Everything we need can be found on the inside

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP Contributing Writer
| September 16, 2020 1:00 AM

We've added another collective layer to those comically disgruntled 2020 memes. Smoke. Obscuring the sun and everything else in its path. I think I miss the sky the most. Even a cloudy day has some definition. It's work

to stay upbeat waking to a gray shroud in the mornings.

I've written about mine and Terry's Alaska experience with wildfire. Such irony. Returning home one evening from the new movie "Twister" only to see a “reverse tornado” on the near horizon. It turned out to be a huge smoke spiral that became the Miller's Reach fire of 1996. The next morning we were scrambling to evacuate.

Here's a question for thought. If you, in imminent danger, had just a short time to pack up a few things what would you take? The answer reveals what we most care about — maybe yields some surprises.

Back then I didn't think about taking family recipes. I would now. They're table history. How I can make a recipe countless times over the years and still need to look at ingredients and measurements is a mental flaw I'll probably never overcome.

I picked up my Bible the last time with all its dates and notes. A faith journey in those pages. Now I would do the same with my mother's — the soft leather cover indented where her hands held it open. I'd take her letters to her mother, too — written when I was a baby, revealing a part of her I never knew until I discovered them in an old trunk after she died.

There's the sweeping autumn painting of Mount McKinley — done long before the mountain was renamed. A farewell gift when Terry and I left Alaska. And a freestanding rectangular canvas with two painted birds on a wire and lettering from my favorite Frost poem — “I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.” A present from my artist niece.

I'd include the faux carvings on the mantel, my grandmother's small figurines resembling an old Scandinavian farm couple who lived down her road growing up in South Dakota. Our modest wedding album absolutely — almost 49 years since we didn't know what we were saying “I do” to — but we held on to love and learned.

If I could I'd snatch a lamp and bowls handcrafted from my front yard teenage tree in Priest River. A stunning century old silver maple I call the Mags, short for Magnificent — now a fallen memory. I'd also want my father's pocket date book from the year he died, back in 1978. I always admired his printing. And it is poignant to see my name written in on my birth date — one he didn't quite make.

I suppose I had better grab this laptop with its stored stories. But honestly, an electronic seems more like an intruder — a thorn among roses. The iPhone, though, has got to make the cut — mainly for all the photos of children and grandchildren, which might be recovered from the “cloud” — but this cumulus accumulation of data remains a mystery to me.

When I get down to it not that much stuff matters. And what does is because the people — the memories — have mattered. If my escape were to be so rushed as to leave empty-handed this little exercise has shown me I'd be carrying everything I care about on the inside. Packed to the brim, spilling out the edges.