Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Saying Goodbye.

Came back this past weekend for our final Goodbyes.  The Avett Brother's continue to play in my head over and over again..

"Tear down the house, that i grew up in...."

"  ... i'll never be the same again."

" Take all the things that i've collected, and burn them in a pile. "

" Bulldoze the woods that I ran through. Carry the pictures of me and you."

" I have no memory of who I once was, and I don't remember your name. "

 In times of distress, music has always been a form of comfort and a way to heal. It's funny how certain songs come along at just the right moment and really resonate with us. We seem to find them when we need them most.

  We are not defined by our stuff.  Like so many folks have said, the material things can be replaced, we can build a new house we can buy new things.  The most important thing is that we are all safe, and we are all together, we are all okay.  i know this is all true.  i also know that many of those material things were imprinted with our memories, they tell our story and they are part of our history.  We are not really mourning the stuff that we lost, we mourn the memories and the life that we had there. 

The photo above, i found blowing through the yard with many other old pictures, letters and bits of poetry i'd written in high school and college. It left me feeling extremely vulnerable and exposed seeing these pieces of my past littering the yard and being carried off by the wind.  It feels as if they were from another time, long since forgotten and yet awoken at that moment.  i was only a girl here in this picture 22, maybe 23, still struggling to find my place in the world.  Holding on to dreams, and yet so very lost. Funny, how almost 20 years later i find myself with similar feelings.  The VW bus was named Miriam, and i loved her so. Years later i brought her down to Virginia with me, but she never drove again. It was many years after that i finally said good bye to her. One look at this picture and i can still remember the smell of the seats, and the sound of the engine.

So many things change with time, but it's so hard to let go sometimes. i think that is my lesson in all of this. i hung on to everything. i refused to change, refused to let go...and now i find myself with no choice but to change, let go and move forward.   Isn't it funny how life is?

The demolition crew came and removed everything. There is nothing left now,  no pieces of the past blowing around the yard. There is nothing but a hole and the memories of our life there that are already beginning to fade.

This is where we say goodbye. This is where we let go.

 ...and this is where we begin to rebuild.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo.
"So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Friday, March 22, 2013

Finding our way

i have several posts half written, but i realized that all of my recent post have been rather sad, understandably. Despite the loss of our home and everything in it, life still goes on.

This winter has been brutal, but we have been blessed with a few days of sunshine. At least one where it warmed up enough for us to play outside without coats!

We still visit our land everyday. We could not bring any of our animals with us to the rental house, so our dogs, goats and chickens are all still at the property. We check food and water twice daily, and on days when it isn't horribly cold we let the chickens out to free range and we take the dogs hiking.

We call this nature therapy.

We hike the woods behind our house, run through the tree fields, chase the dogs and skip stone in the creek.

We climb trees, build dams, and hunt for dragons.

We fill our pockets with acorn caps, create make believe adventures, dream about summer and remember how it feels to be home.

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.  ~John Muir

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sifting Through Ashes

"Tear down the house that I grew up in. i'll never be the same again. Take everything that I've collected, burn it in a pile." - Avett Brothers

i hear this song play in my head every time i return home.

We've had a few folks come out wanting to help us clean up and recover stuff.  However when they get here, and they actually see it ....they believe there is nothing here to recover. All they can see are the ashes, the piles upon piles of our burned and ruined stuff.  All they can see is the ash.

But that's not what i see.  i see memories. i see bits and pieces of our life that are now blackened and scorched around the edges. Changed slightly, but still dear to our hearts.  Each burned piece that i recover evokes emotions that were long since forgotten. Memories fade with time, and it's these little mementos that we've held on to that bring them back to us as clearly as the day the memories were made.

 A broken cup with tiny yellow flowers on it that came from my Great-Grandmother's china set that was in the top cupboard of my kitchen. There is no longer any cupboards there, and there are only tiny pieces of that china set scattered through the house and yard.

A small square of blue and white fabric. All that remains from the quilt my grandmother made by hand for me when she was still on this earth.

The edge of  a baby blanket that both my children were wrapped in right after they entered this world.

13 years of love, laughter and memories, buried under the ash.

These are the things that i see.

We have found a few photos from my childhood, our college years,  our wedding and the children's baby pictures. Burnt around the edges, and weathered by the elements....but still ours.

i recovered the hand carved salad tongs my Aunt brought back from Africa years ago.  She gave them to my mother, who then passed them on to me.  They were still inside one these kitchen drawers.  They smell terrible, but they are unburned.

We begin the house demolition on Monday. So this weekend is our last attempt to sift through the ashes, and recover lost things.  We've been unable to really get in there and dig, because after the fire we had days of freezing rain and the ash which is piled 3-4 foot deep atleast is frozen solid.  The floor in the center of the house where the woodstove was has begun to collapse, and it's difficult to really get in there and dig safely.

My husband is still looking for his wedding ring, and we have not yet found the body of our cat Siddhartha.

My lovely brown hen seen in this picture is now at rest as well. No matter how well we try to keep the dogs penned up and the chickens penned up they still manage to dig out, and my dogs and the local hawk have killed most of my chickens.

Our cat Tom, who was tossed outside during the fire has not yet been found. Every time i am at the house, i wait for him to just wander out of the woods with a look on his face that says 'Where ya been guys?'.  But so far he has not returned. Despite contacting neighbors, the humane society, and putting up lost cat posters there have been no calls. 

My favorite glass pendants were recovered, although the glass was shattered internally.  My husband was able to mend the cracks but they, like all of us, will never be the same. 

This weekend we will spend sifting through the ashes and then say our final goodbyes.  Not to the physical walls and material possessions that burned up in the fire, but to the memories that were housed within it, and infused on all those lost items of the past. 

Once the house is demolished, and all the burned and broken pieces of our life there have been taken away, only then will the healing truly begin. With healing comes rebuilding.

As the first flowers of spring begin to emerge, a feeling of hope begins to emerge in me too.

“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


 So we are here. Not really sure what that means. home? not really, but i guess it will have to do. 

 We have 2-3 months to figure out where to go from here.  i thought that once we got 'here' i would feel a little better. i would feel secure because we have a roof over our heads. We are renting a house, we are no longer homeless.  But this isn't home. It's temporary, and so no matter how much i try to be settled, my mind is constantly racing...constantly asking what is next? where will we go from here? where will we go?

 i have tried to make this place home.  We made paper hearts and rainbow stars for the windows. i have baskets of pine cones, and jars of acorn caps on the fireplace hearth.  i have tried to throw myself back into my crafting. Home is where the heart is after all, and we are here together.  but our hearts are not. This is just a house. It's not our house. It's just one more stop along our journey to find our way home.

It has been over a month since our home burned, throwing us into uncertainty and destroying all sense of security that we have known for the last 13 years.  Folks constantly ask if we are settled now, and all i can do is nod my head although my eyes fill with tears.  We are in a house, we are back to routine, we are settled.   In truth, i am far from settled.  

i am lost. completely and utterly lost.

i am so very far from home, that i have to wonder if i will ever find my way back again..

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Next Stop.

i thought i would be able to come here and write about our new journey but now almost a month since my last post, and i really don't know what to write.  

Immediately after the fire, we went straight to the Hotel Floyd, where Red Cross put us up for 3 nights of emergency stay.  An absolutely wonderful woman (not sure if she wants to be named) who is the mother of one of Sage's classmates, arrived the next day with a huge care package, filled with clothing, toys, food, personal care items etc. She stayed for a couple of hours listening, talking, and giving me a shoulder to cry on. i truly can never thank her enough for her kindness, generosity, and help. She had also contacted a local church that arranged for us to stay a few more nights at the hotel while we tried to figure out just where the hell we would go.

The week we spent at the hotel is pretty much a blur. Kenan was dealing with the insurance company, donations and all the local folks who were calling, stopping by his shop wanting to help. I wasn't really in a place to deal anyone so I hung out at the hotel room with the kids and tried to find some kind of normal. We played cards, cuddled on the bed watching cartoons, played computer games and started re-reading The Hobbit.

We had several folks generously offer us temporary shelter.  We ended up staying in a garage apartment  that belongs to my friend who I goat-sat for a few years ago.  It was a really nice little apartment/office, with two rooms, a kitchenette and a bathroom.  It also had a private entrance, so it gave us plenty of privacy, and we didn't have to feel like we were invading.

We had a fold out table and chairs to use, and my friend made a huge pot of spaghetti with homemade marinara.  It was absolutely delicious and a nice change from all the fast food and microwave meals we had been eating.  After days of eating off paper plates in a hotel room, it was really nice to be able to sit down and enjoy a home cooked meal together.

      We had two inflatable mattresses to sleep on, and thank goodness for wi-fi and netflix we were still able to have our Friday family movie night.  These tiny bits of normalcy and familiarity are what we were really clinging to this week. We were constantly trying to find/create a new normal.  
The kids were able to hang out and play with my friend's girls, and i did more socializing in that week that i have in the last two years. We sat around chatting over coffee, and i got a lesson in knitting.

 The weather was pretty crappy that week, so we didn't leave the apartment much at all.  Kids missed several days of school due to the weather but we did go out and hike through the woods one afternoon.  We found a bunch of skunk cabbage coming up, even though it was coated in a layer of ice and snow.

During this week, we began receiving clothing donations from the local community and care packages from friends and family around the country. Many of the boxes were stored at Kenan's shop and we didn't even open them until the following week, because we were here temporarily, had no space to store anything.  There were a few special boxes that were addressed to kids which were opened right away.   So much love and kindness packaged up in boxes. Some contained necessities, others were full of toys and fun items to make us smile. We received an huge anonymous box for the kids from Philadelphia candy company.

The kids received new build-a-bears from Grandma & Grandpa T.  This was one of our hardest evening thus far.  Sage who had been enjoying the excitement of the hotel, and staying with friends, finally broke down.  She had a complete meltdown, and sobbed uncontrollably for over an hour, which made Sequoia and i cry too. So we all huddled together and hugged, and cried and cried.

Although we knew our friends would allow us to stay as long as we needed, we really wanted to find a place to rent ASAP.  The uncertainty of the situation was extremely scary. We didn't have time to mourn our loss or even let anything sink in, we were in a constant state of survival mode.  No one ever expects to go from the security of a warm comfortable home, to finding themselves completely homeless.
Trying to find a place to move to in rural community is extremely difficult, but we had many local folks offing up extra rooms and basements. Kenan immediately contacted the man he rents his glass shop from, as we knew he also rented out several houses. He didn't have anything available, but his sister had an empty house next door to her that she used when family came to visit. It was fully furnished, and we were able to move in immediately.

So we packed up all of our belongings, which fit inside a couple of tote bags, said good bye to our friends and continued on. 

"Already he was a very different hobbit from the one that had run out without a pocket-handkerchief from Bag-End long ago. He had not had a pocket-handkerchief for ages."
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit