If you could peek into my heart on this fifth anniversary of my husband Steve’s death, it would look something like the neighborhood I walked through the other day. It’s in a billy-goat-steep area of Sonoma County the firestorm roared through in 2017, hopping over some trees and buildings while entirely consuming others.
Many of the dead trees are gone at this point, but their stumps remain–a reminder of what once lived there. And then there are the survivors: many bear charred trunks where fire seared their bark. But that doesn’t seem to have stopped them. No, quite the opposite. I love these trees because you can almost smell insistent life pushing past burned cells, routing new, fresh energy into bright green stems and leaves–a celebration of sheer determination and will to live.
And there’s something dear about the juxtaposition of the dead stumps right next to these leafy, persistent monuments to life. The life would not be nearly as stunning were it not for the reminders that some of these trees didn’t make it.
As I round the corner, I see a giant billboard set atop a grassy, sloping lot. The sign announces plans to build a fancy hotel next door to where two of them burned to the ground. The artist’s rendition shows people coming and going from a warmly-lit, welcoming building. Someone had a vision for the future–a future of bustling activity right next to the structures that were incinerated.
I’ve decided this is my new, favorite neighborhood to walk. Yes, the steep terrain strengthens my heart and muscles. But even more importantly, I find inspiration here. I look forward to watching the progress as someone’s dream takes shape on that grassy lot. It’s a good reminder to keep dreaming myself.
And then there are the trees, reminding me that life–that delicate, pulsing thing in my chest–is not guaranteed for another day, not even another moment. So I hold the memory of my years with Steve, while at the same time pushing past the scars and enjoying the sensation of insistent life moving through my veins.