When I saw what remained of our beloved house, I fell in front of it on my knees because my legs stopped working and I felt safer on the ground. I imagined that somehow, I could sink into the ground alongside our home and bring it back up. As much as my entire soul wanted that, it was not meant to be.
It was cold.
It was pouring rain.
There was nothing left but smoke and the blackness of a skeleton of our dream in front of us.
I understand the words “beside myself”. I feel like the person typing this and the person walking around and moving my body and talking to others is not me at the moment. I’m somewhere beside myself……watching things happen.
Our home was our friend. The first day we saw it, we knew it was ours. It was love at first sight. Even though it had so much work to be done on it, we could see the potential and the magic of this 100 year old structure on the mountain.
On March 11, 2005, it was ours. I made a batch of potent love spell herbs and Burke and I spread them in a circle around the house – the rose buds and lavender and cardamom trailing behind us in the snow. We put the herbs under our floor, and in the walls. It was a brand new dream for us. A house of our own.
We were married there in the field and all of our friends and family came to help us fix the house and we saw more magic in it every day. On Father’s Day in 2006, my Dad and I painted each Victorian baluster on the front porch from sunrise to sunset. Each one, carefully with small paint brushes, we painted mint, purple and sky blue. Later, I remember the triumphant smashing of the very low 7 foot ceiling as we demolished an old attic to make way for a beautiful 16 foot vaulted ceiling. I remember the day that the sunshine streamed through the sky lights in the roof and hit the living room walls for the first time in the home’s 100 year old history.
When I would go on tour and be away from home for long periods of time, I would close my eyes and imagine walking through the house. I would imagine the tiny morning light rainbows from the crystals in our bedroom window, I would imagine sitting on the porch in our rocking chairs waiting for the symphony of fireflies in the field. I used to call the phone number, when I was on the road. It felt good to know I was making bells ring in the silence of the house… I was saying hello.
It was my safe space in the world.
Every single time that Burke and I left, we said goodbye to the house together in the living room. We would thank the house for giving us such a beautiful place to live in. We would thank the house for its magic and the calm, warm feeling it had that would recharge us. We loved our house. It was a place that Burke and I, who have roamed so long could finally call “home.” A place that was ours that we would have when we were old people, rocking side by side on its old front porch.
But in the fire, that dream died. Our home, one we cared for and loved so much, was burned to the ground. Along with our childhood memories, our stuffed animals, our family photos, my magic Grandma Helen’s jewelry, a sign and wooden ducks that my Grandpa had carved with his own hands, all of our wedding things and our magic things, 15 years worth of my journals…….
We lost our history in flames.
Two things came to mind immediately when I got there – my Grandma’s iron bell wheel that was one of her magic things that meant the world to me, and the journal that I started writing Burke after our first date, that recounted the first year of us falling in love that I gave to him on our wedding day. I had to find these things. In the pouring rain, I talked to the spirits, begging them to assist us.
From the ashes, the skeleton of my Grandma’s wheel of bells was recovered…..the bells that she spoke to me through were melted to ash, but the cast iron frame remained.
I wondered out loud to Burke if he thought the bells might have rang out one last time as the flames touched them. A final ring to bless the house and say goodbye before they melted to ash. Tears fall down my face as I write these words. I like to think that they did sing one last lullaby to our beloved home.
By a miracle of miracles, although everything else was destroyed, the journal I wrote for Burke survived. It is charred badly on all sides. There are only a few words to be made out on each page, ringed in black. But that paper with words of love survived the fire that burned through solid beams of wood and disintegrated everything else.
We spent the next four hours in a friend’s house, in our soaking wet clothes, in shock, peeling one page after another out of what was left of the journal, so that they could dry. Burke and I did this without emotions, like zombies of our former selves, peeling each wet burned page from the journal like layers of an onion.
But then I got to the last page where fire had singed most of my written words. I could only read a few words, but in my memory I knew what they had said. It was the page where I had once written something along the lines of…. “My darling, the best gift that I could ever give you on our wedding day, is this journal that I kept for the first year that I was falling in love with you. This is so that one day, when we are 80 and when we have forgotten many things, you can look back at this gift and read about our young adventures in detail, see the flowers I pressed, the tickets and notes I saved and read of the love that we were discovering. You can read about stories of Poof and little Gret, our beloved animal friends who have passed on since this journal was first written and remember how dear they were to us. You can press your face to the rose petals I saved and remember how much I have always loved you. I have loved you from the first day that I ever laid eyes on you. And this journal proves, that I knew all along. I knew all along that we would be standing here one day, across from each other, exchanging our vows. And someday, when we are long gone from this earth, and our spirits are entwined in the otherworld, later generations will have this journal. Our love story will live forever in the pages of this book.”
Then I looked at all we had rescued, maybe 30 pages burned pretty badly, my accounts of time, and for the second time that day, found myself on the ground, in tears.
Goodbye, Home. Goodbye, our sweet Enchanted Cottage. Thank you for providing us such comfort and safety when you were here. Goodbye, childhood things and written words and family treasures – I will write the memories of you down in other books and honor you. I will not forget you as the years pass by.
I carry a sliver from the wood of the house in my hand from digging in the ashes. As I type, I can see it. I can’t bear to take it out. I need to carry the house with me a little bit longer…..
And in all this sadness, I look at Burke and I look at Niney curled in a ball beside me…….. and in my heart, I know that my home is wherever they are.
We shall rise from the ashes.