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30 Years of Marriage and the Fire That Could Destroy It All

Posted Sep 07 2008 2:06am
Please come visit Jed Diamond at and get your free e-newsletter.

We live in Northern California, Mendocino County, in a wonderful little town called Willits. We actually live up in the hills outside of town. We are surrounded by beautiful, tall trees, and wild-life abounds. Each summer we worry about fire and each summer some crazy people start fires somewhere in our area. Luckily we haven’t been affected-- until last night. In the midst of a hot, dry spell, it began to cloud up and we felt the first raindrops. We were glad to be getting some rain to lessen the fire danger. We weren’t prepared for what happened next.

In the heat of the summer very little of the rain actually hit the ground. It evaporated before we could receive its healing coolness. But the thunder and lightening did come close. By the next day we gradually learned that hundreds of fires had been started by lightening strikes all over Northern California.

As we drove down our ridge late in the afternoon to join our friends Al and Donna in celebrating 30 years of marriage, we could see smoke in a number of areas, but far off, no direct danger to us. There was one small stream of smoke on the ridge across from where we live, but a plane was flying overhead dropping retardant and it looked like it would be put out soon.

The party with Al and Donna was wonderful. Hundreds of friends and family came to celebrate with them. They took their vows again and dedicated themselves to continuing a marriage that had nourished them both through the years. Sitting with my wife, Carlin, I thought about our own marriage. We’d both been married twice before and now on our third marriage, we are still together after 28 years.

In certain moods I can’t imagine how anyone can stay married to the same person year after year. There are so many issues that come up and so many stresses in life that often get focused on the relationships. There seems little support for couples. Each one seems to live in their own world and attempts to work things out themselves.

In other moods I can’t imagine why anyone, having found that special someone, would ever think of leaving. Life can be so wonderful when you have a partner to share it with. In spite of the inevitable ups and downs why would anyone want to give that up? Life is so much better together.

Last night I felt how lucky I am to have Carlin, to be in a relationship that I fully believe will last the rest of our lives and be surrounded by friends, many of whom are in a committed relationship.

We saw Charlie and Dave, committed partners for over 20 years who recently married. If you ever talk to a committed couple, you know how important marriage is to them. I’m glad our country is gradually overcoming our fears of same-sex marriages and supporting our friends and neighbors who want to commit to each other.

As we enjoyed the party and it got darker we could see fires burning in the hills. I got a flash of worry. I hope our house is safe. I hope that fire on the ridge is well out. I hope all of us who aspire to long-term relationships don’t have them cut short by fire.

As we drove home and started up the hill we both gasped to see the ridge across from us engulfed in flames. We have a number of friends in that area and immediately called. We couldn’t reach two of them. We reached a third friend and learned that the fire was close to them. One man had left his home and gone to stay with friends.

As I write this on Sunday morning, we don’t know if our friends are safe. We watched T.V. coverage of other areas where people lost their homes. Our prayers, for a calm night without winds, were answered. Hopefully our friends will be safe.

But it makes me think about how fragile our hold on life can be. Relationships that seem destined to last forever, fall apart. Homes that seemed safe from harm are wiped out by flames caused by a freak summer lightening storm.

I hope you each are safe and you take care of yourself and each other. I hope you remember what is important in your life and you nurture it every day. We never know what tomorrow will bring. What’s important in your life? Have you had times of danger and loss you’ve had to face and move through?
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