You may not have heard until around lunchtime today because for some reason the news outlets weren’t covering it, but Gatlinburg, Tennessee was on fire. Actually, it has been on fire for a couple of weeks–East Tennessee has been experiencing its worst drought in about a decade–but yesterday the winds kicked up and some fires that were simmering in the Chimney Tops area blew out of control and caused terrible devastation. Hundreds of homes, dozens of businesses, gorgeous, beloved areas of Smoky Mountain National Park: torched to the ground. It’s upsetting for anyone who has ever set foot there because truly it’s one of the most beautiful areas of the country, and naturally it’s disastrous in many ways for natives of the area and those who live there currently.
Not too far from the Chimney Tops in Gatlinburg is the Chimneys Picnic Area. It’s gorgeous and full of huge boulders through which the river runs. The sound is amazing. We have taken countless pictures on those boulders.
The Chimneys has been my favorite area in the park since I first set foot there in 1981. My family has picnicked there. When we hosted a German exchange student in the summer of 1982 we took her there. Jim and I spent time hanging out there when we dated, and after we had kids we went there for picnic breakfasts with Jim’s parents. We still go there whenever we can; in fact, we were there last month after Jim recovered enough from his accident to take the drive up.
Naturally I am so sad for the people who lost homes and businesses in Gatlinburg: those losses are the ones that most deeply affect people’s lives. I’m also so sad about the losses in the Park, though. The thought of going back someday and seeing what damage the fires have done gives me a terrible feeling.
My biggest hope is that the town will rise from the ashes like a phoenix and the Park will become rejuvenated. It will all take time.
It’s yet another reminder of the message the Universe seems to be trying to get across to me this year: loss can happen in the blink of an eye. I’m paying attention, Universe. I’m practicing gratitude.