I'm just going to be honest.
In the past, I've witnessed a lot of natural disasters. Hurricanes. Tsunamis. The Twin Towers (which my editor friend Ali was quick to point out wasn't natural but you know what I mean.) Horrific.
I'm thirty-six, so I've seen all kinds of things. Right from the comfort of my own living room, where, once I turned off the television, I could walk away and forget all about it.
Where I could almost convince myself that I'd watched a movie rather than real life.
I think in many ways, I've become completely desensitized to this sort of thing. It's why I don't watch the news...I don't want to be reminded that somewhere in the world, life is getting harder and harder for someone...and I can't do a thing about it.
Perhaps it's not only that we feel helpless when these things happen, perhaps it's also that we don't want the guilt of going on about our day, forgetting horrifying images only hours after our TV screen flashes black.
Maybe some element of "looking the other way" is necessary for any of us to emotionally survive?
We're still safely nestled about fifteen miles from the southern-most part of the High Park Fire. At least, I think we are. Our house was smoky this morning and smelled like burning leaves (which, if you know me you know, is probably my least favorite smell in all the world.)
But it's still standing and we're in no immediate danger...so when I read tweets asking things like "do you know if my house burned down?" and I can look out my window and SEE the very real possibility that it has, in fact, burned down, something unexpected happens.
The desensitizer has been turned off.
I have friends who live a lot closer to this thing than I do, and I just keep praying that by some miracle the authorities will be able to get a handle on it.
I'm actually kind of surprised how fearful I am of this whole thing. Growing up in Illinois, we had natural disasters. Flooding. Tornadoes. Things I can rightfully process. I understand how they work. I know the protocol for keeping yourself safe in these situations, but with a wildfire, this Midwestern transplant is clueless...and that lack of knowledge certainly contributes to my fear.
On top of all that, I like to research. So, I find myself listening to updates, refreshing websites, scrolling through pictures way too much for anybody's good.
And through it all, one thing has become startlingly clear. I'm still helpless to do anything. Whether I'm watching the news or watching out the window, when something like this happens, there's really only one thing to do. Pray.
So I do. In whispers as I walk up stairs. In my mind as I go on about my business. Out loud when I'm watching the news. For the people who've lost their homes. For the firefighters who are battling to keep us safe. I pray.
And sometimes it makes me feel better. And other times, it doesn't.
But I'm fairly certain I'll never look at a natural disaster the same way again.
Have you ever been affected by a natural disaster?