You started with a spark, shooting a small column of smoke surrounded by the driest forest. Right on the edge of a cliff, you danced and waved as the calls started pouring in. The helicopter was upon you within hours, yet you carried on. Boats lined up for the show, filled with people wondering how anyone could stop you. Little did we know that you were just beginning your march across the mountain.
And little did we know that you would burn so much into – and out of — the heart of this community.
As you raged across the mountain, we witnessed your beautiful, frightening flames in stark contrast to the dark night. We could envision the aftermath to come, the scorched earth and blackened timbers. Smoke filled days reminded us that you were so near and yet so far. We began to grow slightly used to you, like you were the sleeping dog in the corner of the room.
Then your sister the wind arrived to feed the beast and suddenly all hell broke loose. Your fury threatened to consume everything in your path and you engorged your bottomless appetite for air and fuel. As you jumped every containment line, home was no longer a haven but a trap. Hours turned to minutes and abruptly the only thing that mattered was getting out.
For every one who left their home, another arrived to face your ferocity. Bravery showed up with trucks, hoses and deep resolve. The air was filled with helicopters and planes. Your power would be met with courage and cunning.
And those here to fight you would be met with open hearts and active hands.
As the forest fed your insatiable appetite, we began to feed our heroes. Our plans were immediately set aside to bring the warriors water, lip balm, socks, and essentials.
You are fire; we are love. We matched your fury with the gratitude and caring that fueled our hearts.
We took care of each other and hoped for the best for our mountains. As the firefighters saved every structure, we let go of our grudges, our pettiness and our stuff. We only cared that no one was hurt, not one life lost.
And in return, you cared for our mountain. As if by magic, you burned mostly underbrush. You cleared the way for new growth and life. You left us with incomprehensible beauty.
You showed us things don’t matter and that people do. You fueled courage, caring and passion in the firefighters who came to face you. You burned the underbrush of our hearts and made us one.
As we feed and care for the remaining firefighters and sit down to our Thanksgiving dinners in our still-standing homes, may we be forever grateful for your cleansing power and ever mindful that love is the only thing that matters.
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Lynn Carnes accelerates change and unleashes leadership performance in organizations, especially in context of challenges without easy answers.