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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

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.

Snow is falling today, on the deck outside MKL’s house, on the ruins of my home in Superior, on the Retreat, creating a blanket of stillness tinged with blues. I watch it without much in the way of conscious thought, finding its simplicity soothing.

I met with one of the Southern Baptist team in charge of sifting through the ashes yesterday, along with his daughter. Larry and Sarah. I’m not one for organized religion but I always appreciate people who walk their faith and this man surely did. He sketched out where I wanted to focus in the sifting , what I was hoping to find, and made it clear that there were no guarantees (one thing I’ve learned all too well over the last few weeks). At some point over the next few days, I’ll get a call saying that a team is ready to hit the property and that I need to come. I’m hoping it’s not Friday, the one day I need to be down towards the Retreat.

As usual, once I got to the homestead yesterday, I started digging. I found K’s door latch and handle (at her request), certainly more vintage than it was before. It’s difficult to stop once I start digging, even though I know I’m not supposed to disturb the ashes due to the toxins supposedly mixed in with them. But we know me – I don’t usually do what I’m told. Just ask the young construction worker who had to take down a barrier to let me drive on an irrationally closed road yesterday. I would have found the sidewalk to be a completely viable alternative.

Before he left, Larry asked if he could pray with me and I agreed. It was such a comfort. I’m angry at God/Spirit/the Universe and haven’t felt much like speaking to them. Larry prayed for some peace for me and K, for love, for closure, for hope, and he sounded like he was talking to an old friend, to a father. Which I suppose he was. I wept.

I think “soothing” is the word of the day. It’s soothing being in the same room as MKL when we’re working, as long as he’s not cursing at his computer, which happens. The gentle snowfall is soothing since I don’t have to go out into it. Larry’s prayer yesterday was soothing. It’s soothing to know that A, who lost everything except her dogs, the clothes on her back, and a cannonball, has the comforting presence of her daughter for a few days. Daughters make almost everything better. Ex-Pat is in his apartment now and focused on making it homey. It’s soothing to think of him as starting to be settled.

Today, unless I’m derailed, I will hold these soothing things close and not think about the Machiavellian machinations of the town of Superior, more than broadly hinted at by the real estate developer neighbor who is rebuilding their Little House in Old Town. That’s something for another day’s me.

Today, let it be just me and the drifting snow.

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.

It was one of those days when my depression got the best of me and I was enveloped by blues – and not the good tropical kind of blues either. I jumped to erroneous conclusions, berated myself for everything, and questioned the choices I’ve made in my life. I felt all my losses and all my regrets and relived pain in excruciating detail in my head. I was too cold. I was too hot. I was just all wrong.

MKL made things a lot better. He gave me a biiiiiiggggg hug at lunch. He helped me remember who I am and what I am and how loveable I am. That I am worth having as a partner. That my ability to love and that the love I give is as deep as the space beyond the stars. And for all that, I thank him. I feel better.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Life will break you. Nobody can protect you from that, and living alone won’t either, for solitude will also break you with its yearning. You have to love. You have to feel. It is the reason you are here on earth. You are here to risk your heart. You are here to be swallowed up. And when it happens that you are broken, or betrayed, or left, or hurt, or death brushes near, let yourself sit by an apple tree and listen to the apples falling all around you in heaps, wasting their sweetness. Tell yourself you tasted as many as you could.” —  Louise Erdrich

Daily gratitudes:
MKL
Feelings that pass like storm clouds
Happy bus drivers
Giving little old ladies directions downtown
Sarongs

It is a lovely day here. No rain, not even a drop. There is still debris in a lot of places – trees, boards, roots, and parts of people’s lives. But those lives are moving on, forward, ahead, and towards the next thing.

In the case of my half-house, the next thing is how quickly ex-Pat can get a new water heater, because apparently, when he has to scape the mud off the top of the water heater, the insurance adjuster considers it a total loss. And that’s one of those important things for doing dishes and showering. They cleaned out the last room yesterday, and I have lost a lot of photos and slides, which makes me very sad, but I’m hoping there is some way of salvaging them.

My anxiety levels are still super-high, but a little bit better this morning. The eye doctor, much as I love her, didn’t help by telling me that I have some pre-cataract thing in my left eye (seriously, body, how old do you think you are??????), so that added to the anxiety-cold-sweat-o-meter today. MKL says he will still love me if I go blind, and he has fabulous descriptive powers, and cataracts are surgically fixable. So. Yea.

I think I will try one of my newly prescribed Xanax before bed.  As I say, a beautiful life goes on.

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Lafayette, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Loss carves out a deep, hollow pocket. There’s no magical way to fill it, no medicine or Band-Aid or surgery to cure it. I suppose that over time you get used to it, but the feeling never totally goes away. And the more time you spend on earth, the more pockets you’ll collect. But it’s part of living. It’s life.” — Suzanne Selfors

Daily gratitudes:
Improvements
The little girl with the “Where the Wild Things Are Umbrella” as big as she was
My fluffy Mr. Man
MKL’s support
Peace
The sound of the ocean waves

 

 

It has been a very difficult few days here in Boulder County. As you’ve probably heard, unless you’ve been under a rock, we have had rain and flooding of biblical proportions. I have lived in and around Boulder for over 30 years now and have never seen anything like it. Have never felt anything like it. The closest I have experienced was in spring of 1995, when I cut a business trip to Philadelphia short to come home and hope that I still had a house. The flight attendant gave me a bottle of champagne, saying I could drink it to celebrate if I did, and to drown my sorrows if I didn’t.

I did. I still had my little white house surrounded by lilacs on the banks of Coal Creek. It’s still my house in name and mortgage payment, but now ex-Pat and Kelsea live there with the menagerie of two big dogs (Roscoe and Champ) and two yellow cats (Dusty and Mel). I left five years ago on Halloween, taking very little with me but a lot of hope and fear and pain.

The little white house has a very special place in my heart. Ex-Pat hasn’t taken good care of it and that makes me very sad. But it’s still my little house with its giant fireplace and knotty pine walls and huge lilac bushes. And the gentle sound of Coal Creek, sometimes trickling at the bottom of the 20-foot bank, but more often dry. Not something you would ever expect to see raging.

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That shot was from today. Kelsea took a video yesterday that I wish I could share, but I can’t figure out how to embed it.

When Coal Creek flooded yesterday, I was worried. I was calling them constantly, checking on the status. They had received notice to evacuate at 5:00 pm. Pat chose to ignore that. (That’s Pat.) But in one of my check-in calls, he told me that the water was coming in under the kitchen door, more and more of it. It was ankle-deep in the old part of the house (which is an old mining cabin from 1910, with no foundation but dirt.) The root cellar under the kitchen floor, which houses the furnace and the water heater, was full of water, up to the top of its stairs. They started gathering things to leave, even though the bridge by the house was completely submerged by floodwaters. Kelsea’s voice broke as she asked me if I had a digital copy of the picture of her and her Grandma that she keeps on her wall.

They loaded things into the truck. They put the dogs on leashes. They put the cats (fighting and hissing) into the carriers. And then waited a little more. The waters stopped getting deeper and just sat there. And then they started to recede, to vanish, to soak into the carpets and floors and anything sitting on them. They stayed on the couch and watched movies, since they still had power, water, and cable. And the waters were gone. The creek backed down. The huge backyard stopped looking like an ocean. They were all right.

It was so painful to not be there. I felt helpless. I felt powerless. It felt like when my Mother was dying, except I couldn’t be there. It showed me my need to be in control, to be fixing things, and you can’t be in control of or fix a flood. I was breaking, for my daughter, for my animals, for my little house, for the things I left behind – heirlooms from my great-grandmother, that I left so that Kelsea’s home would not feel so strange after her mother left. So much of some many hard things coming back to haunt me.

I watched the news until 2:00 am, waiting for a 30-foot wall of water that fortunately never came. I slept fitfully by MKL (who had the flu, my poor baby, but I was so incredibly glad that he was there) for a few hours, waking to find that my bus route was shut down and travel was inadvisable, so I worked from home. At the end of the day, I drove over to ex-Pat’s.

The downstairs was a wreck.

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Friends from down the street and Niece #1 came to help. We moved furniture, pulled up the rugs, dragged them outside. Sadly, I lost some books that I’d had for 30 years. We worked for a few hours, mopping over and over again to get rid of the mud and leaves and dirt. The house has flood insurance, a requirement of the mortgage, so ex-Pat is trying to get the claims person to come out. He is concerned about mold from all the damp, and the water was pretty toxic. But the house still stands. For now.

The rain stopped enough for clean up efforts to get underway, but it’s supposed to rain more tonight and on Sunday. The creek rose two feet in the last hour I was there. However, the house is on the high side of the bank, and the flooding last night was more caused by the city unwisely opening a spillway at the back side of the town. Hopefully, they heard enough harsh words for that decision today to keep them from repeating it.

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It could have been so much worse. So many in Boulder County have lost everything. Beautiful little towns like Lyons are cut off from the world, with residents having been evacuated by the National Guard. People have lost their lives. This experience again makes me examine my relationship with and attachment to “things”, something I have ruminated on for many, many years. I don’t think I’m ready to write about that yet. But I will in a while. Right now, I am still coming off the shock and fear and surreality of the last couple of days, feeling a wee bit of PTSD, and hoping that the sunshine will stick around for a while.

This was the 100 year flood that was way overdue. Meteorologists say that it was so bad, it probably won’t happen again for 1,000 years. I know that, either way, I am glad I won’t be around to see it again.

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If you’re not familiar with this feature of the blog, each week I introduce you to a poem that I think is lovely, moving, or otherwise striking. I hope, if you like what you read here, that you’ll seek out other poems from the authors that you meet here. When I can, I will find artwork that is the ice cream on the poetry cake, so I can introduce you to new artists as well.

And as  a complement to The Weekly Wednesday Poem, I’ll be publishing an Original Thursday Poem each week, which will be one of my own poems from sometime in the past or present.

Today’s guest poet: Rainer Maria Rilke

Woman In Love
That is my window. Just now
I have so softly wakened.
I thought that I would float.
How far does my life reach,
and where does the night begin

I could think that everything
was still me all around;
transparent like a crystal’s
depths, darkened, mute.

I could keep even the stars
within me; so immense
my heart seems to me; so willingly
it let him go again,

whom I began perhaps to love, perhaps to hold.
Like something strange, undreamt-of,
my fate now gazes at me.

For what, then, am I stretched out
beneath this endlessness,
exuding fragrance like a meadow,
swayed this way and that,

calling out and frightened
that someone will hear the call,
and destined to disappear
inside some other life.

Woman at the Window by Shirley Fachilla. Check out her blog and her amazing art at http://sometimesapainting.blogspot.com.

“The  fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.”

This poem by Carl Sandburg is how I feel now, except substitute “blues” for fog. This is not a full-out, twelve round, knockout bout.  It feels like it’s creeping in, like I’m in a battle with my own brain and my own body for my own soul.

I had been doing so remarkably well, too, that when I have a misstep, I become discouraged.  I suppose one of the lessons of the Blues (yes, with a capital B) is that nothing – not even feelings – are permanent.

Somehow that does not make me feel better.

My small sage tells me to be patient, relax, and let things run their course, that everything will work out just fine.  It’s hard to believe that when you’re fighting the screaming blue meanies that seem to attack from every direction, leaving you tear-streaked and silent.

Honestly, writing helps.

But when that sense of tearing emotion seems to edge closer and closer, like some thick, wet, blue, velvet cloak trying to smother the life out of your heart…. it reminds me of women in gothic novels and B-movies, paralyzed at the approach of the charming vampiric villan, so desperately wanting to resist, but so powerless in his forthcoming embrace.

I sense a poem of my own coming on.

Today’s guest poet  —  Saskia Hamilton

The Song In The Dream

The song itself had hinges.  The clasp on the eighteenth-century Bible
had hinges which creaked; when you released the catch,
the book would sigh and expand.

The song was of two wholes joined by hinges,
and I was worried about the joining, the spaces in between
the joints, the weight of each side straining them.

August 2022
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