You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘healing’ tag.

Today is the 17th anniversary of my Father’s death. Perhaps that’s what started the tears flowing this morning, in the course of which I cried because:

  • a shirt I got for K was maybe too small
  • of Frank Sinatra
  • the middle school boy at our four way stop sign was handing out lemonade for free just to do a good deed for the second day in a row
  • the aspens don’t have leaves
  • of the people ice fishing and dogs playing on frozen San Isabel Lake
  • Whitney Houston is dead
  • it’s been decades since I’ve been to New York City
  • Warren Zevon is dead, and my friend Erik, who always laughed his unique laugh at the song “Werewolves of London”, is also dead
  • I’m not 18 any more and feeling like my whole life is ahead of me
  • I’ve lost my journals to the fire
  • of all of the lies my ex-fiancé told me
  • of how much I love MKL
  • I’ve lost the cozy house
  • of the burn scars near the turn for Florence
  • Clarence Clemons is dead

And all this before noon.

I felt better after arriving in Florence. People there are lovely and real, and I never seem to have enough time there. I picked up a few treasures, but I feel it’s only fitting to share some of the more unusual things I saw.

I wonder who these belonged to. And what happened to the tradition of casting a child’s first pair of shoes in bronze? And who thought of that in the first place?
These are the same blocks I had growing up. They came to me when K was born, but were consumed by the fire. I got a little tearful.
This lamp of a girl eating porridge is not creepy.
Not creepy at all.
Neither was this woman holding a pig.
Or this apparently handless man. But I guess that’s why the woman is holding the pig and not him.
I really think making a candle out of this image is adding insult to injury.
These twin Marys and their respective Baby Jesuses. Note that the Mary on the left is much more disheveled than the Mary on the right.
And while this isn’t the finest picture of her, I got to spend a bit of time petting Ella, who was a complete chonk. Her tongue is always like that because she has no teeth to hold it in.

I’ll leave you with that. I felt better after my excursion. I took some lovely images, as we had a beautiful day. I’ll share those with you tomorrow, as I’m going to be snowed in now for several days.

I’ve written about losing my journals, my words, those memories. But as a photographer, I’ve lost thousands of images that were taken in a pre-digital era. And that really hurts. I’m not alone in this. The images that I’ve shared of the cozy house were sent to me by a professional photographer from town who also lost decades of her beautiful work.

Believe me, I continue to beat myself up with “Why didn’t I transfer all those images to a digital platform?” Because it took time and money and resources that I didn’t have. “Why didn’t I take those photo albums on the top shelf of the bookcase – there were at least 15 – with me?” Because I didn’t have space for them yet. “Why didn’t I at least take the notebooks of negatives?” Because, and so much of it comes down to this, I thought the cozy house was a safe place. I thought it was invincible. I was wrong.

Perhaps I should have known better.

In 2013, the cozy house was hit by the 100 (or 10 or 1,000 or 10,000) year flood. The root cellar filled with water and the kitchen and two rooms had about four inches of muddy water, but the cozy house stood firm. Some boxes of photos were close to the floor of the cat room at the time. Much later, Ex-Pat brought them to the Bungalow, damaged as they were and I tucked them away to sadly deal with later. I guess today is later.

I brought some up from the basement today. Decades of photos stuck together. So I’ve spent some time meticulously pulling them apart. The mud has acted like glue in some cases, so if I can get a fingernail inserted into a stack, I can flex them a little, then a little more, and then still a little more, until I can gently separate them. Sometimes I lose a little backing. Sometimes some of the photo tears off. But overall, I’m making some progress.

These are mostly images from my travels, and that’s nice but what I was hoping to find are images from K’s childhood. There are some – of her and her best friend at the Renaissance Festival, of her time at Calwood – but not what I’m looking for. And none as yet of the house. I’ve lost my pictures of Scotland from when I was pregnant, and that’s a tough one. That was a very happy time. And the picture of K and ex-Pat taken right after she was born. You’ve never seen any newborn look more like she was saying, “WTH. PUT ME BACK.” She wasn’t even crying, just glaring at the camera from under her tiny knitted hat that hospital staff put on her little head.

On one bright note, I have one box of albums from my Mother (another was lost to the flames). When K was born, my mother asked me to get duplicates of the pictures I took and send them to her. It gives my heart a flare of hope that I have some of those. Now I just have to find the box in our Indiana Jones movie warehouse of a cellar filled with boxes.

A rescued favorite. Tortola, 2004.

I had a happy experience with fuzz balls this weekend, and photos of them are always worth sharing.

Daily gratitudes:

– A lovely day
– Getting the new stovetop installed at the Retreat, so I have more than two burners

Two nights ago, I somehow found myself going down an online rabbit hole of the timeline of the Marshall Fire. Maps, pictures, videos that made me sad and shocked. I didn’t sleep that night. I didn’t sleep for 38 hours. This was not my “let’s see how long it takes me to start hallucinating” sleep challenge that I go through too often when I travel. This was just a disturbance in my internal force, one that fed some fight or flight instinct with a weird, insomniac response.

It happened again this morning. I did sleep last night, because there’s only so long a body can go without it, but once again, someone shared on social media the timeline they’d put together on the path of the fire. And they specifically mentioned 2nd Avenue, where the cozy house was, at 2:24 pm, which was shortly after I had hung up with ex-Pat. I know the exact time because I had just messaged a co-worker about it.

I want to ask the person who created this timeline, “What about 2nd Avenue? Did the reports you source mention my house?” A question that they can’t answer, as they are just the messenger who has assembled this data to help them make sense of what happened. I think all of us who lost houses, pets, memories, histories, and futures want to know what happened, want to be able to truly see it in our minds’ eye, so it could make sense. It would somehow give us comfort. Though we certainly don’t need anything to make it more real.

Part of being an empath, at least for me, is the need to completely immerse myself in the experience of tragedy. It helps me understand it and process it. But I have to draw a line at some point or I will drown in this immersion, particularly when the tragedy is personal. Being at the Retreat has helped. It has kept me a few hundred miles away from the ruins of the cozy house, which has kept me from going there and losing myself in thoughts and ashes.

But social media can be a fair weather friend or a horrible enemy. This week, it has been more of an enemy, spitting small knives at raw wounds — burns — that were just starting to scab over. So once again, I go through the painful process of debridement. That’s how the process works. Debridement happens over and over until all the dead tissue is gone. Of course, I could stay away from articles and stories that hurt, but I know me. I know I won’t. I know that for me, it’s part of healing. As a friend says, it’s part of the phoenix rising from the ashes. No one ever said it would be quick. Or painless.

I’ve always loved the smell of wood smoke. The wildfire has taken that away from me. Arriving back at the Retreat just as the sun ducked behind Greenhorn Mountain, the aroma of a neighbor’s fireplace hit me when I got out of Truck. In the past, that would have struck me as homey and safe, warm and relaxing. Not now. Not anymore.

Now, that scent raises an anxiety and mild panic that I didn’t even know were in me. My response is instinctive, to look around for smoke, to think about getting things out of the house. These feelings are mercifully brief, as rational me steps up to quickly calm instinctive me. But that initial response makes me sad, sad that I’ve lost that comforting association that the smell of smoke used to have for me. At least temporarily.

MKL and I have a gas fireplace and a pellet stove in the Retreat. We’ve never used a pellet stove and I find it rather intimidating, so we’ve talked about replacing it with a traditional wood burning fireplace. Now, I’m not sure. Will cinders spark a wildfire? What if the chimney catches fire? Will I feel uneasy about the smoke and flames? Will it stir my living nightmares of the Marshall Fire? Or will it help? Will it help me reconnect with the comfort that a homey fire used to bring me? I can’t say. I guess my feelings are as unpredictable as Fire itself.

Dreams. Not always the friendliest place to find yourself. Particularly after something breaks your heart. While my dreams have always been exhausting and vivid and usually make me feel like I need a nap, they’ve been particularly poignant since the fire.

I don’t dream about the fire itself. Last night though, waking at 3:00 a.m. from a dream in which I was living in the Lamplighter Motel in Longmont, K hated me, and I couldn’t find my truck, my half-conscious brain went to a tough place.

What if I had still been living at the cozy house when the fire happened? I’d have been working from home. How would I have known to leave? It seems just sheer luck that some neighbors up the road happened to notice workers running to their personal vehicles and someone shouted at them to go. As stubborn as I am, would I have listened?

Would I have bundled Roscoe into the cab of the truck and tried to find Dusty, carrying him unrestrained to the truck as well? What then? Would I have noticed the smoke? Would I have seen the flames coming? I know I would have grabbed the wood box with the important papers and the rock doorstop. Would I have thought to get the photo albums? My wedding dress? The blowfish? Would I have tried to load the two trunks into the back of the truck? Would I have had the presence of mind to do anything? Would I have had the time? Or would I have pushed the clock too far to be able to get us out?

One time, years ago, it looked like Coal Creek, which runs by the cozy house, was going to flood. That actually happened twice, but only one time was I home. Ex-Pat and I calmly loaded the car with the most important things we could think of, letting a small K think we were having a fun adventure. The creek didn’t flood that time, but the house did flood in 2015 when the 100-year flood happened, ruining floors, carpets, the root cellar, and some books. I think I’d have felt more panic,more adrenaline, facing the fire than facing the flood.

My Mother always told me, “Never think about anything important after 2:00 a.m.” It’s some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten. In the wee small hours this morning, I could almost place myself in the house as the fire was coming, almost see the trees catching and burning like matchsticks, almost feel the heat as the walls disintegrated west to east. In a half-dream state, I could almost crossover, playing with time and reality. I understand why she gave me that advice.

Image from visitlongmont.org

How many times have I sat with grief before? I have lost count. But before, it has been grief for people, for relationships, and for the futures that are lost along with them. The number of people that I have lost is severely disproportionate to my years. Unfortunately and mysteriously, K seems to be following a similar pattern in her quarter-century life.

But I’ve never lost something so tangible and with so many intricacies and layers. Something that was primarily composed of things, and that was a thing itself. I’ve lost gloves and iPods and earrings. I’ve broken favorite coffee mugs and Christmas ornaments. I’ve lost fuzzy pink sweaters and high heeled booties. Reading glasses and birth control pills (!). But this loss and the grief of it is so very different. While, yes, we have lost things (I cannot think of the loss of Roscoe and Dusty right now), we have lost more than that. I am grieving the loss of what my heart felt was a surety, a safe place, a place that would always be there if I needed it. The very definition of home.

Having a place become home takes a long time. For me, it takes a very long time. I was in the Bungalow for ten years. It felt much like home, like the place I yearned for after a long day, but my feelings were more centered around attachment than safety. I’m not sure that makes sense, yet I know it to be so. The cozy house was mine for 30 years. It had earned its place as home.

When I’ve longed for home, I’ve longed for the house I grew up in, which my Mother sold before she passed. I know it’s not the house itself that I yearn for as much as the feeling of safety and being cared for, of someone making everything better so I didn’t have to do or think about hard, sad, bad things. The longing for being a child again. I’m still salty about my mom selling the house, and saltier still about the buyer who cut down all the beautiful old pecan trees in the front and backyards. This loss — my loss — of the cozy house has forced me to confront the feelings of losing my childhood sanctuary. I have now lost yet another sanctuary. Perhaps sanctuaries are temporary. Perhaps they are illusions.

So I hole up in the Retreat, beneath blankets and blue skies. I tell the cozy house’s story to the man who comes to plow the driveway. I bake brownies because no Southerner allows a loss to go unmarked by home-baked goods. I sit side by side with my grief, watching it turn and transform in the changing light behind my eyes. My friend, my enemy, my companion.

The cozy house.
Photo credit: Megan Williams

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.

I am back at the Retreat. It was good living with MKL for a month; it was a sneak preview of living together full-time, which should happen soon. I needed to see if I could return to what had become my daily life before the fire. So here I am.

I’m in my work spot, which is where, on December 30, I got the call from Kelsea that there was a fire near Superior and maybe it was something to worry about. In the time it took for me talk to her, call ex-Pat, gather some things, and call ex-Pat again, it was all gone — Roscoe, Dusty, and the house. It feels edgy to be sitting here, with that memory raising a pearl of panic in my chest.

I need to recover the Retreat from Christmas. The one day I was here in January, I pulled the Christmas tree out onto the front porch, but presents are still in small piles where the tree was and the menagerie is still in the living room. January and post-Christmas organizing did not turn out the way I’d expected.

It feels like some sort of betrayal to put some distance between myself and the homesite. A part of me, of my heart, is there and I feel the hole in my soul when I’m away from that space. I want to spend all my time there, digging for lost things, hoping that something will magically appear untouched. My wedding dress and photos. A book, any book. An old painting on milk glass. Those things that are gone forever. Holding out hope, at some point, feels like it does more harm than good. But I continue to remember things and try to replace them. Today, it was the San Antonio Junior League cookbook and a heart-shaped mirror framed in seashells that I made an executive decision to buy in South Padre Island decades ago.

I am listening to our town meetings about rebuilding and uncharacteristically constantly adding my two cents about keeping the character of Old Town Superior as unique as it has been for over 100 years. I’m having early talks with an architect-in-progress about rebuilding. I don’t know if that will happen but I want to leave my options open. It feels like a slogging, numb-footed step forward through paralyzing mud.

I came up to the Retreat intentionally to be here before the big snowfall, which was a wise move as the snow started falling last night and has yet to stop. I always prefer it to either REALLY SNOW or not even bother. I can feel myself burrowing beneath this blanket that the sky has offered, a nest full of sorrow and comfort. Today’s photos share the view from my world in the woods.

Can you spot the Corvette?

The Rona came around for a secondary ass-kicking last week, so I have been lying low. Today, the sifters are coming so I have emerged to join the world for a day, with the intent of heading up to the Retreat tonight before the heavy snow we’re expecting. I’m in my favorite coffee shop, waiting to meet A, with a bonus of getting to see her dogs, who accompany her everywhere these days.

At the bank, when the teller asked me about my fun plans for the day, I told him I was sifting through the ashes of my home. The man at the next window said, “You’re incredibly strong to be going through this.” That made me cry. No was has said that to me face to face, and I had no idea that I needed to hear it, but clearly, I did.

I’ve really been limiting my interactions, partly because of the Rona, partly from grief, and partly because it’s hard to talk with anyone who isn’t where I am emotionally right now. So that has left me happily with K, A, MKL, and ex-Pat. But being out in the world today is hard. Here in the coffee shop, all the overheard conversations are about the fire. The front page of the local newspaper is about concerts to benefit fire victims. I know people are still processing their experience of it. It touched everyone in these three small towns in some way. It’s only been 33 days.

I think I’m glad that people haven’t forgotten. As part of the 991, it’s hard to hear other people discuss it when they didn’t have the severe loss. I can’t begrudge them their need or way of processing their trauma.

Right now, I’m waiting for the sifters. I’m sitting among the ruins on a half wall that was next to my beautiful greenhouse. Ex-Pat built it for me with his own hands. I have pictures of K sitting in one of the post holes he dug for it. Or I had pictures of K. I suspect they burned up, along with everything else, in 20 seconds.

I’m mostly good. But I’m so very tired. And it feels like this lifetime will never offer me any rest.

June 2022
M T W T F S S
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
27282930  

Archives

Make your life a little sweeter every day! Sign up for an email subscription to Seasweetie.

Join 2,466 other followers

wordpress stats
plugin
%d bloggers like this: