The Intangibles

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Jon Weller is among the thousands who have lost homes in the Wine Country fires, and like them he is left to contemplating what's been lost and what remains.

At a recent birthday party for my youngest son, I witnessed a miracle. Eight boys, all active running-around-causing-mayhem kids, were smiling, swimming, playing corn-hole.

In 2005, my in-laws built a house where family and friends could gather and laugh, debate politics, gather 'round the fire. They also built the house for us. We joined in the planning and design, selecting finishes, light fixtures and paint colors. We also lived there, on the second floor, when our boys were toddlers -- a place of rest and solitude.

Many a holiday were spent there. We made crafts in the kitchen, opened presents, and watched A Christmas Story for the umpteenth time. Joy and friendship were the hallmarks of that house.

My kids learned to ride bikes and skateboards, carving endless circles around the garage, racing each other in games of tag. We built a tree fort and I built a raised garden which was eaten each year by pesky deer.


Not all was perfect there. Sometimes debates turned personal, and often, we would retreat to our house.

The home was filled with family antiques, with photos from my wife's childhood in Minnesota. The tangible held intangible weight. And the intangibles: those times of wrestling on the floor of my boys' room; of curling up on the couch during a power outage with the fire blazing; of cool summer afternoons swimming under the waning sun; the memories are all that's left.

Their home, our home, is now gone. I cannot express the sorrow I feel for them, for my wife, for my kids. My family now lives in Marin, but we are forever tied to Santa Rosa, to that home.

And today, I will trek up to the city of ashes to support family and friends in this crisis. I will face the pain that so many face in Napa, Sonoma, Lake, and Mendocino counties. In these shocking events, all that remains is the dignity of love. We hold on to so much in our lives. While the tangible losses grow, we must cling to the intangible; it is all that's left standing.

With a Perspective, I'm Jon Weller.

Jon Weller teaches English at Redwood High School in Larkspur. He lives in Forest Knolls.