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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’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.

MKL and I went back to the cozy house today. We dug and sifted through ash, snow, and mud. We focused on the area by K’s bed, part of the kitchen, and a continued fruitless quest for the hardware from the antique family rifles. We found very little. The brass bull boot puller. Another mystery ring in terrible shape. A couple of things that might be K’s Ultimate medals. A whetstone. Not much.

Today, I am asking, when is it enough? When am I done digging, done searching, done trying? I called K and she said not to keep digging for her. In her wisdom, she said that there’s nothing I will find that will bring back the cozy house. What we want is for this never to have happened. That’s something we will never have. I will never have the cozy house back ever again. It is gone. Period.

Those who know me know that I don’t give up. Not on people, not on things, not on goals. I could have sifted every inch of ash on the property since the fire, given the opportunity. I could go back today and sift forever. But at some point, I have to stop. I think that point is now.

Searching hurts more than it helps. My attempts at discussing rebuilding with ex-Pat have been met with nonchalant hostility. For him, that part of his life is over. It sucks that he has zero sentimentality about our family. It really sucks. But there we are. I can’t afford to rebuild on my own. I can’t afford to buy him out. Maybe I’ll just come down from the Wet Mountains with a tent and camp on my land and plant flowers to recreate my amazing gardens. I don’t know. I’m sad. I’m at sea. But I’m moving forward, even though I don’t know what’s up ahead.

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?

I have been very quiet. All work and very little play makes Seasweetie a dull girl. On the bright side, spring seems to be coming to Colorado – finally – though I expect winter will still give a last gasp and then we’ll plunge straight into summer. I dug in the dirt today – not a lot, but it’s a start to making the yard of the Bungalow what I’ve envisioned. MKL will be moving in at some point this year (after a lot of work getting his house ready to rent) and I am, for the first time in a long time, looking forward to setting down some roots – with him. I bought the Bungalow at a time when I was on autopilot, so terribly broken, and going through the motions of blindly rebuilding a life. That was almost exactly three years ago. I am happy with how far I’ve come from that sad, dark time – back into the sunlight, and both literally and metaphorically planting a bright new garden of beauty, and growing lots of love.

Plumeria

Great Exuma, Bahamas.

Quote of the Day:  “Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.”  — L.M. Montgomery

Daily gratitudes:
Looking forward
Burning wicked words
The smell of spring earth
The call of a hawk
Leisurely mornings with MKL

Today’s guest poet: Sara Teasdale

I Have Loved Hours at Sea

I have loved hours at sea, gray cities,
The fragile secret of a flower,
Music, the making of a poem
That gave me heaven for an hour;

First stars above a snowy hill,
Voices of people kindly and wise,
And the great look of love, long hidden,
Found at last in meeting eyes.

I have loved much and been loved deeply —
Oh, when my spirit’s fire burns low,
Leave me the darkness and the stillness,
I shall be tired and glad to go.

 

For The Best

Rain falls outside the Oxford.
It drips off the eaves, like tears.
Sometimes, those tears trickle down my cheeks
on cold, wet days like these
when the future feels hopeless.

Songs are sad.
I droop.
All hope
feels lost.

I remember other nights here.

Love

made
well.

Laughter

well
spent.

And now
when I take a spin by the
fifth floor
I wonder if the ghost I feel
is me.

But the rain falls
harder and harder
on Wazee
as the spring day dims.

And for me,
there is nothing to do
but keep going.

It has happened – finally.

That one day in Spring when, all of a sudden, it’s as if you have opened eyes that have been closed for six months.  You look up and suddenly you see that the willow trees have sparked into green.  That there is grass – actual green grass – where before there was just a brown memory of grass.  I almost wrecked the truck the other day because I caught a glimpse of white bud blossoms on a passing tree and tried to crank my head 180-degrees for a better look.

At the Bungalow, things are growing.  I have no idea what they are, and won’t until they are in full-bloom; I suspect the bush by the back door is a lilac, which would make me terribly happy, but honestly, I won’t care what it is.  I do know that there are tulips by the front fence.  In the Fall, I will plant some fragrant daffodils, like those coming up at Ex-Pat’s house, by my doorstep.

It hasn’t seemed like we’ve had enough moisture to make things green.  Unlike my friends in Chicago and Boston, we’ve had a fairly easy winter, weather-wise.  Emotion-wise, it’s a different story, at least for me.  I backslide emotionally – as I did last night – and so I hope the inspiration of spring, which does not backslide but continues to grow gracefully into itself and the next season and the one after that, will serve me well this year.  I need it.

Time to go pick up Kelsea, paint and the surprise.  Have a lovely day.

I awoke this morning after my usual complicated, half-frightening, half-supernatural, all-meaningful dreams, thinking about threes.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it’s because I finished Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons last night, with all its scientific/religious intersectional themes.

Aside from thinking about the classic Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (or ” the Holy Spigot”, as claimed by Rowen Atkinson in his short but sweet role in “Four Weddings and A Funeral”), I was thinking about the concept of love – true love – being something that is mind, body and soul.

Love can start in different ways.  It can start as friendship.  It can start as passion.  It can start as a sense of partnership.  It can start as a vibrant energetic connection.  Or it can start as some combination of the above.  In order for it to succeed and strengthen, the three core elements – mind, body and soul – must all be allowed to bloom.  And not just between two people but within each of those two people.

If you are mentally compatible with someone, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you share the same level of intelligence or education.  It does mean that you are eager to expand your thinking to consider ideas or ways of life or activities that you might not have considered before.  You are willing to be open-minded and non-judgemental of how you – or your potential partner – experience life.  And you are willing to involve your partner in your life and become involved with theirs.

If you are physically compatible, well, it’s an amazing thing.  You can have a successful love relationship without intense physical passion – you can be perfectly fine with average physical passion and attraction.  But when you do have the intense body connection, it can transcend the physical and touch the spiritual.  Due to our nearly-inborn Christian conservatism which we all want to deny, we can think that having an intense physical relationship is “bad”. We can place put on our shame-colored glasses and imagine that we should not be in such a relationship, because if it is that good, clearly that’s all there is to it, and that makes it wrong.  Not so.  An intense physical connection is just a part of the trinity, and something that should be nurtured, cherished and honored.

If you are spiritually compatible, you find yourself expanding in unexpected ways.  Your life is full of minor epiphanies about yourself, about the universe, about each other.  You each fuel the flame of spirit that burns within the other – and the result, while sometimes confusing, is ultimately most joyful.  While I don’t think any element of the “Love Trinity” is more important than another, the spiritual element is the most rare and the most frightening.  It takes courage and strength to confront yourself daily.  When the cares of life are overwhelming, the unclouding of the soul can feel like it is simply too much to manage.  It is easier to find a relationship where you can be less (or be the same) than stick with one that makes you grow.  At least then you have the illusion of peace.  Ah, but what you miss.

Back in college, I had a therapist who said that when you were choosing to be with someone, you needed to be sure that your head, your heart and your crotch were all aligned.  I’ve never forgotten that.  I’ve certainly gone with the “two out of three ain’t bad” approach once in a while.  But for a life partner?  Nope.

I will not compromise the mind-body-soul trinity again.  And I feel sorry for those who do.

I know what can be.  I know what I have to offer.  And I know what I’m worth.  I believe there’s a saying that good things come in threes. (I know there’s also a saying that disasters come in threes, but we’ll put that aside for the purposes of this post.  I believe in the power of good.) 

I am a good thing.

It is not quite uncoated weather, but it’s close and it will be on Sunday for certain.  That makes me happy.  There was a new bird tweeting outside the window this morning, which means they are slowly migrating back, and that makes me happy too.  As I was driving into Boulder today, I realized that it’s almost calving season and I LOVE calving season.  Baby cows are soooo cute.  Which is why I can’t eat veal.  I don’t think it’s possible to eat something that you’ve named.

I’m very excited to say that there seems to be good news on the job front!  I received an offer this morning, contingent on my passing the background check.  Of course, this shouldn’t be a concern for me, but it’s human to worry your memory like a dog worries a bone to see if there’s something there that you’ve forgotten that perhaps you should have mentioned.  I don’t think so though.  I’m set to start on the 22nd.  An exciting new phase of life, and I’ll tell you more about the job as I dive in – but I will tell you it’s a writing job, and that makes me very happy.

The realtor also tells me that there are more hopeful signals about the (my) house – my actually being almost employed gives me a little more confidence about the whole house thing.  I have been talking with the Universe about the house being ready for me when my lease is up.  Which is May.  That house wants me.  I can feel it. 

It feels nice to be wanted by a house and an employer.

I will miss my coffee shop times to a certain extent, but they will just have to be scheduled a little more tightly.  I am pretty darn thrilled to think about working (for someone) again, learning something new, meeting new people, having a new routine.  It has been a huge challenge to shift my mindset from leaving Colorado for someplace warm with a partner, to staying here to build a new life on my own over the last 2-3 months.  But there is nothing I cannot do, and nothing I cannot survive.  And that’s nice to know.

I am learning more about allowing myself to be, and to be in the now, in the moment – and be happy there as much as possible.  I suppose that’s the whole practice of mindfulness that some therapists talk about, and some spiritual folks practice.  Like now, when I can soak in the sun shining through the window of Caffe Sole, a warm, swirling cappuccino to hand, some new music touching my ears, a little child outside catching drops of melted snow water from the roof in his cupped hands outside. 

And being able to share it all with you.

Sun on the Coffee Shop Chair

Sun on the Coffee Shop Chair

November 2022
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