Better Endings readers: We have two brilliant stories to share this week about surviving disasters and hardship. Here is the first, and tomorrow I’ll post the second Story of the Week. Surviving is a process that cannot be forced. Sometimes the Dark–the vital pathway through Descent–is of as much value as the Light it precedes.-L
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.
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.
As I sit down to generate a Tuesday list of writing prompts for this week’s topic of Surviving Disasters, guess what’s on TV: the movie “Poseidon” (the remake of “The Poseidon Adventure”); to be followed by “Twister”. I will watch them then, while contemplating this week’s topic of surviving disasters from a Better Endings perspective.
Disaster films and novels are a very popular genre. Even Classical mythology and Greek (and later) tragic dramas often center around tales of surviving either natural or supernaturally induced disasters. In the mythic story of “Theseus and the Minotaur,” for example, Theseus—as part of his trials by the Gods to replace his father as King–sails to the island of Crete to free Athenian brethren taken prisoner there who are being fed to the monstrous half bull/ half human Minotaur. Theseus must use his warrior instincts and creativity and he must be receptive to Ariadne’s suggestion to unroll a ball of string as he descends into the depths of the Labyrinth where the monster lives. This way, after defeating the Minotaur in combat, Theseus is able to lead the freed captives back out from the Labyrinth to safety. Theseus displays heroism: he sacrifices his own safety to rescue others in a selfless act. He is aided by the Gods in this worthy venture, and with a bit more mythic story twisting (his father dies in a battle that ensues when Theseus’ own boat is mistaken as an enemy ship from Crete), he returns to assume his throne.
Disaster survivors have much of value to teach us. Their stories often reflect the sort of spiritual or divine intervention underlying mythic tales of obstacles and triumph. A student whose parents lost their homes to the Colorado Springs wildfire in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood two years ago shared that when she and her family sifted through the ashes of their family home, nothing at all remained, EXCEPT an unframed, paper photograph of my student (the homeowners’ daughter) when she was an infant. How could that be? Also this past year, a good friend who is a therapist lost her home and her beloved wolf hybrid pet to the raging Black Forest wildfire. She showed me a picture of the only surviving structure on her property: a limb-framed Sweat Lodge she used for therapy retreats! This structure was only some 30 yards or so away from the house, forest trees and garage that burned to the ground. How and why would this structure be saved?
The stories above—and the countless others I am sure you can think of—are food for thought. May the following list of disaster topics inspire you to write, or talk about, or actively contemplate what we can learn from surviving disasters.
- Surviving Disasters (student: baby photo; friend: twig frame sweat lodge)
- Hurricanes (Katrina, Sandy)
- Terrorist attacks/ (including mass shootings)
- Car accidents
- Airplane crashes
I welcome your insights via the Comments box below. You may share your stories by sending them as either a Guest Blog or for Sunday’s Story of the Week.
I live in Colorado Springs. Within the past two years this area has been beset by two major wildfires and a 100 year flood. Over 500 homes in Black Forest and 360 the year before in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood were burned to the ground. The flooding in the Boulder area destroyed many hundreds of family homes. Pets died, trees were destroyed, and thousands of families’ lives were disrupted from being evacuated or from losing nearly all of their possessions. Other regions are familiar with hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes. Losing a loved one due to illness or accidents can devastate one’s life. Losing a job is also a personal disaster for many, especially in this climate of structural unemployment which means many people, especially over 40, may never reenter the workforce.
Personal disasters are clearly a part of life that can happen to anyone. How we survive—when we do—can mean so many things and takes different forms with different people. Whole generations may become ‘defined’ by a a tragic disaster, like the Holocaust or the Great Depression in my parents’ generations. I remember walking into a class I was to teach in Colorado Springs one fateful Tuesday afternoon. Only half the students were present; the rest were in shock. The Columbine shootings in Littleton, Colorado, had just transpired that day. Pivotal moments like this or like the 2001 terrorist attack can warp or bend the very fabric of our collective reality.
This week’s blog topic is Surviving Disasters. I invite and welcome all of your insights and stories. If you have a reflective poem or an idea or feeling you have written on a napkin, feel free to share it here as a guest blog or as a Story of the Week. Please let others in your circles know they are welcome to share their stories or insights, too.
Better Endings with regard to surviving disasters might remain bitter endings, of course. Different people approach these experiences in their own ways. An author, Gay Becker, wrote a book called Disrupted Lives, based on interviewing many disaster survivors. Becker found that however we do respond when we face or survive a disaster, we do so in a meaningful way, as humans. We construct meaning from our experiences; we learn valuable Life Lessons. What we take away and take forward we can use to help others or to redirect our own lives.
Thanks for reading Better Endings. I do hope you feel free to participate and communicate in any manner here, if you might feel moved to share your own perspective or experience. Or if not, I hope you might benefit from the stories shared in your own way.
Better Endings to You! — Linda
Posted in Daily Blog
- Tagged 100 year flood, 2001 attack, Better Endings, Columbine, disasters, Gay Becker, hurricane, overcoming hardship, survivors, tragic disaster, tsunami, wildfires