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Wind. I’ve never liked it, except when it rustles the fronds of the palm trees. Contradictorily, that’s my favorite sound. But I’d scarcely call that wind. That’s a breeze, gentle and joyful.

Wind is what we get here in the Front Range and the Wet Mountains. This is what took down a 75-foot tree that miraculously and by the slimmest of margins missed the Carriage House. This is what makes me look with great skepticism out of the living room window as another giant pine tree bends and twists against the blue sky, its trajectory perfectly aligned with my bedroom.

Wind is what never hesitates to remind me of the ruptured eardrum that I suffered at age two when my mother was in the hospital with pneumonia. Each time the wind, anywhere from lukewarm to freezing, gains access to my right ear, it hurts like the dickens.

Wind is why I don’t like Wyoming. It seems ever-present there. I recall spending a night in the back of my truck the summer after college trying to sleep through it – wasn’t sure if I was going to freeze or go mad, and it was June.

And wind is what led to the destruction of the Cozy House and an entire community. Wind that decide to dance with fire — and what a dance it was.

From the Retreat, I can’t see the wind coming because I’m already in it. But further away from the mountains, it’s easy to tell when it will be a day of the warm, dry, harsh winds that indigenous people used to call “snow eaters” and which we call Chinooks. There’s a bright clear sky and over the mountains, a thick shelf of white cloud in a straight line. If you’ve lived here long enough, you know to hang on to your small pets and tie down your trampolines when you see that anytime between November and April.

Ages ago, I read or someone told me that the indigenous people called them “the winds of madness”. I’ve never been able to find a source for that, but I don’t doubt it’s true. The sound, the uncertainty, the constancy of them can indeed make you feel more than a little crazy.

Unfortunately for too many of us, they now raise feelings of pain, fear, loss, anger, and trauma, digging into wounds that are only barely starting to scab over. I have reminded myself a dozen times today of the freakish circumstances that made me lose the Cozy House and that there’s nothing left to lose there now. But at the Retreat, I have the rest of what’s left to lose. It’s impossible not to think about it, about what I would take, about how to arrange the house so I could quickly pack those treasures I didn’t lose. About how a single spark from a cigarette tossed out of a car window on the Frontier Pathway could take all this away from me.

About how little control we actually have.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • Decent sleep
  • Wise decisions
  • Experimental cooking
  • Good books

Living in the Retreat, in the middle of wooded acreage, there’s no predicting fire. Of course after the Marshall Fire, I know without a doubt that regardless of where you are, there’s really no predicting it. No one would have imagined what happened on December 30th.

Surrounded by pines here, it would be hard to see a fire coming. Today on our local news, there was a headline of a wildfire in the Southeast part of our county. I’m in the Southwest part of the county, about 50 miles away from this fire, which is 72% contained. I figured all of this out in about one minute and then I started to cry.

Is this what it’s going to be like? It’s bad enough the I have what I call PTWD (Post-Traumatic Wind Disorder). We have big winds here in the Wet Mountains, big enough to topple 75-foot pine trees onto garage aprons, barely missing buildings. (Perhaps some of you may know of my history of near misses with falling trees.) Am I going to burst into tears every time there’s a fire within 20, 50, 100 miles of me?

Once I got a grip on my silly self, my next feeling was a subcutaneous panic. I had no idea what I would do here, if there were a fire, what I would rescue. I’ve given this considerable thought, obviously, after the loss of the cozy house, but I’m still living in Boxlandia. I have no idea where the journals that I moved here from the Bungalow are. Do I just put all my most precious possessions in a trunk and drag it to the truck in case I need to evacuate? Two trunks? Something fireproof (though that was completely useless in the Marshall Fire, given its tremendous heat)?

I know that everyone who lost their homes or evacuated now has these thoughts, these fears, these plans, and feel pretty sure that I’m not alone in my sense of underskin panic. I wish we didn’t. I wish I didn’t. And I wonder if this is something that will be with me for the rest of my life or if it will find a place to live in my soul where it takes up only the space it needs.

Rescued image. Jost van Dyke, 2004.

Fire and I have had a lifelong complicated relationship. Actually, it extends into a past life relationship, but that’s a little too woo-woo for me to get into just now.

Growing up, the fireplace was a focal point in my parent’s house. A cord of wood was dumped in the garage (which was never used as a garage) every year and my dad would stack it and chop it as needed. When it turned cold, we’d stack wood in the basement to avoid having to go outside to get it. Kindling came from the pecan trees, supplemented by newspaper, of which there was no shortage, since my dad took at least six papers. While we had a furnace – a big old scary roaring cast iron thing in the basement – my parents, being depression era children, always kept the house cold, using the fireplace as a major heat source.

We had a fire almost every night from Fall through Spring. Little me learned how to tell if it was smoking into the living room and point that out to my dad. Bigger me learned how to fix it when it was smoking. On cold mornings, I would scrape the ashes looking for some extra warmth from the coals like Cinderella. Scraping through the ashes of the cozy house, even 10 days after the fire, I found warm spots that reminded me of my Cinderella mornings.

E-Bro melted the soles of numerous pairs of shoes reading on the floor in front of the fireplace. One summer morning, when I was very small, my parents tucked him just a tiny bit up the chimney in a Santa Claus costume and surprised me with Santa’s visit. I still remember how thrilled I felt.

The chimney caught fire once and the fire department came to put it out. I was always nervous when we cleaned out the chimney after that. One day, after a night where the fire didn’t draw well, my sixth grade English teacher took me aside and asked me kindly if my home had caught fire because my hair smelled so much like smoke.

In college in Boston, I made the decision to leave as I stood at my window and watched the building across the street from my brownstone dorm go up in violent flames, set alit by an arsonist terrorizing the area. As it burned, I thought, “I am too young for this.”

In college in Boulder, I lived on the top back room of a rooming house that was otherwise occupied by six guys of questionable character in their 30s. One morning, after being awake for 48 hours between work and disasterous midterms, I was finally sleeping when someone pounded on my door. I was charming and cursed at them and told them to go away. This person said, in exactly the tone you would expect, “Well, EXCUSE ME, but your house is on fire and I THOUGHT YOU’D LIKE TO KNOW.” Which it was. I struggled into my red and white striped robe, stumbled barefoot down the stairs past the quickly charring door of the room on fire, just missing the explosion of the front window. Someone gave me a pair of tennis shoes since I was barefoot on this November morning. Turns out one of my fellow tenants went to the Mental Health Center and told them he’d just set his room on fire and there were people sleeping in the house. The Fire Department got the fire under control, though that tenant’s room was completely destroyed. The firefighters had kicked in my unlocked door and checked to be sure the fire hadn’t breached the walls. I didn’t have much, but everything I owned smelled like smoke for weeks. I moved my bed into the empty attic and left my clothes outside in the cold to air them.

After college, still in Boulder, ex-Pat and I watched smoke and ash creep towards our North Boulder apartment over Mt. Sanitas. It was nerve wracking. I went through a small phase of insanity in which I’d chase wildfires when I knew they were burning in the hills. That stopped one day when my truck got stuck and I watched a ridge across from me burn, the fire’s fingers greedily creeping toward me. It was a miracle that I got myself unstuck. I was in the application process to become a wildfire fighter when I broke my foot, dashing that goal.

In the cozy house in Superior, the fireplace took up half of the living room wall. It was romantic at times, comforting at times, frustrating at times. I learned how to build a good fire. I chopped wood without losing any appendages. There was always a fire in the fireplace on Christmas morning, just like we had in my parents’ house. Ironic that the chimney is the only thing left standing. The fireplace felt like the heart of the house.

Living in the Cottage, I watched the Four Mile fire consume familiar hillsides. I watched the Colorado Springs fire on TV in the Bungalow and have never seen anything that more closely resembled what I’d imagine Hell to look like.

Until now. I still can’t visualize what the hell of this fire looked like but I can see the hell it has left behind. The loss and heartbreak that it has created are our own personal little hells.

I worry that the Retreat might be subject to fire. It’s in the woods, in the mountains, almost to be expected. MKL is wise to tell me not to think of it so I don’t draw it to us. But I feel like fire has licked at my heels my whole life. It just hasn’t gotten me yet. I really hope it’s done trying.

The New Year is now a distant memory for most of us. I know that MKL and I played pool, drank martinis, ate something yummy, watched tropical visions on Hawaii 5-0 on Netflix, and fell asleep before midnight. But many of you in the blogosphere may have noticed the “One Word Challenge.” I was late to that party, but the idea is that you pick one word to which you dedicate your actions and goals for the year. It’s simpler than your standard New Year’s resolutions, which are generally abandoned by the time you get the Christmas Tree off to the recycle center.

I’m not generally a big fan of this sort of thing (or of large parties), but this struck some chord within me. MKL and I do have a goal of combining households and actually living like a married couple in 2016, which led me to think that my word was “home.” But that is a very, very complex word for me (although MKL has made it simpler, as I feel as if my home is where he is). So I don’t think “home” is quite my word. I think my word is for 2016 is “bravery.”

BRAVERY.

The things that feed my soul that I fear pursuing because of rejection or failure need to be brought out to the show windows this year, reactions be damned. Maybe not quite like bravery in terms of Braveheart where Mel Gibson gets his intestines pulled out on a roller, but bravery in terms of going after what I want (no one else can do it for me) and taking risks around changes in my life, seeing new places, challenging myself. I haven’t done anything particularly brave in five years, when I was forced to reshape my roadkill of a life. So it’s time. Wish me luck. No, wish me courage.

IMG_6494

Eastern Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Scared is what you’re feeling. Brave is what you’re doing.” — Emma Donoghue

Daily gratitudes:
My MRI technician
Shamanic journeys
Meeting deadlines
Melting snow
Love

 

 

My blog friend over at Half Girl Half Teacup posted today about a common concern of bloggers, best summarized by “Who’s reading this stuff anyway?” We want people to read our words. We’ve put a little piece of our soul into each post. Sometimes, we want to share some pretty deep and intense thoughts or recollections, and when moved by that spirit, we can sometimes feel stifled by the fact that our family, friends, in-laws and co-workers might be reading these words. I’ve shared some personal things about depression, family, parenthood, divorce, loss, and love. I’ve shared pain and poetry. I’ve shared some of my skeletons.

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Weld County, Colorado.

There’s more I want to share, and sometimes I hesitate. I hesitate because I fear the judgement of people who know me. If they really know me, they know that what I share, what I have experienced has helped me become who I am. We are not who we were in our pasts; we are shaped by our past experiences, and by our past choices, wise or otherwise. In blogs, we hang our skeletons on fenceposts, and let whoever drives by see, stop, ponder. That road is public – it might be our own driveway, or it might be an inaccessible trail at the back of beyond. Anyone who finds it can see those bones. As I commented on Jess’ post, there is no shame in my life, my past (remarkable and regretful as some of it is), or my thoughts – no shame in me. So there’s no reason for anyone NOT to see my words, to see those bones. If they judge in some negative fashion, that speaks about them, not about me. My bones are out there, brightening in the sun.

Quote of the day: “Every heart has its own skeletons.” —  Leo Tolstoy

Daily gratitudes:
The graphics on the 1st Bank display downtown
A stubborn cricket outside the back door
MKL
The promise of bacon
An orange glow at sunset

I’m sorry if I’m writing a lot about the Flood. It’s been really traumatic – combine the empath-me with the flood-damaged-homeowner-me, and you have the unbearable-anxiety-riddled-me – who is trying to work and be a mom and stay in some kind of balance. It’s not working very well. I’m not used to feeling like this. Depression, I understand – anxiety, not so much.

The water is receding, though we still have hundreds of people unaccounted for. Hopefully, that number will go down as people who have no power get access to communications again. Kudos to Xcel Energy for working so very hard to keep the lights on. Even though my half-house has a lot of damage, it never lost power.  The flood insurance adjuster came today, took about 100 pictures, and will hopefully file a good claim on our behalf, or however that works. Turns out we’re insured by Lloyd’s of London, which makes me feel a little hoity-toity. We’ll see how they measure up in terms of fairness. I don’t have a lot of faith in insurance companies, but I’m trying to stay positive, beneath my strung-so-tight nerves and flesh and bone under this fragile layer of skin that covers them.

I hope that soon, I don’t get that frisson of fear when I see a rain cloud over the mountains. That soon, I will stop trying to take roads that are closed. Soon, I will be able to walk the mountains without fear of the earth collapsing beneath my feet. Soon.

And now, here’s a chicken.

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Denver, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here. And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.” — Max Ehrmann

Daily gratitudes:
Not hitting a bird with my truck this morning
My new green chile-ground beef dish
Sunbeams at sunset tonight
MKL’s supportivenss (and hugs)
Wearing my softest T-shirt tonight

And a special shout-out to the lady in the grocery store who told me that “That color looks great on you!” You have no idea how much I needed to hear that at just that moment.

 

I am on the bus this morning, and I get the following text from Kelsea:

“So they think our school is gonna blow up.”

The world stops for one split second.

I call her.

She doesn’t answer.

The bus is speeding away down Highway 36 and I am thinking how I have to get off and get to her, to her school. Totally impractical. What am I going to do, run there? I’m twenty miles away.

I call my ex to ask him what’s going on, and he looks online and finds that a suspicious device  – pipes, wires, and a battery – was discovered on a bus and brought into the school by the bus driver. The school staff took it back outside and called police. The students have been moved into the auditorium and the gymnasium.  I tell him to go to the school. He tells me not to worry and goes bowling.

I am sitting on the bus holding the top of my head to keep it from flying off. Moving the students into the auditorium and the gymnasium puts the entire school in two places, so that if someone truly is evil, they can just blow up those two places where they know students will be sent in the event of just such an emergency. My imagination is colliding with thoughts of Columbine and New Town.

Kelsea calls me from the auditorium. She is fine. She is seeing her friends. She is overjoyed that she won’t have to take her algebra final this morning, because she wasn’t ready for it. She too wonders why they’ve just put everyone in two places instead of evacuating them all. She says she will stay in touch. I tell her I love her.

I know my daughter. She will do anything to save others before she saves herself. She has always been this way. Her future career choices reflect his attitude. It is something that, as a mother, I just have to live with.

But I do not want to be one of those parents whose child does not come out.

I sit on the bus and try not to panic. I have never really felt this way before.  All these feels are swirling around inside of me: fear, panic, anger, anxiety, that feeling that I will do anything to get to her, and do anything to someone who hurts her. I feel a desperate helplessness as this bus takes me farther and farther away from my baby girl. Tears well up and I try to stifle them. Yes, helpless. I have always known how much I love my daughter, and how I am so blessed by having had her in my life for any time that the Great Spirit chooses to grace me with. But I never really had a glimpse of losing her. Not even a glimpse.

One of my friends at work calls this “catastrophic thinking.” I know I have this unfortunate tendency, inherited from my father. It’s a hard one to control, especially as a mother.

Half an hour later, I get a text from her.

“So it was a science fair project. Awkward.”

I spend the rest of the morning feeling like I am coming out from being underwater, trying to ease the tension in my neck, trying to return to a sense of normal.

I hope that kid who misplaced his science project gets an A. He certainly taught me something about myself today.

Surreality

The shadows surround each parked car,
glooming up,
swallowing hoods and fenders,
lurking in front of darkened headlights,
stealing away as my eye
catches their evil.

Innocent bunnies
bare fangs
and have a Mexican stand-off
in the middle of the street,
dashing off angrily in opposite directions
when I approach.

A dog barks deeply
the sound lingering
in my backyard,
spreading out thickly through the
cool, damp, air.

I do not have a dog.

It is snowing in May.

I tremble from exhaustion,
fumble with the light switches
curl up in a soft bed
and live inside my dreams.

MKL and Thunder Cat have a love/love relationship – even though MKL has never been a cat fan.  Thunder Cat is such a fan of HIM, however, that he couldn’t resist her furry charms. Still, his skepticism lingers, and he often comments that if she gets hungry enough, she will kill and eat one of us, perhaps starting with the eyeballs.

Somehow or other, as we were falling asleep last night, our conversation turned into this:

Me: If we’re ever lost somewhere, and I starve to death, you can eat my eyeballs.

MKL: I wouldn’t do that.

Me: But I’d want you to. I love you and I’d want for you to go on.

MKL: I would not eat your eyeballs.

Me: Well then, what part of ME would you eat if I was dead? And you were starving?

MKL: I wouldn’t eat ANY of you if you were dead.

Me: That’s just silly. Why let me go to waste?

MKL: I’d find something else to eat.

Me: But if you’d been able to find something else to eat, then I wouldn’t be dead.

MKL: That’s my point.

And he fell asleep.

I don’t think his point made any sense at all. But I guess it’s nice that there’s one less thing I have to worry about. At least from him.

Dear Unknown Lady,

I don’t know who you are, but I know you’re an angel.

At the height of rush hour heading towards Denver, just past the Church Ranch exit, there was a beautiful dog in the road.  I don’t know if he was your dog, but I know he was someone’s dog.  He was silvery and fluffy and looked like he had some husky and maybe some shepherd in him.  And he was trapped against the center median, with cars speeding by at 65 mph, no doubt missing him by only a hair or a miracle.

Other cars had stopped.  But you did it.  You pulled your truck over on the shoulder, and got out.  You called to him with happiness and enthusiasm, in just such a way that he wouldn’t panic any more than he already no doubt was.  The cars at the critical point decided that this dog’s life was more important than getting someplace two minutes sooner, and stopped, allowing him to gallop across the road to you. He looked absolutely joyful.  And you clapped and encouraged and praised him and he leapt easily into your truck.

And he lived.  Uninjured.

Maybe he had been in your truck and had jumped out somehow.  Maybe he was left behind by someone.  Maybe he was someone’s darling who got loose, like our Champ did once – he miraculously made it to the other side of the highway that time too, and another angel lady helped him.  (Those husky mixes can really be escape artists.)

Champ as a puppy.

But that doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that you took the time to save a beautiful dog.  One beautiful soul rescuing another.

It made my day.  I thank you.  And your fuzzy buddy thanks you.

October 2022
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