A Wildfire Burning Out of Control
By Kathy, Washington
One Friday, a few years ago, I started to have a conversation with God.
I live in Washington state, and wildfires were raging there. That year over a quarter of a million acres burned in Washington—the worst ever up to that date.
My brother “Shane,” also an ECKist, lived in a distant part of the state. I had been keeping in touch with him about the fires. And then, for two days, I lost all communication with him. At the same time, I could track the fire closing in on him on the Internet, and I saw that the fire was a mere thousand yards away.
That Friday morning, I had just heard that dozens of homes in Pateros, south of my brother, had been razed to the ground, totally incinerated. Meanwhile, the fire was still out of control and headed toward Shane. Simultaneously, another fire was burning out of control five or six miles north of where I lived.
In the early afternoon I went outside to water the garden and yard. The grass was dry and yellow, and not much water was coming out of my hose. The wind was blowing the light hoodie about my head, and I felt like an idiot watering straw. I was alone and deeply anguished.
I asked, “So what do you expect me to do, God? All those people have lost their homes. What do you expect me to do? How can I plead for my brother’s home when they have lost theirs? And now—now it’s been two days, and I don’t even know if he’s dead or alive. What do you expect of me? Am I supposed to be peaceful and calm? Act as if everything is just OK? What do you expect of me?”
And then it came in loud and clear—God’s voice. But it was the God of the Old Testament.
“What do you want?”
Although I’m an ECKist, I have a Catholic background, and I fully knew this was a voice from the past—a past I had left behind. I felt that behind the question was something with strings attached. A deal could be made. And I stopped myself. This was not who I wanted to talk with. The question was floating in the air, and I decided to drop it. I was not going to make a deal with the lower worlds.
And then I heard the Mahanta’s voice.
“What do you want?”
It was a warm open invitation, the kind that friends give to friends.
I suddenly found myself stopping to reflect and reconsider, for I could feel my ineptitude. Who was I to tell the Mahanta what to do? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Did I know all things? Do I know what is best for everyone? Do I have better insight than the Mahanta? Who are we kidding? This was no time to be arrogant and forget my standing.
I trusted the Mahanta’s voice. I trusted the Mahanta with everything, all my hopes and fears and worries. I was choosing to let my anguish go and trust the Mahanta, whatever might happen. It is what it is, I said to myself. If Shane is to die, if the house and everything burns, so be it. But let it be. Trust the Mahanta. For you have seen and experienced too much to turn your back on the spiritual reality of your relationship.
And as I did that, the first thing I noticed was that the 35-40 mph winds completely stopped. Complete stillness. My mouth fell open, and my head jerked around to take in the heads-up miracle. Of course there was not a neighbor in sight to witness this. And then a curious thing happened. I’ll try to explain it with what words I can use: One moment I was a human being, standing in a yard, watering parched grass with a drizzle of water; and the next moment I felt myself going horizontal and becoming dematerialized into wind. I felt part of myself leaving and going northward and eastward toward my brother.
After a few seconds of taking in this realization, I found myself in my human body, looking behind as if prompted by something. And there I saw, coming over the mountain, beyond my yard, huge dark rain clouds. Gray clouds! Finally! They were traveling swiftly, and I was laughing. “Ahh, yes!” I cried. “Go! Go! Over there and put out the fire!” And then I caught myself. I wasn’t supposed to be giving directions. But here I was laughing and feeling very buoyant and happy because I knew that something really profound had been revealed to me. I could hear myself jabbering, “Go ahead and put out those fires, if that is what Mahanta wants you to do. Let the blessings be . . . whatever is the best thing . . . let the blessings be.” And I ran inside the house, overcome with joy.
Meanwhile, early that Friday afternoon, my brother Shane was surveying the black smoke making an appearance above the ridge near his house. My brother is a blacksmith. His store is insured, but the shop he built, the forge he built, and the machine he masterminded and created with his own hands were not insured. The sheriff had already driven by, tagged his home, and told my brother they were just going to let it burn. The fire was completely out of control.
There is just so much you can stuff into the back of a car. What are your life’s belongings worth? What do you really value? For Shane, it was the shop. He had put his all into it, and he wasn’t about to leave. No, the least he could do was stand and watch it all burn. And he was saying to himself that he wouldn’t rebuild again. It would be too much. No, this was going to be the end of his vocation, his livelihood. So Shane was going to watch the death of his dream.
But suddenly a fire truck drove up, and the fire chief hopped out and spoke to my brother.
“Got a working generator?”
“Watch this. When the others see that I’ve stopped here, they will stop, too.”
First one truck stopped, then another and another, until there were ten fire trucks at my brother’s home. My brother told the fire chief there was a bench of earth behind the trees close to his home. So they ordered and got a Caterpillar and widened that bench. Two planes showed up. One dropped red retardant (at $80,000 a pop), and some recklessly courageous Canadian pilot flew below the treetops to put out the fire with water he miraculously retrieved from some tiny pond. Forty firemen scampered up the raise to meet the fire. Some settled in a makeshift farm lookout tower. Four helicopters dumped water on the fire every four minutes per helicopter like clockwork.
And they held the fire—a fire that was burning hot enough to explode the huge propane tank in front of Shane’s shop, which might have catapulted the fire west across dry grass to consume the neighboring towns. So the “cavalry” saved the day.
What was strange, my brother told me, was that the winds started blowing east. His neighbors found that odd as well. Winds don’t blow to the east in July, he told me.
It’s taken me a long time to write up this experience. Sometimes it’s hard to grasp not really being human so much as being Soul and all the expanse and freedom and discipline it takes to transcend and overcome the obstacles.