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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As the World Turns…

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As we settle in to our “new” (c. 1937) house in Evergreen the cracks in our foundation become more evident. Relief is here, all our stuff is finally in one place, and we are breathing some sighs of relief. Almost 7 months of living out of trailers and basements and bags left hairline fractures in our souls. Now here we are with a place we can call “home” without any twitches or jolts. Now we have an address for all of those casual or careless who require this delicate information for their various purposes. The countless times I froze when asked, “Address? I don’t have an address!!!!!!!” the scream creeping up from down deep. Even our old “Rocky Top Trail” address was no longer after the county demanded a street name change for safety purposes. So how to answer that question? The P.O. box? The current basement? The pile that was accumulating at our local post office? Just where was this phantom address that was absolutely necessary for whatever business to continue in that moment?

We have an address now. We have a front door and a kitchen and drawers and a dining room table and a roof and four walls. We are grateful. How long will we have this address? We don’t know. Will we rebuild? We don’t know. We have decided to put all major decisions on hold about our beloved property.

So how have we been in the last week in our new home? Good, happy and more content than in months. Does it mean we are through and out the other side of this process? On some level, I had hoped so, but alas no.

It’s new, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful, it has so many cool things – and it is very different. Due to a crew of our beloveds nary a box remains and our possessions are carefully placed throughout. The truck from Rhode Island arrived without a hitch and unloaded what once belonged to that dear house into this dear one. Magically, things found their new places and spaces and these familiar items created home where there wasn’t one before. I glance around and truly marvel. I am filled with gratitude for this space and the people in my life and the timing of things. Selling Rhode Island when we did couldn’t have been better for our creating a future. Having to start over (as most of my neighbors must do) by buying all new things although it may sound fantastic is a great pain. We were spared the numerous and sundry trips to retail heaven that my neighbors still have to face. I look around at things that mean something as they have belonged to my family for many moons.

I can say I love this space, this place, and this home. And, like any place, there are things I don’t like. As former boonies dweller, the proximity to neighbors is at times beyond disturbing. Waking to their heated conversations outside my door, seeing in their windows as I know they can see in mine, dogs barking all around, the politics of parking spaces… and yet the novel notion of our proximity to a cute mountain town evens that out. My new obsession is going to the dump now 5 minutes away. Yes, we have trash service but I want to get rid of things immediately. Some deep cleansing drive demands daily trips to empty us of detritus. Moving boxes, packing paper, boxes holding our newest trinkets in the way of office chairs, a printer, a computer monitor and more, I must get rid of it all right a way. The movers suggested we keep the oh-so valuable moving boxes that we paid a pretty penny for as one day in the near future we might need them again. Dreading the notion of holding on to boxes, I asked David what he thought. With our future still uncertain of when or if we might move back to our land, did we want to keep them? To my relief he said, “no” and he knew what that no meant. We need to be here. Right here. Right now.

So, I purge boxes and anything else I have accumulated that is now irrelevant or less than desirable. Even some items of clothing that weren’t just right went to Goodwill. We are throwing out the old, bringing in the new.

Who knows what the future will hold. I certainly hope that we may have smooth waters for a bit. But we all know that there are no guarantees. Just because this happened, doesn’t mean that won’t. We need to buckle our seatbelts for this wild ride called life. I can choose to let go of my white-knuckled grip on the armrests and actually look out the window. My world rocked on March 26th, life, as I knew it altered, and everything changed. I am not who I was on that day, and I still don’t quite know who I will be. I can let that be ok. There are things I don’t need to know, and I practice letting go of what might happen and what changes might be just over the horizon – or even later on today.

It’s just life. It’s just what happens and how we react. The ground will continue to move under our feet. We count on the sun rising each morning and the day going similarly to the day before. We have to count on that otherwise we would lose our center, yet down deep we know we can’t count on anything. It’s all up for grabs as we spin through space in a Universe we can barely grasp in a world that might not ever make sense, until it does.

 

Turning the page

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Dare I say, I have experienced some contentment as of late? Dare I say it? Well, there, I just did. Now in our final stretch of 2012, I can say I am happy that these digits will turn to the next (as long as the Mayan’s weren’t correct and we don’t blow up in a fiery plume or whatever it is they predict at the end of the year, or whatever it is that certain members of our current population say the Mayan’s predicted…). The fall has turned glorious. Beautiful clear blue skies and crisp temperatures that mark a perfect Colorado autumn. I happily missed the first snow and dreary cold of the season while I was still in Rhode Island – and I will enjoy all I can of this picture perfect weather.

With the change of seasons, comes a change of heart for us. We have chosen to settle, for now, in downtown Evergreen, a lovely mountain community where we can walk to everything we might need or want. In temporary housing until later this week, I feel the tides are turning. We have officially decided not to decide (or chosen not to chose, whatever your poison). We will let the dust settle, the season transform, our hearts mend further. We will put our now blossoming amount of stuff in one centralized place. We will also have a delivery of furniture and housewares that are coming from my family home in Rhode Island. The “stuff-less” will suddenly have stuff. So how does that feel?

Awesome, exciting – and scary. My dream in the early waking hours was of returning home and finding David tied up after thieves had robbed us of everything. Waking with dread, I shook off the concerns as best as possible. But the amount of times I have closed the door to leave the house and had the question, “will it be here when I return” is one too many to count. The trauma may continue for a bit. I probably will always have flashes of concern never present before. Right now, sitting in the sweet house, looking out at a nice view, I flash to my view and those last moments of a morning that changed everything. I like to write and then glance around finding thoughts in the green of the trees or in the vapor of the clouds. So, I glance at this view and feel myself in my old home, on my old perch, listening to the same music I am hearing now, fingers clicking on the same keyboard they did then and cozying into the same blanket that I carried out of my home. Flashbacks, imprints, memories swirl around in the air. Nothing catches in my throat right now, but also, I don’t want it too. I need to breathe instead. I will always miss our forever home that didn’t last forever. I will always cherish the time we had there and know in my soul that we soaked up what we needed to. We never took that place for granted and always felt blessed to live in such a perch with one of the most magnificent views around.

A few days before my trip to Rhode Island, I spent some time at the land. As I have described before, I can see the new and harsh beauty, but the devastation is present in every glance as well. The absence of any shade makes a once nurturing environment harsh and unrelenting. The ash that still covers all the blackened trees is daunting.

Yet, miss my home, I do. I miss it very much. I crave the sounds, smells and comfort of its nooks and crannies. For now, I close the door on my memories and settle in to this view and this perch, right here, right now.

Two weeks before the fire, we bought a new couch. After attempting many life saving maneuvers with our old couch, we called it quits and indulged in leather – a thick Italian leather, mind you, with the knowledge that our dogs would make it their own and their toe nails couldn’t puncture the tough hide. Tigger loved that couch and in the short time we owned it, I snapped quite a few of his different sleeping and resting poses while he lounged in leather. After moving to our temp housing, one of the first stops we made was to buy a carbon copy of our lost couch and Tigger hasn’t missed a beat in making it his own. That sweet boy has certainly shown the wear and tear of this time. Once playful around all dogs, he has been aggressive and even gotten in a few fist fights. Now, he is labeled ‘a problem’ when he goes to the kennel and isn’t allowed to socialize with the others. Add in, after both boys returned from their last kennel trip, they came back with kennel cough. At our “new” house, they will have their very own yard in which we can open the door and they can wander. .14 of an acre might not compare to the 37 they had before, but it will be theirs. And, we will find a nice doggy whisperer who can work with our boy and help ease his newfound angsts. Right now, uncoils himself and uses the height of the couch as a better vantage point to peer out the window at the neighborhood activities. He seems to be settling.

Settle is the name of the next game. Settle for a while until we know what to do next. We jumped from the fire into making plans for building and headed down a few frustrating dead-end roads in the process. We spent the summer in limbo and lived out of bags and basements. Now, we will have an answer to the question, “what is your address?” And, we will be able to respond without twitching or wanting to scream or strangle the person doing the asking. When we say “home”, it will no longer be a figure of speech; it will no longer be a moving target, it will no longer trigger deep angst and grief. Instead, home will be an adorable artisans bungalow in the heart of a town we have been fond of for a while. Saturday morning we will wake up there and the next chapter will begin.

I am ready to turn the page.

 

Frackin non-attachment, I chose fluidity.

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The next step is to leave this fine hotel room, head out in the rain, meet the woman who is buying our home, and sign the papers to make it official. I chose well to stay here for my last night after the furniture was packed up and the moving van left the driveway. Built in 1845 as a vacation home and turned into an inn over the years, the most recent owners did a massive remodel, restoring and preserving the character as well as adding luxury. The last time I stayed here was when I was a child and for some reason our house was unavailable. I remember narrow hallways and small cramped rooms. Now, my room is at the very top of the inn. Called “The Lantern”, it has a spiral staircase leading to the cupola tower with a 360 view of the surrounds.

I see my little town with fresh eyes. From this perch, I see both points of land, white caps on the open sea, boats bobbing in quaint little harbor, the iconic lighthouse, and swans gliding on not one pond but two. Then, retreating down from the tower, I rest on an oversized cream leather chaise. Yesterday, I realized my attachment to chaises is genetic. For as long as I can remember, Gramp’s spot was always on the chaise in his living room. My antique chaise burned in the fire as did my favorite spot in the universe, my leopard chaise. I have to say that this leather one beats them all. It’s wide enough, I realize, to fit me and at least one of my massive dogs quite comfortably. So here I sit, wondering about the how the day will go. Will it progress smoothly? Will we shake hands and exchange heart-felt appreciations for our transaction? Will I like “her”, the new owner of my childhood home? I want to like her, I want to feel good about whose hands I place the fate of our little castle. I also want this deal to pass and pass smoothly. We are ready for the next step even if it’s still into the unknown.

On the other end, in Colorado, stress on either side of the transaction is leaving some hiccups that may or may not get ironed out. I really like the seller there, feel that we could be friends one day, understand her predicament, appreciate her willingness to keep working together – and we have to make sure we are not walking into too much of a problem. And now some fear bubbles to the surface. We have been without a home for over 6 months, we are ready to settle. Will we settle?  Will it work out?  Will we be able to come to terms?

As I packed things from here, I was unpacking them there in my mind. Suddenly, the possession-less have possessions again – and now we need a sweet place to put them.

I write this to straighten myself out this morning. I want this last morning here to be fluid. I remind myself of the words of my shaman – “this is a time of fluidity, a new space you are moving in to. A time of releasing rigidity and your demand for it.” All along this journey, I have been dabbling with the notion of non-attachment and balking (at best) as I continued to see my attachments popping up everywhere.

Here’s the thing. Losing everything to a fire does not automatically instill a philosophy of non-attachment. No, it brings sadness, pain, loss and confusion. Also, it brings tiredness, wondering coupled with reams of paperwork, which must get complete. It brings negotiations with far away folks behind desks who depreciate prized possessions by 75% or greater. In our case, it brings a claim against the state we once loved so much for refusing to take any responsibility in burning our homes and killing our neighbors.

But we hear that non-attachment is a choice. Well, yes it is. Probably, a choice, I can make over and over again. But, I have to say that non-attachment seemed to devoid of feeling, rigid and stark. Then, my beloved teacher used the word “Fluidity” and something moved inside. Fluidity is something I can wrap my mind around. Non-attachment clearly does not inspire me. I was trying to make it work, I thought I was “supposed to”, but I am done with that. Fluidity on the other hand, speaks to my soul. Of course, there is overlap and connection. Fluidity means movement and ease and light dancing on water. It means I can let go of my belief that I need to be rooted and grounded and planted somewhere. It means that no decision is wrong as I can merely flow from one to the next. It means tides washing in and bathing everything clean. It means something different at every moment, as I know by watching the waves crash at the point. No pattern is the same, no wave identical, no gleam of sunlight on water reproduced.

That makes me sigh deeply. Fluidity, I can work with. I can return to ease contemplation of a seller in Colorado who needs to make things work for her family. I can return to a buyer here who wants to do the same. I can return to myself, not judge my tendency to grasp and react. What would fluidity do? It would breathe and expand and sparkle. I let it bathe my tired brain. I allow it to soothe my jagged edges. I feel its truth down deep. Yes, this is my time to let go on a level I never have before. Our Colorado house was taken from us. Our family home, we are choosing to let go of. They are very different experiences. With this house, I was able to walk from room to room and say my goodbyes. I chose to sweep it out one last time, even though the cleaners are coming today. I did this to honor the house, and welcome the new owner. I did this to complete the past as it was my assigned task that I despised for so long.

After sweeping the whole place, I moved from room to room and ran my hand along the walls, thanking the house for holding us so dearly, remembering snippets of life as I did. Each time a sob started, something came to ease its jaggedness. Opening the closet one last time, I discovered a pile of towels I meant to pack. Cursing David momentarily for putting the towels away after the laundry, I then appreciated the distraction from my pain. As I moved through the living room, a trapped bird was frantically fluttering against the glass. Quickly, grabbing a forgotten towel, I was able to catch the bird gently, momentarily meets it’s frightened gaze and release it outside.

The last step was my final closing of the door where I stopped to visualize hands on mine and imagine the sound of the door not just closing, but opening elsewhere. Turning, I stepped away for the last time, sobbing loudly and walked 10 steps and there was the neighbor girl coming to ask if her dogs could use the pen to run around. Stopped again from my deep anguish, I chuckled, until I found my car battery dead for the second time. “Figures”, I thought and went in search of the girls mother.

After we jumped started my car, I stopped for a few extra moments to know and hear this woman. Staying longer than I might have in my previous script for my departure, I saw her pain of being a single mom with an ex who left her with no support. Her eyes flashed with all that she carried, and she put her chin up to face the world. She offered her number in case my car died again this morning. I glanced down as she handed me the paper. Her last name: Angel.

 

Calling in the big guns

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Up before the sun is not my usual M.O. But I now rise from bed to enjoy my last day in this house. Today, I say ‘enjoy’ because after taking one to many trips to the dark side, I screamed uncle and called in the big guns. I have plenty of great teachers and mentors in my life, and I have the good fortune of an inclination towards Shamanism as well as a new community who plays in that playground. Ancient spiritual wisdom was just what the doctor ordered l in helping me turn my ship around as I continued to bump ground as I sailed further into dark water. Wading through memorabilia as the memories wafted through air like fruit flies, smacking my skull and knocking me senseless, I was beginning to drown in the pain.

Two Shaman’s later, I am back on solid ground. I don’t mind walking through my grief and allowing it to be – and I needed to see the sun shine just a bit. I needed to know that healing was happening and that this wouldn’t be all there is and was, forever. Shaya Mercer brought me reminders of the little girl I once was as I first explored the territory around this lovely home. We were a happy family, fortunate to vacation at the beach, my parents gorgeous and smart and in love with their little brood. Then suddenly and out of the blue, Dad was leaving and life altered. All my clear memories after that event are my mistakes and humiliations and youthful angst. Might I have been that anyway? Sure, but as we know, divorce messes with kids heads. Like many, I stuffed those feelings way down deep and then stamped them down further as I launched into my addictions. “I will never be left again”, became a mantra. “Be good, be nice, be sweet” became a trap. Read More

In preparation for the tape gun – an Ode to complicated grief

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The hollowness of my core echoes its mantra into my mind. Or is it the other way around? My mind echoes and tells me it’s my heart. Is my heart breaking? Is this pain real? Does anything ever make sense? I sit to work on my book this morning before the crew comes to pack and the house is filled with that activity. Entrenched in a re-write of my book that began early this year, I hit a serious road bump after the fire, then began again with fits and starts throughout the summer. I am writing an updated version on waiting, bringing in my “new” perspective, removing references to Jack all with the partnership of a new publisher. This is quite an opportunity but I can’t seem to get this sucker off the ground. 

With the help of my editor, I have melded new stories with old, changed the introduction, and have places where I merely need to write transitions yet each time I begin again, I wonder, just what is it I am saying? What is this waiting thing after all? Is it a phenomenon? What does it even mean to wait? Recently, on two separate occasions, I received direct reports from new readers of how my words spoke to them, pointed to where they wait themselves and challenged them to look at life differently. This is obviously quite a gift, coming in the midst of my questioning. Read More

God I love you people

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Yesterday I had the great opportunity to laugh. After a doubled over fit of hysteria I had in the Bahamas with the Meehan family, which was literally triggered by nothing, I am not sure I have guffawed even once since. Yesterday the damn broke thank the good lord above. I needed it. Big time. Getting way too significant over here, I was. And, yes, I am still mourning – but yesterday I laughed my ass off too.

So this is a time, once again, to acknowledge my friends with whom I can both share the dark angsty stuff as well as laugh like a school girl – or rather a frat boy. With my friends, we cycle between the angst and roar in minutes. This is how I know I am not really going over the edge, by going over the edge. It started simply enough with some banter from a new friend, comic Jeff Wozer about his recent near miss with a killer deer. Read More