Monday, June 27, 2011

A Homecoming

a lump started growing in my throat.
as soon as we turned on to 373.
the entrance to greer.
the road that would lead us to our mountain home.
the "welcome to greer" sign usually washes a sense of calmness over us.
this time, however, it filled our souls with fear.  the unknown.

as we began our short journey down 373...
mr. c and i both {wide-eyed} said,
"ok.  not too bad."

a few minutes later we came around the bend and descended down the hill.
into the heart of greer.
it was then that i saw it.
the black mountains.
the lump in my throat melted into tears.
the black mountains became closer and closer as we approached our home.
the blackness was in our front yard.
we could smell a hint of smoke in the air.
but, our home remained untouched by the fire.

we unpacked.  surveyed everything. and walked over to the home of our neighbors {and very dear friends}.
they had been there for a few days and filled us in on what they knew.
a bit later, we headed into molly butler's for a drink.
we were greeted with warm, familiar faces.
all of the locals and long time visitors that i had worried about were there.
with smiles on their faces.
it was comforting to see the strength of the human spirit.

the next day, mr. c and i drove down east fork road.
{the dirt road right across from us.}
this area was the hardest hit.
several homes and part of the church camp are gone.
later that afternoon, i headed back.  this time on foot.
with camera in hand.
it was surreal.
the forest was draped in black.
as if it was mourning.

gray ash blew by me.
coating my skin in grit and dirt.
the smells were different.
even the sounds were different.
although the wind blew...there were no sounds of rustling leaves.

as i walked through the sad land,
i couldn't help but think of the fire fighters...
we were told...
as the fire came into this canyon...
it was a 100 foot wall and sounded like a freight train.
those men and women fighting this monster did an amazing job.
i spoke to people who lost their homes...
on monday morning they were escorted to see the remains.
the fire fighters who accompanied them had tears in their eyes.
{i know our home remains because of their bravery and skill.}

as i was walking, i had full intentions of photographing
these remains.
the homes that only had stone chimneys standing.
but once i was there...i couldn't do it.
i felt as though i was violating...
all of those ghostly memories.

i saw a woman standing by her pile of ashes.
i stopped and told her how sorry i was for her loss.
with waves of emotions she told me her story...
her great grandfather built that cabin in the late 1800's.
her children were the 5th generation to spend summers there.
{and they couldn't bring themselves to be there now.}
her heart was full of memories.
to make matters worse...
their insurance had lapsed in may.
they had no coverage.
her family had been with the same agent for 45 years.
they would not work with her and her family.
she said they would rebuild and move on.
and if she could just see some of the wildlife return to that area...
the hummingbirds, blue jays...
she would be fine.

it's going to take time.
{a lot of time.}
but, soon things will come back.
plants.  trees. animals. birds.
and memories.

signs like these
decorate the entire town.

greer is still greer.
the quaint stores are open.
the ice cream shop is still scooping up tasty treats.
and, everyone waves as you pass by...
whether you know them or not.

the river still runs.

the deer still come out at twilight.

and there are lots more memories to be made.


Hedgehog Reader said...

Oh Mindy xo
What a lovely post. Honestly, I hope everyone affected by the fires can read it - it's absolutely lovely and sad - yet full of hope and a sense of the resilience of the people of Greer as well as the enduring reality of nature. And on top of it all you've expressed the sense of community that makes Greer the special place that it is.

anna said...

The family of one of my YW has a cabin on east fork road. They lost their detached garage and half of their has burned. On sunday she shared what it was like to go back up there and find their abode charred. Lots of memories...but you're right, there are still memories to be made. I love the spirit of that little town! Thanks for sharing.