Friday, March 8, 2019

40 Days of Fire and Ice - Week 1

Well, it's officially Lent. 

This year as I once again resolve to set aside a few time-waster bad habits, I'd like to make a practice of sharing art each week instead. 

For the next 40 days, I undertake to offer 40 pieces of art: photos, drawings, paintings, fire service insignia, writing, and all manner of love notes to reflect on our snowy and fire-prone Okanogan Highlands, and the fire service teams we will serve with this summer and in future.

For those who haven't heard, the Wisner homestead was sold last fall, and we are preparing to move from our home of 7 years. 

Distance to medical facilities, and the local VA clinic closing, were big factors in the decision.  Both Ernie and the senior Wisners have medical conditions that are slowly worsening, and require regular and sometimes specialized care.
  The economics of being here doesn't pencil out very well either - a lot of our work is elsewhere, and the long distances and sometimes extreme weather conditions mean higher costs when we travel for work, medical, or family visits.  When you add in the hauling requirements to get a 30-foot fishing boat over the Cascades every time our salty sailors want to chase the salmon, cod, or tuna ... Captain Ron decided it's time to be closer to the ocean again.  So Ernie's dad and stepmom have sold the land, found themselves a house in Coquille OR, and Ernie and I are looking for options in that general area.

It is difficult to leave this place, after getting attached to it all.  My sit-spot by our pond, my fire hall crewmates, the gorgeous landscapes.
And there are the dark corners to clean out: unfinished projects and accumulated clutter to sort through. Thinking we would be here a long time, we have allowed ourselves to accumulate half-finished barns full of drifts of tools, materials, and hand-me-down posessions that we will need to deal with.

It is also difficult to see where exactly our next move will take us, from here.  I want to continue in fire service work; I want Ernie in a safe place where he can continue to be as involved as his health permits; ideally, in a nearly-ADA home within redneck-wheelchair (ATV) range of essential services and family/trusted companionship.  With room for a 60-lb dog who can jump a 6-foot fence if he feels he's on the wrong side of it. 
Selling the property provided just enough to get Ron and Jeanine situated in Coquille, but did not leave any extra for Ernie and me to make our own down payment on a new place.  So we're starting over again, hoping the money for the move (and a new residence in a higher-value area) will show up as it's needed, mostly from what work we can do or surplus things we can sell along the way.

Once we get our feet on the ground, I do have summer wildfire work lined up, and ongoing plans to keep working toward higher qualifications and pay rates as a fire fighter.  My wildland contract crew of the past 2 summers has trucks in Oregon, and are delighted to have me available down there for this season.  The boss has signed me up for higher-level classes this spring, that could lead to a pay raise and/or instructor qualifications within the next couple of seasons.
So the daunting thing about the transition is not the lack of a future path; more the speed it needs to happen, the amount of clutter (including Ernie's mom's stuff) that needs to be sorted and cleared; and the risks of overspending and overcommitting on a rental or mortgage in order to find a place that feels right for us.

I'm seeking inspiration and moral support for the move by celebrating the things we love about our work, and the place(s) we live and will live. Please enjoy these photos, artwork, and other creative reflections on this phase in our lives. 

And if you feel moved to help, or called to share an option with us, thank you.  We appreciate your solidarity.

What is Lent:
In the Catholic / Western churches, this is a time for fasting, reflection, giving up unhealthy or unneeded luxuries, and instead sharing surplus in solidarity with the poor.  Religious themes include Jesus' fasting for 40 days in the desert, and the wild ride of hopes, fears, betrayal, and bewildered expectations that leads up to the Last Supper, Crucifixion, and Resurrection.  (Celebrated at Easter.)

These last months of winter, many other traditions also reflect on themes of hunger, solidarity, survival, and the longing for spring's renewal, cleansing, rebirth.  I remember seeing a Native American calendar at Timberline Lodge on Mt. Hood, that described February/March as "The Hungry Month." 
You might think that the darkest part of winter in December or January would be the hungry times - yet we often coast through the winter solstice with merriment, harvest and holiday feasting.  New Year's comes with hopes and grand plans for how well our snowblower will work, how we'll exercise more while still getting everything else done, and how quickly we'll get our tax paperwork done in January.

February is when we start asking each other, "This might be the last snow, do you think?" 
March is when we start to think about selling the blamed machinery before something else breaks... until another 6 inches of snow makes us double down and keep it working.

When I sat down to pray recently, feeling particularly sad at leaving my crew, and so many high hopes, plans, and unfinished projects, this reading came up:
John 13:1-14, the one that starts:
"It was just before the Passover festival.  Jesus knew that the hour had come to leave this world and go to the Father.  Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end."
The story continues, describing how the Lord took a towel and washed his disciples' feet - while making it clear to them the role reversal from master to servant was a deliberate example for them to follow. Love and serve one another, as I have loved you.

Took some time yesterday
to apply the decal
onto another fire truck. 
Technically counts as art
because I helped design the logo. 
Definitely counts as supporting and serving
alongside my fire chief and crew.
That's a pretty basic message, coming from a pretty extreme situation.  Comforting, direct.

So as we pack, I will be reminding myself that moving is not the hardest sacrifice, not by a long shot.  But it is a transition; and an opportunity to find ways to finish our time here in a way that honors all we've loved about being here, and supports those we care about as we go.

Flag and shirt design
for this winter's Wenatchee fire academy

"Ladders on Ice"
was an alternative proposal for our motto.

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