A Book of Poems
For all Americans, 2017 was an intense year of ups and downs. There was immense devastation all across the nation. Between natural disasters, shootings, social division and more, the year 2017 has weighed heavily on the United States. There has been great pain and devastation from the many tragedies but through these disasters there have been hidden victories as well. This book by Tarin Breuner highlights both the good and the bad of the year 2017 through a series of thought-provoking poems.
Half of all author proceeds will be donated to disaster relief.
It was October 2017, the start of the North Bay Fires, the deadliest in state history. Though I lived an hour away from where the fires originated, the night they started I was working and sleeping in the area. I had planned to stay in a hotel that night, but at the last minute, a family friend offered me her home just one town away from the fire’s origination. The hotel I would have slept in burned to the ground that night.
I woke up smelling smoke. My mom had come to stay with me and as we picked up our phones, there was an onslaught of concerned messages from friends and family members on each of our devices. Bewildered, we switched on the news to discover we were thrust in the midst of chaos and a raging inferno. We quickly found out online that we were just ten miles away from the fire’s source and that most of the roads out had already been closed. My mom left a message for her friend, asking if she was okay and if there was anything we could do for her house. As we waited for her reply, we packed the car and planned our escape route. As we sat anxiously waiting, I wasn’t sure what to do. So I wrote. I wrote about the news reports and the smoke in the sky.
As soon as we got word from her, we dashed to the car and made our way for town in preparation of our adventure back towards home. Once there, we pulled into the only gas station and were met with chaos. Cars were everywhere desperately trying to jockey around one another to fill up and stock up for whatever may lay ahead. When we finally topped off our tank and began our drive home, the only route available took us hours off course, leading us to drive way up and around our beautiful state as it burned.
The days that followed were full of news stories of people desperately lamenting over what to do. As the death toll kept climbing and the fire kept growing, it was easy to feel useless. My firefighter husband had to spend days at a time manning his station singlehandedly, fielding medical calls and dealing with structure fires alone in order to free up others to join the strike teams. My sister was living in Southern California. Soon after our fire started, they were hit with their own set of tragedies. Heartbreakingly, mudslides killed one of her friends’ loved ones and they weren't alone. Meanwhile, we couldn’t even walk our dogs for fear they’d inhale too much smoke. We had to make an evacuation plan for my horse in case fire reached the barn. Many people were terrified and holed up in their homes. Others were packing their cars with belongings and supplies, transporting them to firefighters on the front lines for the battle to contain the blazes. But we were all hearing the heartbreaking stories of the people, animals and land that California losing.
After a few troubling days, we decided to spring into action. My mom and I masked-up and drove back towards the bay to volunteer at the fairgrounds, helping rescued horses. There was cleaning, feeding, exercising and repairing their temporary stalls. After seeing that situation secured and operating, we went to work for specific animal shelters. For hours on end, we drove around the wasteland, searching debris and open ground for lost and wandering animals, but found nothing. But much of the time, there was nothing for us to do. There were too many volunteers and not enough tasks for them all. There wasn’t even enough space for all the donations. Helping hands were routinely turned away. So many people wanted to help and it was a beautiful thing. It was seeing this that prompted me to write “2017”.
Hearing all the sobering news of a devastating natural disaster can really bring one down. Unfortunately, news of the overwhelming rally of concerned people wanting to help in such times is seldom reported. Therefore, an opportunity to uplift with the good that rises in contrast to a terrible tragedy is lost. Wonderful positivity and light can come from disaster. Ultimately, no matter how horrible a situation, people still retain their infinite capacity to love.
As everyone gathered to help, nobody cared about one another’s background, social status or political view. Nobody cared who the other volunteers were. No one came to criticize or pass judgement. They simply came to help their fellow man.
With this book, I hope to convey that we don’t need to be pessimistically aware or blissfully ignorant, but that we can support a balance of the two. We can focus on the future of the good without ignoring the history of the bad. We can’t allow ourselves to succumb to hate because love is stronger. No matter how dire the setback, we will win it back with love.