Um, There’s a Fire

Music teacher Karl Raschkes playing the violin

When I was in the sixth grade there was a big fire that came through the area. At the time there were a lot few houses in our little bedroom community outside of Los Angeles, and the land across from the high school was filled with brush.

The fire started a few miles away as the crow flies, but the winds carried it into our community, plus across the freeway, into the hills and all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

I remember how the air was orange, not just above us, but all around. I remember when the fire threat was gone from our community, I went with my dad back to the high school to watch the helicopters reload water for drops in other areas.

I had been at the high school earlier that day. For some reason, probably because I was really bad at it, I had a cello lesson that Saturday afternoon with our school music teacher, Mr. Karl Raschkes. There were other students there that day, but each of us had separate lessons with the teacher.

During my lesson I kept glancing out the window as the smoke got closer and eventually I saw flames in the brush across the street, but when I pointed this out to Mr. Raschkes, he told me to keep playing.

The buildings at the school were built with stone exteriors making them fire resistant, but I was 10 and there was a fire across the street. Mr. Raschkes was very serious about our music lessons and I assumed at the time that’s why he told me to keep playing, but now I wonder if he was trying to distract me from the fire.

While some distractions are problematic, like social media and most reality television, there are times when distractions have merit. Doctors and nurses often try to distract children who are about to get a shot. Sometimes you’ll distract someone so that you can surprise them. Sometimes you need a hot cup of tea, a book, and a comfy chair to distract you from the world for even a few minutes (okay, that may be what I need).

Sometimes you need a music teacher to distract you from something he may be frightened of as well.

By the way, Mr. Raschkes wasn’t with our schools for more than a few years, but a Google search showed me that he had a long career as a well-loved teacher in Oregon.

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