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I suppose it’s more of a ghost community than a ghost town.
It was right on the side of the road, up a small hill, with a great view.
Window frames seem to stand the test of time.
This table didn’t fare quite as well.
This looks like the sort of door I might have made.
Remarkably, the only graffiti in the town.
Leftover.
The sunroom.
As I stood before this doorway, I heard a sound. It sounded like a long, low, gentle bray, like a distant donkey. There was no wind. I surveyed the landscape and saw no beasties. I’ve decided it was a ghost donkey, just letting me know it was there. Otherwise, I got no vibes of the past from the little community.
In the shade.
But with a view.
I loved exploring this place. Admittedly, It was a little dicey, as many of the places I walked were clearly above rooms dug into the hillside. I knew there was a risk of falling through. But what’s life without a little risk? The only thing missing from this part of the adventure was K. She’d have loved it.

Today’s gratitudes:

  • What aspen leaves look like when they start to bud
  • Fuzzy socks
  • Robins

I dug today, alone for the most part. The snow expected last night held off. I told myself I’d only do it for an hour; suddenly, four hours had gone by. I think I’m focused on trying to find whatever might be left of my Dusty. The vertebrae that I found today was too big to be his; I’m assuming it belonged to one of the raccoons that were frequent residents of the attic.

I am surprised that none of the neighbors are combing through the rubble. I’m certainly not the only one with wreckage to search. Are they waiting for someone else to do it? Are there just too many other things to attend to? I suppose that’s it, because ex-Pat is tending to things like insurance and contacting the bank and finding a place to live, along with other practicalities. He is not the sentimental kind, so this division of labor makes sense. But he tears up when he experiences firsthand the kindness of strangers and the generosity of the folks who have given to the “Go Fund Me” to help him or offered other assistance as part of the beautiful community.

Digging through the space that was K’s room, I found some old coins, a metal wolf sculpture, the remnants of a sword, and puddles of molten metal that were once her many Hot Wheels. Even in this dark time, my mind tried to find some humorous retort the the universe about “hot” wheels.

I scraped through the ashes with a gardening hand tool with a handle that kept coming off. To my unending fascination, I kept hitting dirt or rocks at much shallower depths than I’d expected. It has made me think about the foundations on which we build our houses, our families, our entire lives. Are they all this tenuous, this deceptively shallow, and we just don’t know it until something explosive comes along to disrupt it, changing everything in a single hour? Another answer that I don’t have. There are so many of those just now.

I so wish I had some closure or sign about Dusty. It got very cold as I stopped for the day and it started snowing in earnest. We have reached out to someone we’re calling “the Bloodhound Lady” in the hope that she might be able to find a trace. Even though I have some skill as an animal shaman, I have not been able to settle my mind enough to see what I can find. In this circumstance, I cannot be the hollow bone, not yet.

My heart hurts a tiny bit less today. Hunting through the ruins is good for me, I think. It keeps me busy and connected to the energy that still exists in the battered outlines of my house. I get dirty and sore and occasionally nearly forget why I’m doing it, and just feel like I’m hunting for buried treasure. Which really, I suppose I am.

I don’t even know what to call the space anymore. I say “the house”, but there is no house. I say “the lot”, but that feels insensitive to the history and memories that the space and structures were infused with. I say “the property” and feel like a damned callous developer. So I suppose “the ruins” infers all the heartbreak and timeless sense of time’s passage that I’m trying to make sense of.

The girls and I spent the day scraping and sorting and sifting, searching for anything. There is nearly nothing intact. A few bowls – vintage Fiestaware can withstand seemingly anything. A lamp from K’s bedside, remarkably still white with its pink china roses unchipped—one of a pair from my grandmother’s house. A porcelain napkin ring. The dish in which I used to make my amazing artichoke dip, lid and all. Some stone art from the yard.

It was a house of books, as K and I have books in our blood. That is never more evident than now. We can tell where a bookcase was by knee-deep stacks of ashes, pure white. I can still see the pages but all the words are gone. Of course, I try to touch them, as it looks like someone was just rifling through them, and of course, they silently shatter, blowing away in the chill wind that precedes the snowfall predicted for tonight. There’s something I need to learn from these remnants, from this deceptive fragility, but I can’t tell what it is yet.

A and I sit together and gather Roscoe’s bones. So many fragments. She looks for teeth, but so far none have shown themselves. I mistake tatters of insulation for fur and am glad that I am wrong.

K and I are fixated on finding Dusty. He was so small and so good at hiding that I doubt we will ever find even a trace. Still, I call for him, because I have to believe in miracles, be it his live, lithe cat body bounding up from the creek, a little pile of bones, or just some sign from the universe. I used to walk through this house calling for my coffee when I’d misplace it in the morning, a silly thing, but then the coffee always did seem to show up.

When two men show up, taking pictures, I challenge them. Do you belong here in this place, on this space that right now is sacred to me? If you have no business here, get out. They are just looking for the gas meter. They might have asked me.

Walking into the ruins through what was the big picture window, through what was the first garden I planted here, I stop and turn in a slow circle. What was a neighborhood now looks like what I’d imagine a war zone to look like. Trees are sharp, angular, angry at their damage. Will anything bud when spring comes? Will a fragment of lilac still have the strength to push through the worn earth and present a sign of hope?

I just don’t know.

I went to what was once my house today. When the National Guardsman tried to stop me, I just said “No.” And he said “Okay.”

I will write more later. I am sifting through my feelings as I am sifting through the ashes. A hot spot here, a smoldering branch there. Lost love covered in clean snow. A charred ring box containing a Tibetan orb, the gentle chime it makes still as clear as it was on the long ago Christmas that my Mother gave it to me.

And most shattering, the bones of my best boy, Roscoe, in the spot in front of the fireplace where his bed always lay. I feel more like he was taken by the smoke, which is a whisper of comfort. I do not think I could survive had we found them by the front or back door. No trace of my Dusty, but he was so small that I don’t know if we will be able to find anything.

I am raw. Shocked. Enraged. Despairing. Lost.

My Roscoe, the best boy.

That’s what MKL asked me on the phone this morning. Why? Because he remembers waiting in the car while I explored this abandoned ruin on Little Exuma, which was swarming with mosquitoes. I love abandoned and overgrown places. I’m drawn to them and always have been, so how could I resist this spot? And yes, I did get some decent shots, though not quite what I had hoped for. But I also picked up a little something else. A little something called Dengue Fever. This was back in November 2013, and it took me weeks to get through that bout – weeks of incredible body aches, light sensitivity, nausea, stomach problems, blinding headaches, fevers, chills, and doctors who had to look up the condition on their computers to tell me there was nothing they could do to help. I got the same symptoms last week, and couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, until this morning, when I put the clues and the signs from the universe together to realize I was having another bout.

I am fortunate in many ways. Mosquitoes don’t seem to like me. On the other hand, I seem to be some kind of special prize for them. They save the finest and most powerful of their species just for me. Years ago, I got West Nile Fever; I had recurring bouts for years, every few months. And now I have Dengue, which doesn’t recur as frequently, but strikes with much more of a vengeance when it does. I’m glad I figured out what was wrong. At least I know that it will pass, though I don’t know when. Sometimes it helps if you can give your enemy a face and a name. But I can’t quite say yes to the question, “Was it worth it?”

Dengue Shot

Little Exuma, Bahamas.

Quote of the day: “That which does not kill us makes us stronger.” — Friedrich Nietzsche

Daily gratitudes:
Wordpress’ rainbow header
Love in all its forms
Roses and a note from my daughter
“Wife” in many languages
That I get to see MKL tomorrow

While I’ve never done anything to be arrested for on a tropical island, it does happen. (I have been given a ride back to my hotel by the Chief of Police on Jost van Dyke, but only because I was walking the road ‘home’ late at night by myself.) I’ve often wondered if it would be worse to be jailed in a lovely tropical place than to be imprisoned in someplace flat and soulless, like Florence, Colorado, home to one of our nation’s SuperMax prisons. I think it would be unbearable to see the beauty of an island through the bars of a jail cell. But at least you would see that beauty.

This prison, obviously, can hold nothing now but memories within its crumbling walls.

IMG_1733

Great Exuma, Bahamas.

Quote of the day: “Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” — Rachel Carson

Daily gratitudes:
The giant pale moon sinking behind the mountains this morning
The green of tulip leaves sprouting along the edge of my fence
Fathers talking to tiny babies in strollers
Feeling sleek in all black today
When Mr. Man hide under the comforter
Third-eye kisses

I am swimming today, beneath my skin, in a deep green pool of grief. On the surface, it doesn’t show, but I am fighting to keep my head above water. And I am getting tired of fighting.

DSCF0480

Little Exuma, Bahamas.

Quote of the day: “You will lose someone you can’t live without,and your heart will be badly broken, and the bad news is that you never completely get over the loss of your beloved. But this is also the good news. They live forever in your broken heart that doesn’t seal back up. And you come through. It’s like having a broken leg that never heals perfectly—that still hurts when the weather gets cold, but you learn to dance with the limp.” — Annie Lamott

Daily gratitudes:
Research
When dreams and reality mingle
Entertaining socks
Books
Kisses
Baths

Sounds like the title of a gothic novel, doesn’t it? But it’s an exquisite place in Wales, that is still steeped in an air of mystery and devotion. The buildings on the grounds date from 1136 to 1536.  Would that we still valued our past to retain our buildings for nearly a thousand years.

Tintern, Monmouthshire, Wales.

Quote of the day: “Real strength never impairs beauty or harmony, but it often bestows it; and in everything imposingly beautiful, strength has much to do with the magic.”  —  Herman Melville

Daily gratitudes:
My happy (if slightly manic) daughter
Positive attitudes
Sharing with someone you love
My pork green chile so spicy it makes me weep
Faded roses
Mornings that feel like fall

 

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