As one travels Highway 33 from Rock Creek to Westbridge these days, the physical devastation caused by the wildfire of Aug. 13 remains for some the primary visual and visceral reminder of that day. Nearly four months later, the sense of helplessness that many felt on that unbearably hot and windy afternoon remains almost as real as it was then, with complete emotional recovery for many affected by the fire likely slow to arrive.
Amidst the wreckage of burnt trees, however, there occasionally appears a vibrant spot of colour, in the form of small flags strung along a length of rope suspended between two trunks.
They offer a welcome respite to travellers as they pass by the large pockets of blackened forest and, for a few moments at least, provide a sense of hope for the future of the decimated area.
The architect of this art project designed to promote ongoing hope and healing within the community is local art therapist and yoga instructor Rossana Garcia Manzano who, along with husband Emilio Martinez, has strung more than 300 flags along the highway.
“I started this project because of the sensation of being helpless when I saw the big flames in front of our house,” Garcia Manzano explained, “so my thought after the fire was ‘how can I bring back something to the community and nature?’”
She began the project at this year’s Rock Creek Fall Fair by inviting people to participate in the process by taking one piece of the mounds of fabric donated by members of the community and decorating it with a message or something symbolic that represented hope and love to them.
“After that I thought that the kids in the different schools where I work would like to participate in the project,” Garcia Manzano said, “so students from Beaverdell, Rock Creek, Midway and Greenwood schools participated.”
Also teachers in the district were invited to take the project to their class, so Perley and Hutton elementary schools also contributed, as well as some teenagers from Grand Forks Secondary. Then some of the teachers and even practitioners in our yoga studio jumped on board and the project grew from there, ultimately becoming more of a community collaboration rather than simply a school project.
Around 350 flags were placed in the area, some on the properties of people that lost their homes, while others have been moved from their original location because of ongoing tree removal.”
Explaining the philosophy behind the “Rope of Hope” as the spreading of goodwill, love and compassion all around the affected area to lift the heart of the community, Garcia Manzano is extremely grateful to all of the contributors during the project.
“The goal was to place our thoughts and intention into a physical form,” she said, “and bring awareness and hope and the thoughts of a better future to the area that we all love so much.”