For almost two weeks, we have waited expectantly for an authoritative word about Blythe’s family’s summer homestead in Nova Scotia. Wildfires have devastated the province and constant vigilance of satellite imagery has indicated that our home lay directly in the path of the Barrington Lake fire, the largest wildfire in Nova Scotia’s history. Located in the evacuation zone, with roads closed and communication spotty, we did not know what had happened to our home.

With the evacuation order ended, it was finally time to go to Nova Scotia and see for ourselves. We arrived by ferry in Yarmouth on the province’s southwest shore. Everything seemed normal.

Not knowing what fate awaited us, we had made arrangements to stay in an inn on the waterfront near Yarmouth. The alluring peace and serenity of the province was intact.

As we drove northwest down Route 103, the main highway, we could begin to see evidence of the fires in the distance. In 2023, wildfires have already burned seventeen times the amount of acreage as in a normal Nova Scotia year.

When we turned onto the Shore Road, about five miles from our house, evidence of the fire became more apparent.

Upon approaching Cranes Point Road—our road—charred remains closed in.

Proceeding down the road that led to our place, blackened soil and once-green woodlands encircled us.

Finally, up over the hill, the house lay just over the horizon.

Miraculously, the fire had stopped literally feet from our home. The house was spared by a narrow (and unintentional) firebreak caused by mowing around the house to keep insects at bay and enhance our view of the water’s edge beyond.

In some cases, the fire was within inches of our home. And we were not alone.

Time and again, we encountered neighbors who selflessly reached out to others, providing food, shelter and emergency service—fire fighters who sacrificially tended to others’ dwellings while they were under evacuation and could not return to their own homes; Harry and Jeremy who kept the small firebreaks on the point mowed even as the fires ominously built in the distance; Amanda, the new owner of The Cooper’s Inn on the Shelburne waterfront, who opened her rooms to evacuees without charge; the unknown neighbor who stopped to help fix a hole in the roof caused by the fires. It is a remarkable series of kindnesses that we are experiencing here in Nova Scotia in response to the tragic rampage of its out-of-control fires.

I am reminded of a brief Instagram video I saw recently about turtles coming to the aid of one of their own. Check it out. If turtles can collectively—and successfully—respond to trauma, so can we.

And before leaving the fire zone, we saw new fiddle head ferns already poking through the blackened soil and lupines in full bloom gracing the charred landscape. Grace upon grace.

13 thoughts on “The Journey Home

  1. Wow. Miraculous. So glad for the safety of your home and all of the ways that people are caring for one another.

  2. We’re so happy to hear about your home’s narrow escape. Looks like some power washing will brighten it back to its original condition. Of course, there will be some less fortunate neighbors, so you might all need some help there. Meanwhile those last hopeful photos show once again that light overcomes darkness; life overcomes death.

  3. Oh, Bob and Blythe, what a relief! I’m so happy for you and so impressed by your community and your gracious thanks to them. Praise God!

  4. Dear Bob and Blythe, Thank God that your home was spared. Miracles do happen!

    Michael and Jennifer

  5. Big brother, the tears are streaming down my face as I write this message. I am so happy for you and Blythe! I know the unknown the past few weeks has been agonizing for both of you. Thank God for those who helped keep the family homestead in tact.
    The utter devastation others are experiencing tug at my heart strings as well viewing the total loss felt by many.
    Enjoy your precious time there together.
    Safe travels. Love you both.

  6. So happy to hear your home was spared and heartwarming to read your story of community, love and helping each other>

  7. Your journey brings to mind another.

    A general practitioner known to you and me found herself diagnosed with a worrisome yet treatable cancer in early 2022. Months of aggressive chemotherapy followed, during which she, remarkably, continued she attend to the many patients in her own practice, including the one writing this post.

    Hers was a road travelled by many, occasioned along the way by stops and starts similar to the ones referenced in the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. The stops and starts can come in any order, at any time.

    Maybe you know someone who has embarked on a similar journey? The truth of the matter is that we all know a similar someone.

    By late 2022, the individual referenced above managed to make it to the crest of her own hill, revealing, as in your and Blythe’s case, a moment of breathless exultation. Sometimes hope comes upon us in the strangest ways.

    When I saw her yesterday, June 14, she looked strong. She looked good. Her hair had grown out several inches, a bit grayer now.

    She told me she had been feeling well over the winter months. She also told me a death had recently paid visit to the family. Her father-in-law. In April. Coincidently, the news of his passing came on the very same day she learned in a call from her oncologist that her cancer was no longer in remission.

    When she, her husband and their two 20-something children convened on the east coast for the funeral, she said she found herself deeply moved by the words of the pastor who led the service. So moved was she that later the same day she asked her husband and kids if they wouldn’t mind taking in a church service with her sometime soon.

    They did not mind her asking. They understood the cause of her query.

    The journey ahead was going to include another hill to climb — a finding of ways to another, as yet unknown, outcome.

    Yesterday, having just shared her news with me, she paused, looked my way, smiled, softly laughed, and said, “You know me. I’m not in the least religious.” Another pause, then she added, “Everybody says they’re praying for me. Can you believe it? For me.”

  8. Dear Blythe and Bob,
    I am so happy that the fire didn’t reach your house. Blessings on you both.
    Love, from Barbara Costigan

  9. Dear Bob and Blythe, Thanks be to God. So glad your home was spared, and the promise of resurrection is all around. Xox Val

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