One woman’s quest to make sense of a nonsensical world after losing her dream home and all her worldly possessions to a raging and sudden wildfire. Exploring the existence of God, our cultural discomfort with grief, what it means to be human as well as life in a 1967 Airstream trailer, Kristen Moeller shares her humanity, her spirit and her dark edge openly for herself as well as for the countless others who beg to be heard in their wild journey through this wacky world.
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Mrs Vogler’s stool

Posted on: 11 Comments

We were warned we would remember things that had fallen into the shadows of memory and that these things were emerge at the strangest of times. Seemingly shrouded in fog forever, abruptly they would materialize while we sat on the toilet far from any pen and paper or in the middle of the night where waking up doesn’t sound like a good idea. Early this morning, I remembered Mrs Vogler’s velvet stool that she made me in 1973. Blue velvet with a gold tassel and initial “K” for me – and one for my brother with an “R”. Somehow I ended up with both. Sorry Rob. Mrs Vogler fashioned this sturdy contraption using large steel dog food cans like they made in the olden days which were fastened together into a solid circle. The stool was strong enough to stand on even as an adult and I still used it regularly. It was good for reaching tall cabinets or taking a brief respite during a busy day.

When I remembered the stool, the damn almost broke. David was getting ready to head out the door to Seattle and I chose not to add one more concern to his already furrowed brow. I felt the sob emerge and I swallowed it whole. Too early, not enough coffee, don’t want to feel it right now. Will that averted sob cause me problems later in my day? Should I stop and invite it back now? Mrs Vogler’s stool may not make the “Inventory list”. Couldn’t quite put a value on that other than “priceless”. It is irreplaceable, a memory lost in a fiery flame. Built to last, that stool would have been with me forever. I anticipate that items in this category will pop up for a long time. These are the things that really matter. The accumulated treasures of a lifetime.

Please remember Mrs Vogler’s stool when you dare utter the words, “how freeing it must be”. Nope. It still isn’t freeing, I have to say. I don’t feel more free now than before. And, this “freedom” thing is an interesting concept. Why would more freedom exist if you lose everything. I am not saying I don’t understand the impulse to wax poetic about freedom after loss but when you really look at it, isn’t it silly? We all have heard stories about prisoners who have transformed their lives and experienced freedom of spirit behind bars. And, we know (intellectually) that stuff doesn’t make us happy. So where does freedom actually exist?

Does it really mean we are more free if we have less stuff? Certainly our modern life has it’s complications. If you ask a homeless person, whose possessions can fit in a shopping cart, if they are more free would that give us the answer? Some people resist relationships because they think to be in one would mean a loss of freedom. Some people work in jobs they hate and feel they don’t have any freedom. Some people seem to have every ability to be free due to circumstance and yet are the most trapped of all. Some live in communist countries where freedom means something else entirely but are more free than one of us smack dab in the good ole US of A.

What does this freedom thing really mean? Free to come and go? Free to be who we want to be? Free to pick up and leave at any moment? Free to do as we wish? Free to speak and write without fear of censorship or worse? Free to make mistakes? Free to marry the one we love? Free to do what we want with our bodies? Free to bare arms or have our arms be bare?

And, how does not having Mrs Vogler’s stool make me more free?

Yes, we make choices in life that can affect our freedom. We found our dream house early in life and knowing we wanted to keep it, we knew there were things we might not do. Add in having dogs who are our children and this too created different choices. We probably weren’t going to jet off to New Zealand to live for a year.

I am not saying I have the answer about this. I am exploring. I am looking to see. I am remaining curious as I ride the wave and wonder who will I become. When I crash in the surf and lose sight of the shore, I am more interested in breathing then in the transformation that will come. And, in those moments of catching the perfect ride, I see glimpses of who I want to be. But is that out there on the horizon? Is freedom out there, waiting for me to arrive? Is it as easy as shifting right now? You know how I feel about that concept… Grief is a process. Looking back over the last few months, I can see signs of the different stages. Those early days are a blur. Most of the numbness has worn off and the heavy sadness has lifted – but this is far from over. Moments of disbelief sometimes rush to the surface. What are we doing again? How did we get here? Where is my house? Why am I living in a basement? I want to go home.

Maybe freedom is in the moments when we remember, or stop, or breathe deeply. It’s not an arrival or a destination. If we are fighting for freedom or the right to be free then there could be a moment of demarcation where freedom becomes possible, but then it becomes up to each individual to exercise that freedom. We can be given freedom and not take it. We can be born into freedom and not experience it. Ask any teenager if they feel free and most likely the response will be a grunted “no”. They feel the bondage of living under their parents roof. Yes, we wizened adults will scoff at this and say, “they don’t even begin to know what lack of freedom means.” And, yes, it’s true, they don’t. Maybe none of us do. Freedom is the access to rights but it is frequently experienced in the lacking of those rights.

Muse away. Consider. Wonder about what freedom means. See where we take it for granted. See where it lives. Is it a passing experience? Is it a deep exhale? Is it the glint of the sun on the surf in Borneo? Is it the right to vote, to marry, to carry?

I am free of the worry of who will sort through all my stuff when I die. I will have stuff again, just not that much stuff. I won’t need to fret about someone grappling with what to do with my old journals, scrap books or mementos. They are all gone. I am free of that concern. But rest assured, plenty other concerns have taken its place. Does that mean I am not free? Is someone reading my words somewhere out there, shaking their head, thinking, “She hasn’t gotten it. She doesn’t understand”? Maybe. Are they more free than I? Don’t know.

If I could go back in time, I would grab more stuff. I wouldn’t grab all of it, but there would be certain things like Jaxson’s puppy book, my leopard jacket and, of course, Mrs Vogler’s stool.

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11 Responses

  1. Love your exploration….I’m joining you. Our workshop is called “Extraordinary Relationship: The Freedom of Commitment”. I love it as most people do not put freedom and commitment in the same sentence. We assert that freedom begins to show up in relationships when you commit, not in holding back, being afraid, operating from conditions, etc. We’d (Lon and I) would love to engage in this one day with you and David. Sending your our love, SandyLon

  2. Lauren Byrne says:

    You make me want to go through my home and videotape everything in every drawer in every room, in every cabinet.

    And go digitize all those pics and videos I have of my kids growing up. Put it on the cloud so I know it’s “safe for all time”. And it’s all still an illusion, this safety we strive for.

    I’m also present to gratitude to work from my home and see/touch/feel the little stones from that trip to Vancouver, and the picture of the old church from Barbados and the lovely antique, embroidered chair I found on consignment.

    I used to think I knew what I would take in a fire; the kids and the dogs and if room, the photo albums, to hell with the rest. We were in a mobile home in the middle of the desert so it felt like a real possibility (fire). There actually was one once when a neighbor burned extra brush, but we put it out ourselves.

    Now I have no kids and no dogs what would I take? Hmmm. Damn, now I have to go write a list…..

  3. Christine says:

    This one is a doozie…in a very good way…sending love.

  4. Julie Vogler says:

    I wonder if your Mrs. Vogler is a member of my husband’s family. They are the Vogler’s from Nebraska. Thanks so much for sharing your story.

    Julie Vogler

  5. Love the reference to Mrs. Vogler’s stool – and I can remember them both. She loved you and Rob dearly. You were her ‘grandchildren’ and you were adored. You and David are extraordinary souls. Love you – us’ns

  6. Joleen says:

    I am reliving my fire with each blog you write. The journey never ends, you carry it with you, the memories, the things that you forgot, the things you remember, hitting you in the face, in the chest like a large wave. Not being able to catch your breath. looking back now, I can see it more clearly. The things that you don’t even know you lost. the time that you can not get back, being numb in the dark, even during the day. People not knowing what to say, and being tired of putting on a strong face, thinking that you should be strong, you should be able to get over this. But you can’t!!!!!! Even now almost 14 years later, I still have moments that I know that I have something, looking thru the boxes in my attic. Picturing it in my mind. Then remembering that that was before the fire. I keep you in my prayers as you go down this road. Be ok with not having to be strong. It is ok to have these moments. I too wish I would have grabbed more. I wish we would have had more time…….

    I love you,

    Jo

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