Up From the Ashes… A Black Forest Fire Survivor’s Story, by Debra J. Breazzano, MA, LPC

Another Best of Better Endings Story

Better Endings readers: Here is a guest story about surviving a recent disaster. Surviving is a process that cannot be forced. Sometimes the Darkness–the vital pathway through Descent–is of as much value as the Light it precedes.-L

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This is an Inipi (sweat lodge), the symbol of Hope…unbelievable that even the tobacco ties remained unburnt.  You can see where the fire took out all the grass/trees/shrubs in the drainage; as well as the emergency vehicles passing through…but left the Inipi unscorched.- DB

It began like any other ordinary day; and little did I know that only a few short hours  after  looking around in appreciation thinking, “how wonderful it is to be settled here in Black Forest, with our dream home and sanctuary for our wolf, dogs, horses and humans finally completed after 3 years of ongoing effort” that my world as I knew it, would literally go up in flames.  June 11, 2013.  The date forever etched in my mind, launching me and my community into the frightening world of the displaced; remaining unsettled even 6 months later, after Colorado’s most devastating wildfire consumed our neighborhood.  500 properties torched beyond recognition; leaving an aftermath of despair and anguish as we know our beloved Forest will never regenerate to its former beauty of Ponderosa pines during our lifetime. Then, less than 3 months later, my former community of Lyons ravished by unprecedented floods; ironically the safe refuge area my family had sought shelter at during our fire evacuation, now also destroyed.  Fire, flood…but wait, where are the locusts?  Yes, biblical humor to see me through these very challenging times as I walk with determination to rise from the ashes and welcome a future that offers hope.  However, one thing I know for certain: unless you have ever been victimized by catastrophe there is no way to understand the magnitude—and levels of disturbance–even with the most empathetic mindset.   I have survived many dark life tragedies prior, and lost loved ones; but still, could not anticipate the consequences that this summer’s catastrophes would have on my psyche.   It’s not about the house or things that were lost;  it’s the core sense of not being safe or settled on any level regardless of “home is where the heart is” platitudes or faith in God to see us through.  I wish I could fast forward to the time when this is just a memory and the “silver lining” or the ability I have, for example, to now work more effectively as a counselor with others who have experienced such tragedies  as the new reality, but I can’t.  Each day still remains exhausting.  Time hasn’t made it simpler yet.  In fact, it’s even more difficult now than the moment we saw the flames bursting apart the trees on our road as we frantically scrambled to some sense of safety.   I get impatient with my own sense of not managing life as well as “I should.”  Yet, I do know, that day will come when I can look back and appreciate how “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”  But for now, I remain “in it”—the emotional roller coaster– 24/7 as we try our best to recover and rebuild.  We all remain as optimistic as we can while hugging onto each other—and to our faith– for support, visualizing as best we can, the new life chapter that will unfold with the mantra:  Out of the Ashes, We will rise.

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Biography for Debra J. Breazzano:  Educator and Counselor; Wilderness Instructor and Course Director; Gifted Ed Program Facilitator for Monument, CO high schools; Researcher and Writer; (&Partner with Linda Watts for applying archetypal and therapeutic themes  to the Life Path Mapping Process); Personally:  Enjoying time with my husband, family and friends; riding my horse and working with wolves; having outdoor adventures and multi-cultural experiences; all with the intention of remaining in service to others and to our earth.

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