Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Unforgettable Fire

Bottom photo: Todd Foster


Does not exist
In its natural form
Exists by consuming
Another form
It transforms from one
Form to another form

Fuels our passion
Leaves everything ashen
Duels the darkness
Heaves on compassion

Fire, constructively destructive
Fire, destructively constructive
Fire, living death
Fire, dying life 

Anand Dixit

My unfinished home burnt to the ground just before Thanksgiving.    My dream of a book about it and marriage went up in its smoke.

No one was hurt.  This is the best thing.

Like with any setback in life, time soothes.  Already I’m planning a new life, a new home, somewhere else.  I can forgive.  This is the other best thing: washing my soul of anger.

The irony is I’ve made a fairy tale home so many admire and wish they could live in.  Myself included.

I wrote about it for The Women’s Eye if you want to read the long version stuffed to the gills with metaphor.


Star of Wonder, Star of Night

Stars.  Sparkle, glitter, dreams, fire, light.  Last Christmas, my life was starry as a clear sub-zero winter’s night in the Catskills.  This Christmas, my life is as dark as a grave.

This Christmas:

  • I’m divorced
  • my unfinished new house (a real house, not my little shabby streamside studio) burnt to the ground
  • and the homesteading book about it and my once enviable life obviously is nixed
  • my Maltese dog Belle is dead
  • I’ll see my 3 babies - my dogs - for a few hours in December
  • I paid $600 for dental work my Maltese Zuzu
  • and $900 in car repairs
  • I gained 10 pounds

Without my old dreams, I’m disoriented.  Without a home, I’m dispossessed.  Without my husband, I’m not constantly infuriated but I’m also missing my dearest friend.  It was he that accidentally caused the fire with the woodstove.  The guilt sears and tortures him.  He said he lay on the cold ground and cried the next morning.  I lay on the cold ground and cried when I got home from the lawyer’s office filing for divorce the next day.

The last 10 years of my life were spent working two full-time jobs a 4 hour drive south from the Catskills so I could arrive where I was last year: a simple life without a mortgage.  My husband and I clashed terribly over the years concerning our living space and earning income.  He’s a clutterer with hoarding tendencies, I’m a neat freak.  He started businesses that didn’t work out, I put my dreams of being a photographer/stylist/author on hold while working good (but unfulfilling) jobs with benefits.

I was homeless as a teen.  All I’ve ever wanted was a little refuge to call my own. 

I built it, I unexpectedly got a lot of press on it.  My dreams finally were coming true.

My new side career blossomed, my unemployed husband’s depression worsened.  Most ‘ditch the city for the country’ stories you hear about are of well-heeled individuals that left six-figure jobs or sold six-figure homes.  I ain’t one of them. 

My refuge in the form of a real home is like a flake of down in the air.  The moment I reach it, it sidesteps away.  I’m not materialistic, I’m proud to own few possessions, but my sentimentalism for some makes it difficult to accept their loss.

This lantern’s light once lit our table at our wedding, then our little campsite on our honeymoon in the Catskills.  I used it in the very first magazine feature I sold.   I lost five matching 19th century porch columns I bought for $25 at a yard sale.  It will cost me $380 at a salvage yard to replace them. 

It looks like a tiny house for tiny money.  But, I make tiny money.  For someone a tick or two above living paycheck to paycheck, the fiscal setback is monstrous.  Especially in light of the fact I need $7,000 in photography equipment, and my $5,000 Visa is maxed.  That’s where I’m at.

So, I’m living with Mom, looking for a night job.

I seek the light at the end of the tunnel, but it’s always dark.  Holiday scenes that once inspired me pain me.  Christmas music guaranteed to cheer me saddens instead.  I visited my old studio on the hill to get a few shots for a magazine feature.  The old comfort is there, and irony.  Like millions worldwide, I wish I could live there.  I’d never afford the road, the addition, and the septic system making $20K a year up there.

Like the Grinch, my “heart is full of unwashed socks”.  (Last year, I wrote a bubbly post to 'be understanding of Grinches'.  Life.)  The spark of creativity in my heart doesn’t ignite.  I’m uninterested in designing vignettes and shooting.  Or even putting up a tree.

Then, a star appeared.  A design star.  A prominent author/stylist/photographer contacted me to be in her upcoming holiday book.  Another (also doing a book) commented on my blog and we got to sharing, too.  Their compassion buoyed me, their burning passion for what they do heated my blackened heart.  And it’s lit anew.

Neil Peart wrote of losing his daughter, wife, dog, and career in his memoir Ghost Rider, and one passage stays with me.  In the West, we say, “once burnt, twice shy.”  But in Africa, they say, “wood once burned is easier to light.”

Another great Canadian writer’s final sentence in her novel Cat’s Eye stays with me as well.  Referring to stars, Margaret Atwood wrote, “It’s old light, and there’s not much of it.  But it’s enough to see by.”

I go out in the warm un-Christmasy evening.  The sun, our nearest star, sets.  It is cloudy.  Stars can lead us home if we navigate by them.  I cannot see the stars.  I am lost.  I know they’re still there.  But I’m still lost.

I return to the place in the woods two mere weeks ago I cut larch branches for holiday styling and shooting. 

They burnt along with my house.

There are more branches.  Their seeded cones are lovely along the dainty twigs.  I remember some seeds need fire to germinate.  I weep.


I'm still blogging about my studio, don't worry!

Until next time, stay shabby!