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My coffee and I sit at our round table with our unconventional breakfast, looking through cookbooks to plan our week’s meals. My own handwritten notes are familiar even though they were written 20 years ago. Books being sacred objects, I was aghast the first time ex-Pat made notes in a cookbook. Over the years, he convinced me to do so, but only in pencil, and as minimally as possible, to convey the changes I’d made.

Those notes from 20 years ago….they transport me back to the Cozy House, to my slope-floored kitchen with its knotty pine cabinets. To the Mother-in-Law’s tongue that my co-worker Sandy gave me decades ago, thriving in a pot in the corner. The dogs’ and cats’ food and water dishes slightly underfoot on the lavender linoleum. The Asian blue patterned containers holding the cooking utensils on the counter next to the little one cup coffee maker. The bottom drawer where the casserole dishes lived, the one that always went cattywampus when I tried to close it. My beloved Norge stove.

We never ate dinner at the kitchen table, only breakfast on weekdays, just as it had been at my parents’ house growing up. I tried to get us to do so once and only once. It was disastrous and all three of us wound be miserable.

Doing dishes, by hand as we never had a dishwasher, standing at the sink looking out into the backyard from the white-framed casement the window. My view was beneath the arch of a tree that was slowly growing its way into the house, bending the gutter a little more each year. Ex-Pat and I talked about one day remodeling the kitchen, making it bigger, though it was a good size already. We would have built out the kitchen around the tree, leaving it free to grow as tall and as strong as it wanted.

That view from the window had grown over the decades from a dirt yard with giant wooden spools as tables in various places, to a bower of beauty, with the greenhouse that ex-Pat had built by hand as its centerpiece. Beautifully cold in winter but always warm with memory of summer. Sparkling with promise in spring. Glowing with trailing golden cottonwood leaves in fall. And raging and singing in its glory on the warmest days and nights of summer,

It all lives only in my memory now, as I sit at a different table in a different life, the wind swishing the pine boughs outside the door, the blue sky shy beneath sheer white clouds, the Stellar’s Jay keeping silent company, my coffee now grown cold.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • That I’m alive
  • Cats
  • Music
  • Driving
  • Sweatshirts

I went back to the cozy house last Monday. The space looked different somehow. It might have been the first time I’d seen it without snow. The green mulch cannons had disturbed some of the ruins. They must have been fairly powerful. Someone had put an uncharred piece of ironwork where I would find it.

I wept some. I hadn’t been looking forward to going back because I’d been feeling relatively happy. And I’d felt guilty about that, guilty about not visiting the cozy house for several weeks. Of course I hadn’t forgotten. The thought of the loss is with me always, lurking, popping up unexpectedly. But being in the midst of it, face to face with shattered pottery and melted glass and memories lost and those never to be made, tears at my soul. It feels as if, just to the right of my heart in the center of my chest, there is a blackened fist-sized piece of wood. I don’t feel it as much when I’m not at the cozy house, but I know it lives as a part of me now.

In the midst of this difficult day, I found hints of hope.

The tulips that I planted long ago at the edge of the front walkway have come up.
Snail shells are everywhere. I don’t know why. But they’re pretty.
Striped squill – which I don’t recall planting – are coming up at the back of the former greenhouse and on the mound.
Ex-Pat’s first dandelion. Dandelions should be elevated to hardy flower status instead of weed. Then everyone’s yard could be beautiful.
I FaceTimed with K, and she reminded me of this split rock, which marked the resting place of two baby birds that we’d buried there when she was small. A bird had built a nest in an old mailbox on an abandoned power pole at the back of the property. We watched diligently as the babies grew, but before they were old enough, a cruel summer wind took down the mailbox and the birds with it. I remember that we held a solemn little service. That old power pole is now on the ground, burned.
But our flag still stands.
And love still lives.
And while most of us have committed to participating in the town’s clean-up program – which feels like a questionable decision at this point – some who had the resources and wherewithal have proceeded with clean-up on their own, with the intent to rebuild.

We will never be able to bring Original Superior back to what it was. We cannot rebuild history or duplicate our old houses with all their quirks and foibles. But there will be new houses, small ones with character and charm. There will be gardens with hyacinth and iris, with snapdragons and California poppies, with tomatoes and too many zucchini. I don’t know what will emerge from the ashes. But I know something will.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Lovely neighbors
  • Hawks
  • That vague feeling of spring (though in Colorado, we know it to be false)
  • Calving season

And his name is Pharaoh. Maybe I should say there’s a new cat god in town. This is our late son’s Maine Coon, who’s been living with MKL. Yesterday, we shifted him up to the Retreat. He’s settling in well. He’s very attached to MKL though, so as much as he likes me, I’m a little nervous about how we’ll do when MKL goes back to civilization tomorrow. He’s super smart, can open most closed doors, and lives up to his breed’s reputation as “the dog of cats”. But it sure was nice to have him snuggle in my lap for a couple of hours. It’s been too long.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • A lovely day
  • Successfully cooking dinner
  • Cats
  • Coach K’s 100th tournament win

Today lives in shades of black and white. The ink lines of the pine bark. Downy feather pillows of snow piling up around the Retreat, trapping and coddling me at the same time. Pine needles ever present, their green gone to charcoal without the sun. And the sky varying shades of sea foam in a wishful mind.

Here is today:

The view from breakfast.

And here is yesterday:

The road to New Hope Cemetery.
Chased by storms from the west. That barbed wire won’t fence them in.
Chased by storms from the north.
Dirt roads, late light, clouds showing their joy…perfect pleasure.

So today, I put shoes on in the house (gasp), an indication that chores will be done and meals cooked for the week, and banana bread baked as gifts for my two neighbors. The Wailin’ Jennys are my soundtrack for the day, melodic, beautiful, slightly spiritual, slightly melancholy, often surprising. Kind of like me.

Have a warm day, wherever your heart is.

Yesterday was another day with hard and soft spots. It was wonderful to have breakfast with dear A, who gave me some lovely art and the good kind of bath salts.

I went to the cozy house in the afternoon as the sun started its lowering behind the mountains, which I can now see clearly since all the trees in town are gone. They had sprayed the ruins with some kind of greenish material to keep the ashes from blowing around in the winds. I knew this was going to happen after the sifting. Maybe I thought they’d let me know when they were going to do so, but they didn’t. Somehow, it made it harder to be there. I reclaimed a few pieces of yard metal and then just sat on the few remaining bricks of the patio by the greenhouse and bawled. I really need to remember to bring a handkerchief. And I really hope the town tells me when they’re going to bulldoze and clear all the debris. I will need to be there for that. It will be a funeral of sorts.

Once again, sitting there, I could see the trees that shaded parts of the yard, see little K running barefoot across the little bridge ex-Pat had built, see my herb garden, my perennial bed, my center bed with the moonflowers that smelled so luscious at night. The circle bed where I tried unsuccessfully to grow honeysuckle but had great luck with Cosmos, California Poppies, Bells of Ireland, and the occasional sunflower and pumpkin before the squirrels had their way with them. The vegetable garden. The new garden with my wonderful hammock. All lost. It’s still so hard. One of those unexpected hairpin curves on the grief road. I’m thinking about just making the space a huge garden until I can figure out this whole rebuilding thing.

Since I got so very sad, I stopped to visit a dear friend for some puppy therapy and delayed returning to the Retreat until this morning. It’s always nice to take the drive at sunrise. It’s lovely and quiet here and the snow is melting. Spring is on its way. It can’t come too soon for me.

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.

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.

But it does continue to revolve at its own pace, doesn’t it?  I’ve missed you. I hope I’m back now.

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Denver, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. ” —  Jon Krakauer

Daily gratitudes:
MKL, always
Motion
Rainstorms
Mr. Man
A call from Kelsea

 

I seldom get political here. But now, I must. Since I cannot guarantee that I will not do so again, I am calling this Part One. If you have no interest in reading a political-related post based mostly on feelings, I’d suggest you go wash your cat or trim your hedges now.

I cannot stomach the hatred and blindness that I am seeing from appointed representatives within the Republican Party. I have been watching the convention. And listening to nothing but hate. I hear nothing constructive, nothing concrete, nothing positive. Just hateful rhetoric. I don’t think Hillary Clinton is the be all and end all of candidates. But the way that spokespeople in the Republican Party have denigrated her, placed all blame on her for actions that are indeed beyond her sole control, have insulted everything about her as a human being, is unacceptable. People do not speak about each other that way. Not people who I want in charge of the future of this country. They tell lies. They make assumptions. Some of the things they say seem insane. Ben Carson just said, in essence, that she holds Lucifer as a role model, based on a dedication in her graduate thesis.

Mr. Trump spent half of his campaign claiming that the system was rigged. I do not hear him making that claim now that he is the nominee. How does he reconcile that? It’s not fair unless I win? Isn’t that what kindergarteners do? Anyone who has spent any time in New York City knows his influence there, knows who his cronies were (and no doubt are), knows about the lawsuits, the bankruptcies. Anyone who has watched any television knows he has based his visibility on trashy, vile reality television – and I feel justified in saying that because I watched it. How can this man be the leader of America when he is being shunned by former Presidents from his own party – and I’m not a Bush supporter either? How can someone who has admitted, in so many words, that he tailors his ethics to suit the business situation, spill such bile about Mrs. Clinton? He stated on an interview earlier this week that Hillary Clinton created ISIS. Seriously.

I am a believer in you don’t have to respect the man, but for our country to be unified, we must respect the office. The Office of the President of the United States. The statements I’ve heard about Mr. Obama since the race has heated up has shown anything but respect for the office. Even the way that the media refers to him reflects this: I was 16 months old when President Kennedy was assassinated, so I’ve been aware of media coverage of nine presidents, and never in my memory have I not heard a reporter refer to a sitting president as “Mr. Something” or “President Something”. With President Obama, I seldom hear the media refer to him as anything but “Obama”. Perhaps this seems like a trivial distinction, but I feel it reinforces the undertone of disrespect for a man who did indeed have true ideals and hopes of unifying the parties, and unfortunately realized that neither side was particularly interested in doing so. Many of his hopes and dreams died when he saw that sad light.

I am sick of it. I will not be one of those people talking about moving to Canada, mostly because it’s too cold there. I will stay here and vote my conscience and see what happens. But I am stating that I am sick of the divisiveness. I am sick of the myth of the liberal media. I am sick of all of it. I cannot discuss it with MKL, because we don’t see eye to eye, and we know we will not change one another’s minds. I know this hatred is effecting me. It is worsening my depression. I should stop watching. But I feel that that is just turning away because I can’t change it. I want to understand what’s going on. I want to know the truth. WHERE IS THE TRUTH? I don’t know where to look for it anymore.

So I will keep watching. I will keep reading. I will listen to the Democratic Convention to see if the rhetoric there is equally as hateful. I hope that in the debates – assuming Mr. Trump chooses to participate – it becomes evident that Mr. Trump has nothing but attack in him, that his political inexperience is highlighted – because to be a political leader, having political experience IS important – and that he does not form sentences that actually have any meaning. If I were a serious drinker, I’d have myself a game of a shot every time he says something along the lines of “they love me”, “believe me”, “I know more than anybody”, or the words “incredible”, “amazing”, or “huge”. Perhaps I’ll make it a water shot game.

But it saddens and ages me to see our tenuous racial, social, and gender unity shattered by people who are watching a bully take charge, and feeling that bullying is now okay because of it. It’s one thing to be politically correct. It’s another thing to speak your mind. And it’s yet another thing to truly believe in equality and justice. Right now,  it seems we are just watching a train wreck, rubbernecking at the devastating accident occurring before our eyes, unable to look away.

We cannot look away. If we do, we let hate win, and it is the end of all of us. I am a little too young to be an old hippie, but I still believe in the messages of that movement.

Peace and love are the only answers. Fear and hatred will lead us only to the end of days all the more rapidly than we would have arrived in the first place.

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Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Quote of the day: “”Unless the Virgin Mary appears to me on a piece of toast and asks me to vote for the guy, I’m not going to do it.” — CNN reporter Ana Navarro referring to Mr. Trump (This last part of this quote may not be verbatim – I tried to get it down while I watching it.)

Daily gratitudes:
Head butts, snuggles, and spooning from Mr. Man

 

#republicanconvention #acountryintrouble #notimeforhate

 

Kelsea and I had a lovely weekend together in Steamboat Springs – one of our traditional mother-daughter trips, consisting of too-early morning risings for the Hot Air Balloon Rodeo, breakfast, walks, rodeo, naps, explorations, and bad late-night television. We talked and talked. And I got a little weepy on my way home, as it will be hard for me when she goes to college. Rightly or wrongly, she’s one of my dearest friends as well as my daughter. I will miss her.

Twinsies1
Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.” — Donald Miller

Daily gratitudes:
How much I laugh with my daughter
Music
Flocks of seagulls in strange places
Open roads
Social and philosophical discussions

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