Most Precious Things

When I got up yesterday morning, the sky was a clear blue with a light breeze.  Later in the morning when a neighbor and I walked my dog, we saw a plume of white over in the mountains, and surmised that there was probably a fire up in the canyon.  On our second lap around the neighborhood, the smoke had kicked up with the wind, and it looked serious.

I turned on the news and heard that the winds were dangerous enough to keep a small fire fighting plane out of the canyon after only one pass with fire retardant.  Bigger planes were coming, though, but the winds were increasing.

I had to run into town for a few things, and when I got out of the store, the smell of smoke was heavy in the air. Driving home I passed the ABC news truck at the scenic pull off, and many cars and onlookers with cameras and tripods shooting photos.  I couldn’t pull over to take a photo, not because I couldn’t pull over, but because it didn’t seem right.

Some of the people who have probably lost their homes are people I know.  Maybe my children went to preschool with their children.  Or they teach at my school, or they’re students at the same school, or checkers at the grocery store, bank tellers, writers, doctors . . .

It’s been so hot and dry here that already 3500 acres have burned.  The reporters on the news kept asking residents how they felt. One person said that at least no one is hurt. Homes can be rebuilt.  Another person talked about how they were stopped from proceeding home in their car, but they hiked back in to get pets, and the important things. The most precious things.

I remember once waiting for my son at preschool, when another mom got the call. When she hung up she called a neighbor and dictated a list of where her most precious things were. I remember she asked for the neighbor to find her dog and her cat, and then the family photos.

There might have been a file or two, and maybe some jewelry, I can’t remember clearly. When she got off the phone I commented on how calm she was, and she confided that this wasn’t the first time she’d had to prioritize what was most important. They’d had several other fire scares.

So I wonder, if I was just about to lose everything, what would be the things I would save first? My family and pets are first on the list, but I have so many photos and important papers, I’d spend a lot of time finding everything. This is the time of year I get the nudge to shed, sort and prioritize. To get my ducks in a row, just  in case.

“Just in case” comes at different times — in the spring it’s the possibility of floods as the snow melts in the mountains. In June and July it’s the wildfires. In August and early September, it’s usually the tropical storms that wreak havoc out where my sister lives that continue to nudge me, even though I’m far from the East Coast.

What are your most precious things? Could you put your hands on them at a moment’s notice? Would they fit into your car, or could you pack them out in a backpack?

The preschool mom was calm because she knew she was ready. She’d been through this before. She didn’t have to spend the energy making decisions because she already had, and even though her house might burn, she had peace of mind.

We’re surrounded by so much stuff that we think is important, but it’s not. Storing and managing stuff that is not essential to our lives wastes our energy. Not being able to prioritize the essentials in a sea of superfluous makes us anxious.

I used to have this fantasy of a month in a cabin (by the shore, it had to be by the shore) with only the essentials.  I’d run over the list in my mind and at one point I had it down to a box of books and writing essentials.  I think I even forgot about the food . . . (and of course this was all before kids).

I’m working towards peace of mind. A few minutes a day, an hour on the weekends. I’m not looking for a catastrophe, just the feeling that if something happened, I’d have made the decisions about what was really important.

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2 comments to Most Precious Things

  • Deb

    Hey! your right! When a hurricane is coming you go for the living things and then for the things. Things can be replaced. Living things can’t. So we have our important papers all in a box . . . one box. and its not very big. The only importance things have is the importance we give them…Without the emotional attachment we place on something … it is just a thing. Love, Your Sis

  • elizabeth

    Thanks sis — good observations. And I love comments too : )

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