It’s been sad and harrowing to see the bushfires in California. It’s a reminder how fragile our lives are and how trusting we tend to be that life tomorrow will be very much as it is today.
Here in the Adelaide Hills, the council reminds us each year to clear gutters; tidy wood away from back doors and to cut vegetation – and people do, ‘just in case’. But underpinning it all is a blind faith that nothing could really happen because, surely, all the serious bushfires will be elsewhere?
When we lived in New Zealand, the threat was not fires but earthquakes. Instead of listening for sirens, we’d be ready to duck into a doorway or dive under a table at the first sign of a shake. Except we were never truly ready: any shaking had usually stopped before we’d even thought of taking cover because, the big one couldn’t really happen where we were, could it?
But living in any high-risk area does force you to prepare – physically, at least – for the ‘what if’ scenario. Since living here, we’ve dutifully put a box aside with a few basic items. It’s easy to remember the practical things, but I often wonder, what else would I hate to leave behind. What trinkets might I want to add to the Essentials Box? It forces you to consider and emotionally weigh up your personal possessions.
In an emergency, one’s family and one's pets would (hopefully!) be with you; but after that, is there anything you couldn’t leave behind? Probably not, but there are things that it would hurt to lose. For me, those few things would be the ‘irreplaceables’ – the bits and pieces that have been passed down through the generations; old photos; my grandmother’s Bible; my granddad’s tuning fork; my dad’s watch, his golf medal; the few toys I have left from my childhood. It’s memory, and maybe other people’s memory, that I can’t let go of – the tangible evidence of lives and times no longer with us.
The trouble is, when I can reduce the things of true personal value to just a handful of items, it begs the question how I’ve managed to make my life so jam-packed with STUFF and I look around and wonder when it all got so