Tim Burke: Keeping everything in the right perspective


We are very fortunate to live here in our little community of Pahrump, tucked away from much of the hustle and bustle of Las Vegas. Life is a little calmer here and it’s helpful to remind ourselves occasionally to keep things in their proper perspective.

If you look at some of the various Facebook pages for our community you will read comments from some residents that become absolutely unhinged over something as trivial as not getting ketchup with their fast-food order that they asked for. I suppose it’s somewhat therapeutic to publicly throw a tantrum and release those negative thoughts but given the recent life-threatening events in Las Vegas and Northern and Southern California that Facebook rant seems rather trivial and self-centered.

We are now all too familiar with what happened at the concert in Las Vegas but we may not know as much about how the fires in California affected residents there. This week I heard from a friend of mine who has a winery in Calistoga, California and he was able to save his winery and home but not without a courageous effort. Here is an abbreviated account from him of some of what he dealt with:

“This is what I hope will be my last update on the Napa Wine Country Fire. I am sure you have been watching or reading the news coverage of this unprecedented disaster. We had dinner on Saturday night with friends who lost their home in Calistoga. Their story was just one of many. I can’t imagine what they are truly feeling, but they were in good spirits and looking forward to rebuilding. It’s the power of positive thinking that will help rebuild the homes and communities destroyed by the fires.

“We feel we are very lucky. I am happy to report that, although there were multiple fires threatening both the winery in Calistoga, our home in Oakville, and our vineyards in Oakville and Yountville, all are now safe. I am also pleased to tell you that all of our employees are safe. The mandatory evacuation order for Calistoga was lifted yesterday (Sunday), and most of the staff was able to return to work today. We plan to reopen our tasting room on Wednesday for visitors. Our wine team has worked almost every day throughout this ordeal to save wine in 25 fermentation tanks, even during the 35-hour power outage that affected all operations.

“I could recount enough stories to write a book, starting with waking up last Sunday night to the orange glow of fires both north and south of our home, orchestrating the evacuation of more than 40 horses from our ranch in the pre-dawn hours, rescuing other animals lost in the burn zones, being barred from entering our winery for five days, sneaking our wine crew past police barricades to get to the winery to work the wine in tanks, watching a 747 and DC-10 tankers make fire retardant drops just north of the winery on Mount St. Helena, and many, many more. We are exhausted from sleepless nights and pressure-packed days. We are both grateful and a bit overwhelmed by the hundreds of calls, texts and emails from our friends, neighbors and customers.”

Others were not so fortunate in the fires. There were lives tragically lost. Homes destroyed. Businesses burned to the ground. The human spirit endures though and there are many other examples of heroism and courage coming out of the tragedy in Las Vegas and of the fires in California.

It is a renewal of spirit in what humankind can do in the face of tragedy and adversity. Complete strangers open their homes to others, offering shelter, food, and clothing. Funds have been set up to help those affected and have exceeded expectations. Hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and many of the hospitals picked up the costs for those affected by the shooting. Those wineries in California that were burned to the ground are being helped by the wineries that weren’t burned to rebuild. Lives have been forever changed by these events.

It’s late afternoon and as I step out onto my porch facing toward the sunset I feel a light breeze against my face, the temperature is a perfect 75 degrees. It’s quiet but I can hear birds chirping and traffic faintly in the distance. There are just enough clouds to make the sunset absolutely stunning as it sets toward Death Valley and I watch the clouds turn yellow, orange, crimson, and slowly fade to a deep purple. Yeah, I got a little irritated again today driving past Winery Road and 160 looking at the conglomerate of business signs that look so haphazard but I need to keep it in perspective. It’s just signs, no one died.

Stop, breath, and enjoy our calm little piece of the world. It’s pretty special.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com