By Pete Millard, PMHNP-BC, Birch Grove Health Center
Starting over after the Almeda Fire: creating a new environment to call home
Starting over – it is a theme in so much of human art and creative endeavor. Countless times over the years, humans have been able to identify with themes of loss and sadness. At the same time, individuals and cultures have celebrated rebirth and growth. It is often through loss and subsequent recovery that the finest aspects of our lives can be restarted. It is not always the case that such a new beginning heads in the direction we thought it would, but it is a rebirth just the same.
Recently, I have been forced to consider these themes after the Almeda Drive fire destroyed my home. A year ago, I got rid of almost everything I owned and left Boston, Massachusetts to travel to southern Oregon. I came out here drawn by both the surrounding environs and the prospect of defining my role within La Clinica. I left with the hope that beginning again would open a new chapter for me, allowing me to rethink and reorient my whole life. I left the northeast for a change of scenery, and to experience a new environment and consequent way of life.
Now, I have lost all my possessions and my home. I am again forced to reckon with the meaning of starting over and figuratively speaking, a rebirth of sorts. This rebirth is born, as many others are, of my environment. As I think on the experience of two major life changes in the past year, both born of radical change in my life, I come to reflect on several things. One is the resilience that is necessary to move on from terrible circumstance. I think of all the people who lost everything and how they are moving on with their lives. They have also tasted of change born of their environments. I am humbled by the strength of those around me and, at times, surprised by my own. Another thing I’ve learned about is the primacy of altruism in how you approach everyone with whom you might interact. I’m so invested in helping others and I’ve learned that it is OK to ask for help. That is something that a lot of people lose sight of. I am also grateful for the kindness of the people around me. The incredible generosity and grace displayed by those who have opened their homes and hearts out of selfless kindness is overwhelming.
It is with these reflections that I start to put everything back together. It is with this support, driven strongly by the kindness of others who stand with hands outstretched in selfless kindness, that I begin to move on. As I rebuild and reestablish a home, I am again finding an environment where I can feel at peace. In reflecting upon what I might be able to bring others, regarding this whole life change, I can think of several things which others might take away from my missive. People can recover, it is OK to ask for help, and yes, people are kind to you in your moments of need. All I can think to say to those who have helped me, and those who have inspired me through their strength in the face of disaster is, thank you.