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Cold


The cat curls himself into the hollow of my knees
Under the blanket that kept my mother warm before she died.
Soft
Sage green
with a pattern of leaves,
the tones of his brown fur
echoing the shades.
I warm my hands on him
under the serendipitous guise of petting,
as he doesn’t seem to mind.
We are still
becoming accustomed
to one another.

Yesterday’s blues have turned to gray,
pure white piling
up along pines and trails,
the Spring of Deception
showing itself in a freeze of glory.

My coffee now only remembers warmth
but I still drink it.
It is not worth
disturbing the cat
to heat it up again.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • That A is moving into a more permanent place today
  • Warm fuzzy socks
  • Classical music
  • Spaghetti squash

It’s a cold, quiet, snowy day today. I had a few good cries over the weekend over Roscoe, over Dusty, and over the reality of thinking “Oh, I have one of those,” followed seconds later by, “No, it burned up”. On some days, depending on what I’m doing or where my untethered thoughts drift, that last thought sequence can happen a dozen times a day. It makes me pretty sad when it does.

Yesterday was a work holiday and I ventured into in the quasi-big city for groceries. A stop at a thrift store dropped the blessing of a baker’s dozen of books by one of my favorite authors, P.G. Wodehouse. My well-curated collection was lost in the fire, and these were even the same editions. I felt like I was looking at my own now-gone shelves. Granted, I have a long way to go to build back my library of his work, but this gift made me feel that my angels were with me.

When my angels are with me, one of two things happen. If it’s at night, I see twinkling blue lights in front of me. I think of it as the “Blue Light Special”. The night of December 30, when I went to bed, there were so many of them that I was reminded of the fireflies in the backyard on summer nights when I was young. During the day, the angels let me know they’re with me by a tingling on my scalp and a warm gentle feel of an arm around my shoulder, or a brush of a kiss on my cheek. All comforts that make my heart ache with joy and gratitude. I have not forgotten them and it’s so nice to know that they have not forgotten me.

Night has been difficult since the fire, at least nights alone have been. My mood seems to darken along with the sky. I am cold, which makes me think of the cold ruins of the cozy house. I still have those sad magical thoughts that maybe there’s something I can do to fix it, to bring it back, to make it not have happened. I get teary thinking of it.

I am so grateful for the friends who’ve walked with me along this rocky road these last seven weeks. Know that I am better than when I started. Grief is just an uncharted path.

Photo credit: Megan Williams

As I was trying to cook and not set the Retreat aflame, it occurred to me that I’d always thought I’d wind up a wizened and mysterious old woman, living in my little white house at the edge of town, growing flowers and tending old dogs and cats, and all the children would think I was a witch, which would make them a little hesitant and very curious and then they’d discover how wise I was. Now the the cozy house is gone, what am I to do?

Losing my journals from ages 18 to 40 something is one of the hardest losses. I was a prolific journal keeper, with descriptions of days, feelings, relationships, and encounters. Hundreds of poems. Practically every thought I had. I asked ex-Pat to bring them over on one of his visits, but he brought the wrong box, and I never got around to going to the cozy house myself to find them. That’s on me.

Of course, I can remember a lot, fortunately, but remembering is different than reading my own words and feelings. Going back to old journals, particularly during tough times, helped me gain perspective. I could see how I transitioned through challenges, how I mulled over decisions, and how I grew as a person. It gave me confidence that I’d been through the muck before and found my way out, so I could do it again.

What I have now is the internalized knowledge that I can face things with courage and wisdom. That’s good. But I’m never not going to miss the details. I always hoped that K would someday read them (preferably after I was gone so I wouldn’t have to answer any questions) and get to know her Mother even better than she does. That’s not a possibility now.

It’s funny (well, probably not) but lately, when I start to think of the specifics of the loss of something, and start to feel that too familiar pain in my heart, I turn it off; I mentally distance myself from that grief. Pulling a Scarlet O’Hara with an, “I’ll think about that tomorrow,” or using one of K’s favorites, which is “that’s a thing for another day’s Seasweetie.” Perhaps grief is no longer serving a purpose. I guess that’s what healing looks like.

MKL and I went back to the cozy house today. We dug and sifted through ash, snow, and mud. We focused on the area by K’s bed, part of the kitchen, and a continued fruitless quest for the hardware from the antique family rifles. We found very little. The brass bull boot puller. Another mystery ring in terrible shape. A couple of things that might be K’s Ultimate medals. A whetstone. Not much.

Today, I am asking, when is it enough? When am I done digging, done searching, done trying? I called K and she said not to keep digging for her. In her wisdom, she said that there’s nothing I will find that will bring back the cozy house. What we want is for this never to have happened. That’s something we will never have. I will never have the cozy house back ever again. It is gone. Period.

Those who know me know that I don’t give up. Not on people, not on things, not on goals. I could have sifted every inch of ash on the property since the fire, given the opportunity. I could go back today and sift forever. But at some point, I have to stop. I think that point is now.

Searching hurts more than it helps. My attempts at discussing rebuilding with ex-Pat have been met with nonchalant hostility. For him, that part of his life is over. It sucks that he has zero sentimentality about our family. It really sucks. But there we are. I can’t afford to rebuild on my own. I can’t afford to buy him out. Maybe I’ll just come down from the Wet Mountains with a tent and camp on my land and plant flowers to recreate my amazing gardens. I don’t know. I’m sad. I’m at sea. But I’m moving forward, even though I don’t know what’s up ahead.

I was born only a few miles from the house I grew up in, the house my parents lived in my whole adult life, the house in which my Father died. As I’ve said, it’s what I truly thought of as home. My Mother sold it about 10 months before she died, about 5 months after my Father died.

I wanted that sense of security for K. I could see the cozy house’s lights from the room in hospital where K was born. It was always her home, even after I moved to the Cottage and then to the Bungalow. Even after she went 1,000 miles away to college, and then 500 miles away to start her grown-up life.

I have often talked with her about the concept of home. Now my heart breaks that she has suffered this loss of home as a place, a concept, and a heart, just as I have now done twice. She’s too young for this loss.

Several sisters of my heart were raised differently from me, being from military families. They moved often and far. One has wondered why I left so many things I treasured in the cozy house. She was not attached to much and was ready to pick up and move when the family needed to, never leaving anything behind. Another has found herself more attached to things since she had to pick up stakes so often.

My Mother was the child of a somewhat nomadic father, and she loved moving. She loved the new towns, new schools, new people. Her lack of attachment to things, as I discussed yesterday, was also most obvious to me by the fact that she sold her wedding dress. She didn’t think about the daughter she might have someday who might want it. She did save a silk chiffon scarf that she wore on her wedding day, that I wore on mine, that is now ashes.

My Father moved, but most of it was for education. Kentucky, Connecticut, New York, Illinois, and finally, North Carolina, where my childhood house was the first and only house he bought. But despite all those moves, he had a family home to go back to in West Virginia, where his Mother was born and lived until she could no longer live alone, which was in her mid-80s. While we never discussed it, I think he had the same concept of home that I did.

Of course, all of this is completely contradictory to the me that I know that wants to travel until the end of my days and beyond. Or is it? Does my wandering soul just need to know that there is a home, a sanctuary to return to? I welcome your comments here. They help deepen my thoughts about this topic that has been a lifelong wonderment.

A house that was a half-time home two decades ago.

Something odd is happening. In my reaction to the fire and the loss of things precious to me, I am doing two things: trying to find my lost treasures out there in the universe and wanting to get rid of everything I own.

I talked briefly with K about this and she understands and has had similar feelings. Thinking about lost things takes her down a rabbit hole of emotions. Writing about the memories I have about the house, to keep it alive, makes me cry. When K asked me if it was helpful for me, I said that at least she would have this journal with my memories of the house for her future. And then I said, “Unless it burns up,” and she said, “I just thought the same thing.”

I don’t trust the universe right now. I don’t trust that there’s not another giant Monty Python introduction foot just waiting poised to fall and crush me again. Dreams reflect this. Dreams where I can’t find my hotel or my hotel room. Yes, in my dreams, I’m back to living in hotels, a sign that I don’t know where I belong. Dreams about the beach house, which right now feels like the only home I have left, but in dreams, it has changed or moved or the beach has altered, the town has altered, the sea itself has altered, with huge, consuming waves.

I expect to lose all things now. It’s how this works. In my traumatized brain, I think that if I eliminate all extraneous things, which translates into almost everything, it won’t hurt so much when I lose “it all” again. There may be some validity in this instinctual Konmari impulse, but it’s very unlike me. When I feel empty from loss, I have a tendency to become acquisitive. Which is why I’m on the hunt of specific items that I lost in the fire.

I’ve always been attached to my “stuff”, been extremely sentimental, the opposite of my Mother. She was very cognizant of this and guarded against me myself, cleaning out my childhood home and not even offering me too much stuff. She knew I’d take anything and everything, the house included, if I’d been given the opportunity. I’m still a mix of miffed and grateful that she approached it that way.

So now I’m in a bit of a limbo. To acquire or to dispose? I think clarity will come when MKL finally joins me at the Retreat. I trust that then, we will get the things we have organized, decide what we really want to incorporate into what will be our home together, and move forward. Maybe then, I will calm down. Maybe then, I will be able to find peace in emptiness. Maybe then, I will move out of the hotels in my dreams.

When times are hard, it feels like one little thing can push you over the edge. I don’t know what I’m on the edge of. I’d like to think it’s the edge of better. But it just seems like every day, one other thing happens that makes me want to just sit on the floor and cry.

Quarantine Cat Photo

It is still here, and I am still here. Sometimes, like these times, I get swept into a maelstrom of seemingly endless focused work hours and no sleep, and the last thing I feel like I can do is get on a computer when I finally set the work computer down for a two or three hour trifling doze of dreaming about work. Between overload and overtired, it almost took me down this time, to the depths, but MKL proved his wonderfulness again…when I called him, choice in hand, and said, “I need you to talk to me,” he didn’t ask what was wrong or why I needed this or what he should talk about. He just talked, about his day, about a phone call to his parents, about S3’s new car. Just talked. And listening to his deep, comforting, seductive voice talking about normal things that happen in lives when you have a normal amount of hours to live a life, made me choose to empty my hand and look forward to the prospect of holding his. It’s a strange thing, not living in the same house as a married couple (and yes, we’re working on it…we have a new plan.) We are not bound by the day-to-day battles over clean kitchen tables or piles of laundry or car parts, but we have made a point of identifying what our individual triggers are, and strategized on how to make it good for each of us. We’re being grown up about it. But now we are getting impatient, and more lonely for one another, and as sad as that sounds, it is a good thing. Adventures are in the offing, and I have so much to say. For now though, I may have half a day to breathe, and then back into the thick of the fray, so I thought I’d pop by to say hello. And bring you some flowers.

img_9994
Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes. Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something. So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life. Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it. Make your mistakes, next year and forever.” — Neil Gaiman (one of my favorite authors)

Daily gratitudes:
The golden hem of the sunset’s slip against the black mountain’s silhouette
Lights reflecting out of chrome and steel windows
My head on MKL’s shoulder
My boss reading me a poem an old campfire poem – “The Shooting of Dan McGrew”
My fuzzy moose robe that feels like a hug from my husband
A dinner of Merlot and a lavendar bath

 

 

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