Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Tragedy...with a Silver Lining

Little did I know that when I finally sat down, a year after the fact, to write about this tragic event, the Fort McMurray forest fire of 2016, nicknamed "The Beast", inside of which is a feel-good quilt story, that I'd have experienced a tragic loss in my own life.  My dear friend, Linda, who faithfully reads my blog even though she does not sew a stitch, sent me this story several months ago.  She read it in a publication she gets called "Our Canada".  I kept meaning to write about it, but never did.  Now it's time. Interspersed with the words are the few blocks I've picked away at, more inspiration and awe from strong Canadian women, and Cows.

As I write this, forest fires are again raging, 155 right now in British Columbia, Canada's westernmost province.  It shares a border with the state of Washington, in the USA.  Fires are also now crossing into Alberta, province of my birth, where the bulk of our family lives.  This year the fires are mid-province, right now in Kootenay National Park, west of Calgary.  Last year they were in northern Alberta, forcing one of the largest evacuations in Canadian history, the entire city of Fort McMurray, approximately 88 000 people.  Many people returned to find nothing left; many people have not returned and do not plan to.  This link takes you to a timeline of the events.

Another way to heal: enjoying the peace, serenity and greenery of our very private back yard. Thank you to so many for your kind and caring words on my previous post; if I haven't responded it's because you are a no-reply blogger, and I have no email address for you; please know I thank you from my heart.

My husband and I spent many years camping throughout Alberta, and also a little bit in BC. Before we were married, after we got married, and after we had our girls, we camped.  We have many wonderful memories of those days.  I remember driving on highways to get to a lake through blackened landscapes after a fire had been through. It was pretty sobering. Charred trees, perhaps some green fronds of fireweed bravely poking their spikes through the ash and blackened earth are imprinted on my mind.  The smell.  Seeing the sun through a shimmer, not of heat haze, but of high smoke and ash, also comes to mind.  Touching tiny white powdery ash on our patio table in our back yard, cinders from fires hundreds of miles away.

I remember seeing on TV the images from people's cell phones of driving on the highway out of Fort McMurray, last May, the massive wall of flames right there, like right along the roads, scenes from a movie one would think.  But they weren't.  Our daughter, Brianne, wanting to help, like so many many Albertans, bought a bunch of necessities to take to one of the centres.  The manager of the drugstore, seeing what she was doing, added a whole bunch of stuff, filling Brianne's trunk.  She made the two-hour drive up to the centre, where she unloaded, seeing firsthand many families who had fled from their homes, some staying in campgrounds, others in people's yards in their campers, still others in residents' homes. The outpouring of support and help made such an impression on us, and we were hearing it secondhand; I can't imagine the depth of that feeling seeing it in person.  She went back to help a second time too.

Blocks 97-99. 97: Allie Vibert Douglas - first Canadian woman astrophysicist; I used the stars as her background; 98: Marguerite Vincent LawinonkiƩ - renowned Mohawk artisan and entrepreneur who taught the Huron women to make handcrafts to sell; I was so pleased to be able to use the burgundy scissors motif fabric for her; 99: Marion Orr - first woman to operate a flying club, and Canada's first woman airfield boss.

Goodness and kindness come to the fore when there are tragedies, and people feel so helpless.  People want to help in any way they can.  Sometimes they ask, "What can I do?" Sometimes they want hurting people to tell them what they need.  But sometimes the hurting people don't know...yet the knowledge that another human, maybe another loved one, maybe a stranger, wants to reach out and try to lessen your pain and grief, means so so much. Michele reached out, unaware of my recent sorrow...
Remember her quilt from my last post? It is done! Don't you love the border she added? This small act of reaching out has lifted my spirits so much this past week.

Sometimes you don't know what you need until later.  This is the case with the quilt story that follows.  It made me cry.  Tears of empathy and sadness, but tears of profound 'wow' joy.

Who came rushing to help this particular Fort Mac quilter?  None other than Craftsy.  Yeah.  So finding this out has reaffirmed my approval for this company for whom I am an affiliate.  That is an affiliate link.  However, I'm not here to tell you about sales, or class deals this time; I'm here to tell you of the truly wonderful act this company did for a young Fort McMurray, Alberta quilter named Eldora.
Blocks 100-102.  100:Ellen Looks Fairclough - chartered accountant, introduced a bill requiring equal pay for equal work, first Canadian woman federal cabinet minister, first woman given the duty of Acting Prime Minister; 101: Rita Margaret Johnston - Canada's first female premier, of British Columbia; 102: Mary Two Axe Early - From 1969-1994 (winning another victory at age 83) Mary fought against both white and First Nations men who denied women their status and no longer considered persons if they married a non-First Nations man; in 1985 she was the first woman to regain her Aboriginal status.

Eldora's home was one of approximately 2400 homes and buildings destroyed.  She writes of rushing home from work, having minutes to grab personal possessions before being evacuated from her home, of being one of the lucky ones with family in southern Alberta where her family could stay. So many stayed in shelters, or camped, or stayed with strangers.  When she found out the terrible news that her home had burned and they'd lost everything, she knew in her heart that material possessions could be replaced.  Yet she'd lost her sewing machine, all her sewing supplies, her quilts... my quilts are like little parts of me; I can't imagine losing them.  She eventually realized that she needed, no she yearned for her quilting to help her heal and get through this terrible time.  She had recently bought a bunch of fabric and supplies from Craftsy, and so she talked to them, specifically an employee named Lizzy, using the online chat, explaining her predicament and asking if they would consider selling her the items she'd previously purchased, at cost, so she could start sewing again.  Well.  Grab some Kleenex.

Eldora and her family returned to Fort McMurray sometime in June.  Shortly thereafter, she received a few care packages from Craftsy.  And...from Janome.  Yep.  Craftsy did a truly amazing thing: they sent her a ton of quilting supplies, from rotary cutter to thread to a couple of quilt kits!  AND they talked to Janome, who sent her a top of the line MC 8200 sewing machine so she could start doing the thing that we all know heals ourselves and heals those we care about: quilting.  Just typing this up brings tears to my eyes all over again.  Such thoughtfulness on the part of Craftsy worker Lizzy.  Such support from the company, and taking it further by talking to Janome, who also came through in spades. A Denver, Colorado company reaching out, across an international border,  to help a little old Canuck.  Eldora says, as she is sewing up one of the kits on her new machine, "The Beast" tried to take everything from her, but it couldn't take away her love of quilting.

Cows quilt, first row. Cows aren't talking much... yet... I've decided I'm not going to echo the Churn Dash, aka Hole in the Barn Door blocks, just SID (stitch in the ditch).

Doing what one loves to do, however hard and forced and fake it feels in the beginning, can be a healing force in one's life.  One day, although you are changed, altered forever, you realize that these intangible loves/passions, along with the love and compassion of those close to us, both family and friends, is what truly matters, what conquers all.

Update: A kind person emailed me wanting to know if I had any ideas as to how she could get her 'ton' of stuff, and how her guild, the Cochrane Quilt Guild, could help for Fort McMurray. I thought that there might still be a need, a year later, and did some research. For Fort McMurray, I found this article on Global News' website.  I found it comforting to know that a separate Fort McMurray fund within the Canadian Red Cross is in place and that so far they have used 75% of the funds.

I also found this website: Alberta Wildfire Donation Centre that explains that donations are no longer being accepted for Fort McMurray.

 If anyone else wants to help with the current fires, the best bet is The Canadian Red Cross. That link will take you directly to a site to donate.  Here is a current article from Global News on how you can help. I am so pleased to see the Salvation Army, an organization I highly recommended to the person who emailed me, as one of the leading charitable organizations.

Linking up
Let's Bee Social at Sew Fresh Quilts
Midweek Makers at Quilt Fabrication


  1. Dammit, Sandra, you made me cry.

  2. I know that it is just "stuff" but I cannot imagine how devastated I would feel if I were to loose all my possessions, more importantly my much loved fabric stash and my workhorse of a machine - old and cheap but still plugging along. I feel like I am currently living in the land of hate and it lifts my heart to know that there is still some goodness out there....

  3. Wow! That really is some story, and amazing how over time, it has come full circle. I've always been a big fan of Craftsy, and they're response to Eldora was just wonderful. Thank you for sharing this story.

  4. BC fires, I have a friend in Princeton, she has been evacuated, and does not know how their home will be, another in Ymir, and another a little further north.They are still in their homes, but on standby. Tragedy, you have experienced this first hand, and today your words show how much you and your daughter care. What wonderful replacement gifts, kindness has no boundaries.

  5. Gosh what a story, thank you for sharing it.

  6. Some people say the world is a hard commercial place these days , but within that there are really acts of kindness and love

  7. I could barely finish reading that through my tears. I have always felt that quilt folk are the best and this just proves that even more!

  8. Thank you for sharing the story. I've had to evacuate my home once, leaving not knowing if it would be there when we got back. It's heart wrenching. We were lucky, we didn't loose anything. I can't imagine the other outcome.

  9. Oh that is such an amazing story. So hard to lose precious things we've created, but how wonderful a response! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  10. It's a good thing I had kleenex near when I read this. How heart warming that Craftsy helped Eldora! Quilting does help calm the storm inside when tragedy hits home.

  11. What a beautiful story about Eldora, Craftsy and Janome!

  12. Yes, us proud City of Edmonton residents are renowned for opening our hearts, as we have proven time and again

  13. Thank you for posting this. We are safe in southwestern BC but I am keeping an eye on a friend in the Interior. The fires are well away from her this year but, since this is the beginning of the fire season, that could change. I hope not. Everyone is trying to help the over 40,000 people evacuated so far. Even grocery stores are accepting donations and matching them.

    Good on Lizzy and Craftsy. Way to go Janome. I'm glad Eldora is putting her life back together.

  14. Your words are inspirational amidst tragedy for many. And there is a wonderful power, warmth and generosity in our extended quilting communities, including Craftsy, Eldora, Janome and so many others. Thank you for sharing Sandra.

    1. You're welcome Patty. Better to spread positivity and acts of kindness than add to the current rage and fear-mongering and hatred. You're a no-reply so I am replying here. ;-)

  15. Wow what an amazing story and so good to hear of the kindness and generosity of Craftsy and Janome. Wishing Eldora all the best as she recovers from her massive loss.

  16. Wow what an amazing story and so good to hear of the kindness and generosity of Craftsy and Janome. Wishing Eldora all the best as she recovers from her massive loss.

  17. Wow what an amazing story and so good to hear of the kindness and generosity of Craftsy and Janome. Wishing Eldora all the best as she recovers from her massive loss.

  18. No matter how bad things get, there is someone there to reach and help. Our community is full of giving hearts and hands, and I love that. Thanks for sharing the story!

  19. Such a heartwarming story, Sandra. Thank you for a change from the normal fare we hear and read about in the news.

  20. What a great story. It is wonderful to hear of the kindness of others. We are having a terrible time with fires In California - as we do most summers. So scary.

  21. You are right. What a tear-jerking, heart warming, story. I love how your cow quilt is looking so far.

  22. Thank you for sharing this with us Sandra. So sad to hear about the impact on so many people . It is horrifying to think about the devastation that has happened. But you lightened the story with one of hope and joy and how one phone call has made such a difference in someone's life. Congratulations Craftsy and Janome for showing the human side to those in need. A little goes a long wayšŸ˜€

    Thinking of all those impacted.

    Love and hugs from your friend across the water. Xx

  23. this summer, a lot of forests burn in south of France...terrible

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