Saving the Irreplaceable

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I love beautiful things, and my house is full of them; paintings, sculpture, musical instruments, and art books to rival any library. I'm a painter and my studio is at my home, so much of the inventory of my life's work is also here.

I live surrounded by vineyards and trees in a pastoral and soul satisfying setting. I don't know how I got so lucky, but hardly a day goes by that I don't kiss the ground.

Recently, I was driving on a twisty back road when suddenly, fire trucks and emergency vehicles were screeching by. I was 10 minutes from my house, and the air was rapidly filling with smoke. I turned around to race home. The fire was on the next ridge sirens were blaring and Cal Fire planes were crossing the sky. Although the wind was blowing in the other direction, I knew that if they changed my house could be gone, just like that.

In that moment all I cared about was saving my cat, Lila, and my dog, Moe. I knew I couldn't save my work; so in an instant I let it all go. I thought of those people you see on the news after a devastating fire takes everything they own, yet they seem grateful and calm, which always mystified me. But on this day I completely got it: nothing mattered, not even my work, only my animals. Only life mattered. No things mattered. None of the irreplaceable objects I cherish couldn't be replaced.

All I wanted was a guitar, so that if I did lose everything at least I could play the blues. So I threw a guitar and a computer in my car, and got my animals and was ready to drive off and watch my house burn. I felt so peaceful and focused and free. Although there was time, I didn't load up suitcases with as much stuff as I could grab. I just let it all go.


Fortunately, this turned out to be just an exercise, because thanks to the incredible work of Cal Fire and the local firefighters here in the Valley, the fire was soon completely contained, not even a blip on the radar of all the devastating fires that rage through California.

But for me, this is the day I became a monk. And a blues man.

With a Perspective, I'm Adam Shaw.

Adam Shaw is an artist living in Sonoma County.