Tribute to those who lost so much to the fire

Sep 14, 2021 | Author: Tim Otis, LCSWA president | Editor: Andrew Bradford

It’s difficult to nail down all that we share as fellow travelers in this place. One thing we can surely share is caring for each other, helping our neighbors after a loss.

On Sept. 7, 2020, one year ago today, fire roared down the North Santiam River canyon. The Santiam Fire, at more than 400,000 acres, destroyed 1,500 structures, with the cities of Detroit, Gates, Idanha, Mill City, and Lyons suffering varying amounts of damage. It was one of the most destructive wildfires in the history of Oregon.

I drove down through the canyon last month, and could not really find words to express the shock and loss. Here is a short poem I wrote years ago, updated to help me look not just back, but forward.

That I cannot determine whether I am lost
Or something else is lost
Is probably because the echo of voices and laughter,
The smell of fir branches in the sun
The sight of early morning water-skiing on the lake,
Velvet smooth water sliding by as the sun rises –
Are still too much a living part of memory,

While the ghosts of charred two-by-fours and tables
Still haunt, pulling back into black and loss.

But now, in only vaguely understood transition
Just perceiving a new-found place;
A space, where I am learning to be comfortable
With people who must hug
To tell you how they feel
A discovery that, what now I see
With transformed eyes, are never-lost good friends.

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