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I am a visual person, which means I need to see something in order to have it make sense, in order to integrate it into my being. When ex-Pat used to describe something he was planning to build, he’d get frustrated with me because I’d need him to draw it for me. This is causing me not inconsiderable anxiety as I struggle to understand the fire.

I’ve seen pictures of the smoke. I’ve seen pictures of the flaming shed on the Twelve Tribes property. I’ve seen videos of people driving through ash. I’ve seen images of the fires after dark. And I’ve seen what’s left. But I need to know what happened to MY house.

I’ve heard things. A 100 foot wall of flame. Sustained winds as strong as a Category 3 hurricane. So much speed and power that the fire developed its own weather system inside it.

But how did it approach? Did the smoke envelop the house before the fire? How quickly did it roar through my property? What did all those trees surrounding the house look like on fire? Giant candelabras? What burned first? Did the walls collapse? The roof? Did Roscoe and Dusty just have one smoke-filled breath and pass out? What made it stop so that the house across the street is untouched? What did it look like as it was happening?

Unless some heretofore unseen video pops up, I doubt I will ever have these answers. I wonder if it is actually a blessing that I didn’t see it, that I can’t know. It might be just too much to bear. The limit of what I can stand or bear or survive has been stretched mighty thin these days. Hugs and closeness and lots of blankets and what I’m calling my emotional support wine bottle have helped.

The only thing that I know is that had I been there, I most likely would not be here. I have a long, complex relationship with fire, something to be explored on another day. I am also stubborn to a fault, and would have fought to save my cat, my dog, and my house, regardless of logic and circumstance, until the bitter end. As I’ve been wont to say of late, I’ve had a good run. So even though I may not feel very enthusiastic about being here right now, I’m still here. For the folks who love me.

It’s been a week since the fire. It doesn’t feel like a week. I’ve lost track of days. I wasn’t even sure what day it was today. But a week? It feels like it’s only been two days. Or maybe two weeks? I don’t know.

It snowed and was freezing today. I didn’t go to the ruins. I feel oddly like I’m abandoning them by not going every day, searching for more of anything. I don’t want the house to feel cold and lonely and unloved. I know that doesn’t make any sense. I remember after our Mikhail chose to end his life nearly three years ago that I asked the funeral home people to keep a blanket on his body because I didn’t want him to be cold. Again, it made no sense, but it feels somehow similar.

So today was spent helping ex-Pat find an apartment. Really, it’s been K and A who have been most helpful. I’m so glad that A is here, as she’s a wonderful support for K, who is managing all these things for her Dad while trying to process her own sense of loss and other emotions. For all of us, whatever emotion we’re each feeling at any given moment is okay.

This experience has reminded me that grief is not a linear thing. Decades ago, Elizabeth Kubler- Ross’ five stages of grief spoke to me: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. I can say I’ve felt each in the last week and not settled on any one in particular. I feel different emotions from minute to minute, depending on what I’m thinking of. Thinking of the loss of Roscoe and Dusty elicits one feeling, while thinking about the loss of the contents of the house elicits another.

Despite where I am in the supposed grief continuum, there is one overriding feeling: exhaustion. I remember this from when my Father died. I just wanted to lay my head down, to sleep, to rest. I was constantly drained and I couldn’t make sense of it. Much like how I feel all the time now.

So tomorrow. I have clean clothes (except for socks, which I forgot to buy.) We’re going to hang a Colorado and an American flag from the chimney at the ruins. We’re going to see if we can meet our congresspersons or the President. And then I will go back to MKL for a night or more to wait for next steps. Whatever those may be.

I dug today, alone for the most part. The snow expected last night held off. I told myself I’d only do it for an hour; suddenly, four hours had gone by. I think I’m focused on trying to find whatever might be left of my Dusty. The vertebrae that I found today was too big to be his; I’m assuming it belonged to one of the raccoons that were frequent residents of the attic.

I am surprised that none of the neighbors are combing through the rubble. I’m certainly not the only one with wreckage to search. Are they waiting for someone else to do it? Are there just too many other things to attend to? I suppose that’s it, because ex-Pat is tending to things like insurance and contacting the bank and finding a place to live, along with other practicalities. He is not the sentimental kind, so this division of labor makes sense. But he tears up when he experiences firsthand the kindness of strangers and the generosity of the folks who have given to the “Go Fund Me” to help him or offered other assistance as part of the beautiful community.

Digging through the space that was K’s room, I found some old coins, a metal wolf sculpture, the remnants of a sword, and puddles of molten metal that were once her many Hot Wheels. Even in this dark time, my mind tried to find some humorous retort the the universe about “hot” wheels.

I scraped through the ashes with a gardening hand tool with a handle that kept coming off. To my unending fascination, I kept hitting dirt or rocks at much shallower depths than I’d expected. It has made me think about the foundations on which we build our houses, our families, our entire lives. Are they all this tenuous, this deceptively shallow, and we just don’t know it until something explosive comes along to disrupt it, changing everything in a single hour? Another answer that I don’t have. There are so many of those just now.

I so wish I had some closure or sign about Dusty. It got very cold as I stopped for the day and it started snowing in earnest. We have reached out to someone we’re calling “the Bloodhound Lady” in the hope that she might be able to find a trace. Even though I have some skill as an animal shaman, I have not been able to settle my mind enough to see what I can find. In this circumstance, I cannot be the hollow bone, not yet.

My heart hurts a tiny bit less today. Hunting through the ruins is good for me, I think. It keeps me busy and connected to the energy that still exists in the battered outlines of my house. I get dirty and sore and occasionally nearly forget why I’m doing it, and just feel like I’m hunting for buried treasure. Which really, I suppose I am.

Silence.

It can mean quiet joy or unbearable trauma. For me, right now, it’s the latter.

My little 100+ year old house by the creek, beneath the cottonwoods, concealed by ancient fragrant lilacs in the best of spring, when purple iris clustered around the chimney, is gone. Reduced to ashes, along with my elderly dog and cat, by a capricious and cruel wildfire. A wildfire that was impossible to imagine in our little suburb that used to be a mining town, along with hundreds of other houses. All in the span of a few hours.

My ex-Pat lived there, in the first house we bought together, which we still amicably owned together. I remember when I committed to buy it. We’d been married about three months and I couldn’t reach him by phone. Then I asked several co-workers, “Would you be mad if your wife bought a house without asking you?” He wasn’t, of course. It was the first house we looked at. Across the road, unpaved those 30 years ago, from a cow pasture. We lugged our first Christmas tree there home in a snowstorm from a lot where they later built the town hall.

When I left my marriage, I tried to leave the house as intact with my things as possible, trying to create the least amount of disruption for our daughter. So much of my treasured past, along with her entire childhood, vanished in the flames. My great grandmother’s china. My grandmother’s barrister bookcases housing my all-time favorite books. My Mother’s champagne glasses. Decades of my journals. Most of my photographs. My wedding dress. My daughter’s childhood artwork. Her stuffed animals. Her red dragon that was a bubble blower. Her Legos and Yu-Gi-Oh cards. The little books my Mother used to read to her, that were mine when I was a child. My grandmother’s letters to a mysterious beau during World War I that I had been saving to read. A shirt from a beau of my own that he gave me to remember him by, a beau whose heart I sadly broke many years later.

All gone.

We keep thinking of the random things we’ve lost, as we try not to think about the two furry loves that we lost. I want to die myself, and struggle to believe that they didn’t suffer, that the smoke got to them, and not the flames. I am agonizingly desperate for that reassurance. And unspeakably guilty that I could not save them. The worst kind of ‘what if’ and magical thinking.

This is not the first time my heart has been shattered. It likely, poignantly, will not be the last. But the pain is paralyzing. I don’t want to be here anymore. I go into my niece’s powder room and look for something I can cut myself with, just to try to let out the pain, to ease it into something I can bandage. I don’t, of course, and almost hate myself for not doing it, but I don’t. For my daughter. For my husband. For my ex. For my niece and her husband and her almost three-year old son, who have opened their home to her uncle. I don’t want to make them hurt more through my own selfish act.

So I plod on. Days interrupted by wracking sobs and small episodes of abject despair. Dreamless nights with a few snatched hours of sleep. Waking moments when I realize it’s real and the evil pain rushes back in to consume my soul. Nausea that has kept me from eating for two days so far. Dimly reminding myself that it will get better and just not caring. The someday when it will feel better is too far away for me to see or give a damn about.

I know I have not lost everything. But I have lost enough.

https://www.gofundme.com/f/kilbride-family-rebuilding-after-boulder-fire?member=16367209&sharetype=teams&utm_campaign=p_na+share-sheet&utm_medium=sms&utm_source=customer

That chimney is all that is left of my house.

Y’all come on down to the new blog, because I keep forgetting to cross post here!

Dear MKL,

I love that even when we’re both “off”, we can still have a wonderful time together. It was lovely to see you two days in a row, and I believe missing each other, while certainly not optimal, is proof that absence makes the heart grow fonder. All my love.

#yearoflove

(Because yesterday should have been No. 19 — calendars and I are apparently not simpatico.)

Dear Andrea,

Thank you for your friendship and your beauty. You’re one tough cookie, and I’m so happy that you’ve made a connection with someone who appreciates you for you. I know I certainly do

#yearoflove

To the blonde barista:

Thank you for sharing memories of our mothers, both of whom told us, “Don’t walk in my dirt!” when they were sweeping the floors. My Mother always had a particularly funny, squeaky way of saying it, and I hear her voice in my head every time I sweep a floor with anyone else around. As a mom, you say it to your own kids. Thank you for laughing with me as I instinctively picked my feet up off the floor, sitting in my chair at the green cracked-ice table, so you could sweep under them. It was a sweet interlude on a cold winter’s day.

A photo of my first ever matcha. It grew on me, but the first few sips, sadly, tasted like what I think a dog must taste after he throws up the grass he just ate. Number of stars: questionable. For you vintage furniture lovers, please note the aforementioned green cracked-ice table.

#yearoflove

To the woman I met on my walk:

Thank you for noticing my Western Washington University sweatshirt. Your enthusiasm and excitement about my daughter attending your alma mater was adorable, and it matched your bright yellow jacket. You were truly a ray of sunshine on a dark-dusky winter afternoon. And your dog was super sweet. ♥️

#yearoflove

Dear Nanci,

Today, I looked down and what did I see at my feet but two dimes, side by side. And of course, I thought of you, and how you always find dimes in odd, random places, and take it as a sign that your Mother is with you, even from as far distant a place as heaven. Know that I am with you too, even from a less far distance as 90 miles. Thank you for seeing me as I truly am, despite the odd, cunning circumstances that brought us together. You once murmured, sitting in a chair in my living room, that it was as if we’d grown up in bedrooms just down the hall from one another. Sisters in spirit – that’s what we are. I’m proud of you for the strength you’ve found over the last years, and of your faith and faithfulness. Always ready for that hug!

#yearoflove

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