When Hulme Creek resident Peri Best looked skyward shortly before 2 p.m. on Aug. 13, she was shaken by what she saw. A plume of thick smoke was billowing from the mountain she had called home for more than twenty years, smoke that came from a wildfire that was racing unabated through an area that was home to dozens.
Unable to return home, she and her visiting family sped toward Beaverdell from Westbridge, eventually reaching Kelowna and the awaiting reception centre. From there, the group made its way to a hotel for a stress-filled night; at this point, Best had no information about the status of her cabin, and spent a sleepless night awaiting news.
It wasn’t until Saturday evening that she learned she had lost virtually everything, which included a lifetime of artwork, both created and collected, as well as music, poetry and prose that she had written during her long career in the arts. One of the only things that survived was her beloved cat Mimi, who suffered badly burned paws and continues on a challenging road to recovery.
“My neighbours Will Pedlar and Erika Tafel called me to tell me they had gone to my place and that the cabin was completely gone,” said Best, “and Mimi was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t until the following weekend that Erika called to tell me she had found her.”
Best didn’t return to her former home until a week and a half after the fire began, accompanied by members of Samaritan’s Purse, who were there to help Best sift through the remains in search of anything that may have survived.
“Standing in front of the ruins was a terrible experience,” said Best. “I had lost several rare paintings that had come from Europe, including a Picasso print that apparently doesn’t exist anymore. It was the loss of all of my writing, however, that hurt the most—a lifetime of diaries and prose that are gone forever.”
Best said the hardest thing at this point is accepting all of the donations friends have made to help her through this difficult time. “That just wrecks me,” she said.
Best is considering making a new start, perhaps in Victoria, where she has family and could likely make a decent living through her expertise in the area of energy kinesiology. Fortunately, most of her kinesiology materials were not in the cabin when it burned, so she is able to continue offering a service that many in this area have benefitted from.
For now, however, Best can only sit and wait, along with other fire victims, as donated funds overseen by the Regional District of Kootenay Boundary, Red Cross and others continue to be prepared for disbursement. Only then will Best have a better understanding of what the immediate future holds for she and Mimi.
One thing is clear, however; Peri Best’s spirit remains undaunted, and, through her art, music and kinesiology, she is already on the road to recovery.