The smoke grew denser and I started watching with some concern, thinking the fire across the lake was getting bigger. I wandered out onto the patio after dinner expecting to maybe see a sunset. I saw it then - flames reaching just over the ridge beneath the billowing smoke. I was joined by neighbours searching the sky. We gravitated together, seeking confirmation, perhaps, that everything is OK. The flames started jumping high into the air as one tree after another exploded in front of my camera lens. The fire was just up the road - maybe twenty minutes drive. It was hard to tell. My pictures were shaky, out of focus - I was too quick to press the shutter button at times; too dazed to even take the picture at other times. With assurances we would keep each other informed, we went back into the house to escape the thick smoke and stood there with a "now what?" expression on our faces.
Our neighbour knocked on our patio door ten minutes later.
"We are under evacuation alert - get packed."
Here is where the story morphs into the surreal. Get packed, indeed.
Having no idea how long we had, or even what an alert meant, we kicked into gear. The initial panic created a frenzy of mindless activity. What do you do first? I grabbed a bag - a small one I use for carry on and started shoving clothes in - how many and what? For a day? A week? No time to decide. I grabbed my camera and the prescriptions, a few photo albums of pictures that have not been digitized, my youngest daughter's baby book - still barely filled after 33 years. The plug-in cords for phones and tablets were stuffed in anything that was sitting open. I paused and threw in my favorite jewellery, makeup (which I really don't use very often anymore), extra shoes for walking, jackets, sweaters - the list goes on.
Then, it was "wait" until the RCMP came and knocked on the door. We had some time to think. The world literally slowed down as the panic subsided and the focus of the adrenalin dump started to provide more clarity. I re- packed my clothes while standing by the car - not wanting to take anything back into the house. We made sure our papers - especially insurance - were loaded and my laptop and plug paraphernalia was packed in a suitcase. I looked at all my watercolour paintings I kept in a box in my guest room/studio and actually deliberated if I should or shouldn't include them in the stuff collecting in our little Honda Civic. In went my box of paintings.
Another half hour and I started to re-think everything. Where were my cords for my phone? Did I pack my tablet? Do I have all my prescriptions? Did I miss some photos? Should I take my only two original paintings?
Time passed and we settled down to watch Netflix. Then, wonder of wonders, the rain started - lightly. We decided we would leave it in God's hands and we headed off to bed. I doubted I would sleep. I was only half undressed - ready at a moment's notice to throw on some clothes. I tossed and turned, got up to check if it was still raining, went back to bed; got up when I heard something knocking on our front wall - all was peaceful with just a little wind picking up again. Finally, sleep (after posting on Facebook!)
What didn't I take? My expensive jewellery, for one. I felt oddly detached from the rest of my possessions - like I had already lost them.
So, what would you take? Do you have an exit plan? I would love to hear - now that I have had a close call with this kind of loss, I know what I would take!