News feeds of the fires in east Tennessee filled our screens last fall. Fires sprang up everywhere in the region it seemed, many set by arsonists.
Homes and businesses were destroyed. Many lives were affected; some were lost.
One of the areas hardest hit was Gatlinburg. As I watched the fires consume the hills, I remembered a little cabin on a creek.
Many years ago my family stayed in the little cabin. Somehow dad managed to scrape together enough money to rent it during some pretty lean years. We played in the creek, and fished a little. I still remember the smell of the fireplace and the chuckle of the creek under the back porch, suspended precariously over the bank.
We walked the drag in Gatlinburg. We drove to Clingman’s Dome, Cades Cove, and made memories that have somehow survived. So as I watched the flames I wondered if the cabin remained.
Then I saw footage of a church smoldering just down the road from the cabin, and my heart sank. The fires had been there. The cabin couldn’t have survived.
Once before I visited a place where I had made many memories only to find the house gone. It now only exists in my memories and some old photographs. It was like the loss of an old friend – a feeling I wasn’t keen to experience again.
Last week we made an unplanned side trip to Gatlinburg when heavy rains had the streams high and unfishable. With a little high-tech help we found the road that lead to the cabin, and I began to drive slowly uphill. I saw what I expected to see. Burned out homes, ash, and twisted metal. The little church I had seen smoldering on the news was gone.
Lot after lot held only ruins.
Much of the wreckage had already been hauled away.
Except for one lot. The only lot on either side of the creek that had a structure of any kind left on it. The little cabin stands.
Even the home directly across the street had been destroyed. The little cabin was literally surrounded by flames. Yet somehow it survived.
Inexpiable. Improbable. Illogical.
I was awestruck and thankful. My memories still had a place in the hills of Tennessee.