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The first half of pictures are from Nathaniel’s parents’ and grandparents’ properties, and the second half are from the surrounding area. Their neighborhood. The community where my person spent his childhood and adolescence.

It’s a really heartbreaking group of images, I know. But there are little grasses growing beneath the weight of blackened, burned pine needles and people there still stop what they’re doing to wave to you as you drive by, even though you’re driving by to essentially look at all they’ve lost and see if your eyes can actually take it in.

There are pictures I took that I’m not sharing here, of my best friends’ properties where their homes are no more, where I broke down thinking of the times I spent there, making lunches together in between classes, having sleepovers, exploring in the trees in their backyards that were so different from mine. There are pictures I didn’t take. There are so many homes now just piles of rubble on the side of the road. And you can just drive by because what can the owners of these houses do? They can’t stop you. Maybe they don’t want to. Maybe they want to let you see. Seeing is important.

Nathaniel’s parents have a lot of burned trees and dead trees and trees that have to come down and trees that are now in chunks on a giant pile. There’s a big clearing on one side of their property where they’ve removed a lot already. But it’s still so beautiful there, and it’s amazing to see the resilience of nature and of human beings. And so on a Saturday in May of next year, Nathaniel and I will be married in the backyard at a very special house in the forest. I can’t think of a better place for us to promise to love one another despite the destruction we know this world is capable of bringing to our doorstep.