Eyes closed, rocking on a familiar cotton rope hammock, my mind took me to my yard in Paradise. Eyes opened I expected to look up at my tulip tree. I was not in Paradise last week, but in my Mom’s hammock in Colorado Springs. There, an afternoon thunderstorm rolled in and brought me out of my daydream.
Shaded by Ponderosa Pines, I spent some time hanging out in my hammock in Paradise, dreaming, swaying, and thinking about life. It had to be a cotton rope hammock when it was time for a replacement. My parents had a Pawleys Island rope hammock in our yard since I was young. The Army moved us every couple of years, and my dad would put up our hammock in the new yard. I got used to new places that way.
Being displaced I have this way to try to feel at home, and so as soon as I could after the Camp Fire, I bought a cotton rope hammock and placed it in our yard, first in Los Molinos and now in Corning attached to our pergola. It’s different here in the valley, really hot, really dry, and we have no tall trees in our yard in the pastureland. But in the cool of the late evening, I can swing and pretend I’m in my yard in Paradise, as long as I keep my eyes closed.
It feels hotter than usual, although I’m told by locals that it’s so far cooler this summer than average. It feels like I’m on another planet in this valley, even though I’m only an hour away from my home of 29 years on the ridge in Paradise.
So much devastation remains in Paradise. Some trees survived, thankfully, but most were burned. Many of the burned trees are stumps now, and many others still stand, with burned bark and no leaves or needles.
Some people who left the ridge during the firestorm never want to live in trees again, and others moved back already, to an unburned area in Magalia or to a lot where the debris has been removed. I have several friends from Paradise who are moving to Idaho, to the high plains around Boise. The more friends and acquaintances that set up house far away, the more I realize that the Paradise I knew is gone for good. Rebuilding cannot happen fast enough. It is happening, and our Paradise traditions like the Party in the Park and Johnny Appleseed Days will continue, but without my hammock under the tall tulip tree, it’s just not the same.
I wonder what the future holds for us. I hope it will include towering trees. We’re thinking of planting date palms here, and in time, if I have that much time, you may find me in their shade in a cotton rope hammock.
A Hammock in Many Places was published in the Paradise Post on August 7, 2019.
Robin Huffman lived in Paradise, California from 1989 until she evacuated from the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018.