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  • Writer's pictureCraig Allen Heath

Of Flame and Freeze and Simple Dumb Luck

Fire chased us from our Paradise home. Now snow traps us in our Eugene refuge.

A foot of fresh powder fell on our South Eugene neighborhood between midnight and dawn Monday. That spelled snowbound for us, with four-wheel drive in the garage but a dearth of experience using it, faced with navigating steep hills. I watched the man across the street take his off-roader from the garage, slide down his driveway and sit spinning his wheels in the street. He and his wife abandoned the vehicle and went back inside.

If he can't, I won't try.

Not anywhere near the record "Big Snow" of 1969 - four foot of falling flakes and drifts of eight feet - but it didn't stop until noon, topping out at 16 inches at the airport.

Nothing fell during daylight Tuesday, and the neighborhood came out a bit, a few intrepid dog-walkers with canines in sweaters passed by the house, unwilling to forgo their daily routine. A friend- or maybe boss - of the neighbor with the stuck Jeep arrived with a Chevy Suburban to pick up the man and his tools and take him down the hill. The big SUV slid sideways and back as the driver spun the wheels like propellers on a boat, then caught some traction and disappeared over the crest.

No mail delivery, no newspaper on the porch, but a UPS truck in chains made it to our summit and packages arrived at other addresses. Pat and I laughed that nothing came for us. We joke that the drivers hate us, pulling up out front several times a day in all weather with stacks of boxes and bags as we rebuild our cache of household stuff.

Then the flakes started again at dusk. As I write this before dawn Wednesday, the paper reports this is the second-snowiest February day in Eugene since 1892. Other stories tell of trees falling on cars and homes, an Amtrack full of travelers stuck together for two days, Interstate 5 backed up a hundred miles and Eugene's homeless - a sizable portion of the population - fighting harder than usual to survive.

We made it out of the worst wildfire in California history with our lives and our dog and little else. But made it out we did, something many cannot claim. And while our worldly possessions and the big box where we stored them are gone, we found a temporary home and have the wherewithal to buy back our material lives, something many more cannot say.

Now, while other locals are stuck in cars and trains, homes without heat or light and tents without anything, I sit sipping coffee, warm, dry, tapping on this keyboard as if I had a story to tell.

But there is no story here except an old one - Fortuna Vitrea Est - Fortune is Glass. Luck is fickle, not to be expected or taken for granted, and abandons when least expected and most needed.

I keep this in mind, knowing the tall, old trees that surround us are heavy with snow, and this storm has not yet passed.


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