15 Apr Do I contradict myself?
Posted at 13:34h in 4 mile canyon fire, 7news, andi o'conor, Blogs, conifer fire, forest service, kristen moeller, north fork fire, wildfire 6 Comments
Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes. Walt Whitman
At some point I will write about the metaphor of fire. I will write about the transformation that occurred and is occurring. I will write about who I became in the process and the multitude of gifts that enhanced my character. It is still too early for that.
Of course I can see the gifts of having community. Yesterday we wrapped up a second full (and productive) day of site clean up. We were again supported by a crew full of friends as well as those I had never met. All performing great acts of service as they sifted through ash and rubble, avoided stepping on the various hazards – nails, sharp edges of metal, piles of glass… Quite a few times during the day, I imagined doing this alone – and stopped dead in my tracks. No way. Our community is carrying us. That is for sure.
After one more sifting session in the “house”, we are ready for the bulldozers. The foundation has to come down as the raging inferno compromised the integrity of the cement that remains. We had our potential builder, Scott Deem, out to the site and discussed where another house might go. We still don’t know what we are doing. We are pretty sure we will keep our land – its scorched beauty will grow on us, the views are still extraordinary. Most of our crew would take their breaks during the backbreaking work by gazing off into the great expanse. I can see it too. I know there is magic still there. I hope last nights snowfall will clean it up a bit more. Every time we leave, we emerge like minors, covered in soot from head to toe. My pink Keens are now grey, we are thankful for a hot shower and the ability to scrub off the remnants of our house.
I held my breath as the first trees came down. Clint, Kelly, CJ and Sean were the most thoughtful of lumberjacks. They let me say which ones could go and which I was not ready to release, yet. When they crashed to the ground, billowing clouds of ash filled the air. The landscape continues to change before my eyes. We wonder what will emerge on the other side. We pray the land will heal itself in our lifetime.
We had a big archeological find yesterday. Our house was 3 stories not counting my office and loft – which I always liked to say made it 5 stories… We had storage under the stairs at the far back of the house where I kept my mothers china. Our crew exhumed almost the entire set, unharmed from the rubble they had been walking over. It lay beneath their feet waiting for rescue. Once a cream pattern, some of the pieces are now an iridescent black. Amazing. We placed the whole set on top of the foundation and I emailed my worried mom pictures. Her joy was the gift. I know this has been hard on our parents. Parents hate to see their kids suffer. There is nothing they can do in this case except love us – which they have been doing brilliantly – each time we talk, I feel their pain. I don’t want them to suffer for us, but I know it’s part of the path. We love you Dotty, Bob, Jerry, Katie and David! And, we know you love us.
As the site is dismantled, the vision of my home is still intact. I miss the conveniences of my stuff. I miss my snow boots – much needed today in our April storm. I miss my mittens and down jacket. I miss my kitchen, my coffee grinder, my new teakettle. I miss my popcorn maker, the plastic blockbuster bowl and our couch where we would watch our movies on the laptop. I miss routines. It still seems like a bad dream – like my recurring nightmare. When I think about that, I feel the panic rise. We are unplugged and homeless. One day we may feel free – but that is not at all what this experience offers this early in the game.
My radio show guest and new friend, Andi O’Conor (www.burningdownthehouseblog.com), remarked on another unhelpful comment often offered by the well-meaning, “it would be so freeing to lose everything…” And, yes, I have now heard it myself. I know your intentions are good when you say that, but we are not ready to hear it. Metaphorically, it is freeing to have no stuff. Realistically, it is a pain in the butt to have to document everything you ever owned. It is heartbreaking to recall the disintegrated items. It is devastating to comprehend the great loss. Early this morning, I remembered a cherished stuffed animal – a blue and white little dog that I had as a baby. I miss that.
We humans claim we want to simplify in life, yet simplification that is forced upon us is not always welcome. As I have said before, I have no desire to accumulate the amount of stuff I once had. It will be simpler at some point. But in no way shape or form is losing everything to fire simple.
I know I talked before about not losing every “thing” and I still mean that. It is hard to describe the reality without saying, “losing everything”. To say, well, I lost 99.89% of everything I owned when my house burned to the ground is just a bit too cumbersome…. So please forgive me for exchanging metaphors.
This experience is a death, a trauma, an extreme shock to the system. My muscle memory is still intact. How it felt to sit on my leopard chaise curled in my blanket next to the cool pane of my French door while sipping my first cup of coffee; the walk down the stairs holding the smooth railing as I went for my 4am pee; the texture of my beloved desk in my office where I doodled as I talked to clients; that deep cellular sense of relaxation and safety as I snuggled into MY bed – all these memories still exist in my body. One day it was there, and the next it was gone. Our systems will take a little while to catch up to this fact.