fully active timber operation, was not buzzing with machinery as all US timber operations I'd been around always did.  The birds still chirped, the monkey's could still be heard calling to one another, the frogs still brogged their lovesongs.  Was I in the midst of the time of Gifford Pinchot?  Was this the timber felling experience he got to witness?

At dark, we finally arrived at a beautiful, though unfurnished lodge.  A fire was started for us by the lodge keeper.  Mia and I cooked rice in our tiny camping pan... 3 times, and opened a can of beans to warm and share.  The lodge was cold and we were alone in it. Our guide retired to the lodge keeper's quarters.  Our sleeping bags had been purchased in Zimbabwe- where frost is rare.  They were not warm enough for the altitude we slept at.  By the end of the night, we were all three cuddled as near to the fireplace as we could comfortably get, close to one another in an effort to share body heat.

Our trip down the mountain was relatively fast.  Though the blisters on my feet split and created endless pain in the boots I still have (though rarely wear for long hikes anymore).  My lack of speed frustrated my co-adventurers for sure, but I was in great pain and could not keep their pace.

Arriving at the trailhead village was a moment of decadent gratitude.  Village women sold roasted yams (that grew wild), fresh from the fire.  I devoured that yam and have never eaten a yam since without due reverence to the humble grandior of Mt. Milanji, Malawi, Africa.

Of course, this was hardly the end of our journey.  Our options became 1.) 'sit' in the back of the chibuku truck to return to the lower village where our hotel was nestled amongst tea fields or 2.) wait until dusk for a second possible shuttle truck.  All exhausted and uncomfortable with the idea of hiking through the lower village at night, we gave the chibuku truck driver fare to take us to the lower village.

A small older Malawian lady paid the fare with us, though several other Malawian travelers stayed behind, opting to take their chances with the late shuttle.  We found this strange, since our travels through southern Africa had taught us that no shuttle or vehicle was Ever passed by no matter how full it was or what it looked like: Southern Africans generally had no qualms about sitting on one another if they needed to in order to get where they wanted to go; a trait I succumbed to with a quiet smirk hiding this thought, "The whole British and American concept of personal space Was over-rated anyway..."

This question lingered strong as we stepped in the back of that chibuku truck: Why were we virtually alone in an African shuttle?

Chibuku is the widely supplied, high alcohol content cross between raw whisky and small beer adored by many native African men and a few women.  To this American, it smelled like vomit.  Though I never tasted the stuff, Jamie told me that it tasted like a 'bad, cheap home brew with lots of sediment in it.'  Once we crawled in the very back of this enclosed chibuku distribution truck and the driver closed and locked the door, the smell overwhelmed me.  I nearly lost the one yam in my belly several times on that hour-long, treacherous journey.

The chibuku driver was every bit as speed oriented as every other Malawian "shuttle" driver we would encounter.  The problem was that we were stuck at the very back of this truck with crates stacked precariously all around us.  We had very little more than the flying crates and each other to hold on to.  It was the first time I had ever experienced being inadvertently beat up by crates in the midst of vomit while being tossed violently every which way.  I think I kissed the ground when we were finally let out of the back of that chibuku truck.  Now I knew why most Malawians chose to wait for the shuttle.

Our hotel was a sight for sore eyes and that hot shower was among the best things in life.  I slept for  a day and a half.  Jamie's desire to leave the next morning and embark on our next adventure was seriously hindered by the wife that was clearly not going ANYWHERE unless he carried me and all our gear himself. A trial he himself was hardly interested in again just yet.

Then we were off, to the next Jamie inspired and Mia endorsed insane Malawian adventure....

Friday, February 15, 2013

A Puff of Santa Ana Rage- Southern California

The firestorms Old and Grand Prix were merging.  Both my husband and I were working feverishly in the combined fire camp to serve the people of Southern California in this devastating 'natural' disaster.  'Natural' only in that the forests burned.  All the 10 firestorms that were set upon Southern California at that moment (during Santa Ana wind season) were arson and quite strategically set at that, in my understanding.

We were supposed to be getting sleep- much needed sleep; but, that was impossible.  We spent the early part of the sleeping hours watching the Grand Prix and Old fires merge.  It was a choking, gripping moment.  Like watching a tragic movie that you don't want to see, but can't tear yourself away from.

When Jamie and I finally went to our tent, it was perhaps near midnight.  Our tent was in the middle of a baseball field, secured within tall chain-link fencing, filled with perhaps 60 other uniform tents of our fire camp coworkers.  We were a rare married couple sharing one tent in this field of singly occupied tents.

As I went to sleep that night, my gut wrenched at the image from within our tent: a ring of pulsing orange flashing with yellow rimmed our tent nearly completely.  There was fire on the hills and mountains in almost every direction.  A complete circle of spitting combustion.  The smoke should have been choking, but it wasn't (an eerie sign to a wildland firefighter- a preface of an unforgiving saint).

Sleep did not come easily for me in this moment of painful reality, though Jamie had less reservation in succumbing to the 'Sandman'; but, I did finally fall to sleep.

Not for long.  About 2 am, powerful Santa Ana winds pummeled our neck of the woods.  We both woke to our tent flattened by deafening wind (near 80 to 100 miles per hour we guessed).  An unusual experience to witness the top of our tent hovering just above our noses as we lay in our sleeping bags shaken out of sleep.  Though laying next to each other, conversation was lost to the wind.  We were unable to hear each other.

When Jamie and I mustered the nerve to look out of our misshapen tent which was clearly wishing to become the kite our two bodies and weeks worth of personal supplies provided grounding in resistance of: what we saw was a once in a lifetime image.  Ours was the only tent remaining in the middle of the baseball field.  The remaining 59 or so tents were heaped against the western fence line, a roiling snowdrift of tents with wild haired people working to unwind themselves from the drift and resurrect their personal effects from the jumbled mess of tents and people.

For the first time ever, this young lady was grateful for being bigger and heavier than the average American supermodel.  And, for the first time, Jamie complimented me on my indulgent need to pack way too much unnecessary stuff.  Our weight, for once, saved us.

I don't recall laughing that night.  The effect on my heart was too harrowing and shocking.  The knowledge that so many homes were burning down in the midst of this unfathomable disaster weighed too heavily on me to crack anything but a few emotionally charged tears.  But, now, so many years later, I find that very strange moment hard Not to smile about.

This moment was the stuff that dreams are made of... but it was no dream.