As I type these words, my things are piled into the back of my car, it is before dawn, and I am about to leave the house in the mountains known as Faerie Manor, for the last time.
Two years ago, when our house burned to the ground, I went crazy. Most of my journals, besides the majority of my family things, were destroyed, so I started a written diary of the experience that I called the Fire Diaries, because I needed to pour out all the things I was thinking into something. No one has ever read it. I’ve only gone back to read it once, and couldn’t get past page 5 before having to stop.
I googled “how to cope with having a house fire” and found almost nothing. I found it funny that when I was in the most pain, I tried to find a solution on the internet. This is both my heaven and my hell sometimes.
But the thing that really ended up saving me, was a beautiful little cottage in the mountain. The one I’m leaving today.
It was temporary. It was a place to live while we re-built our own home. But for those first few months, during the slow sludge of red tape, as our charred skeleton of a home stood on a mountain 10 minutes away – I curled into a ball in someone else’s crocheted blankets waiting for the pain to go away.
That someone, was a man named Jerry. He was an artist and this was his home. He passed away 6 years ago at the age of 80, but most of his furniture, his towels, his utensils, his books, some of his art, and his crocheted blankets are here. It is where they belong, in the house that he made his home for so long. And I moved right into it all, when we had lost all of our things at our house.
We never met in life, but being here, in his home, I felt like I knew him. His gentle presence soothed the rough transition I was going through. In the first week, I woke up one morning, and completely unexplained, I found a small red plastic heart on the floor next to my bed.
It wasn’t mine.
I had not seen it before and I had no idea how it got there. Burke had left shortly after the fire on a job and I had been the only one in the house. My heart was broken over losing our house, and on that morning when I woke up and saw an unexplained tiny red plastic heart next to my bed – I took it as a sign. It was a welcome from him, the artist who once lived there. That’s what I believed it to be.
Spring started to happen. I put the little red heart in the lap of a doll my friend made that looked like me. I started to break out of my sadness a tiny bit. Flowers started to bloom all over in the garden that was Jerry’s. I would sit outside for hours with Niney and the colorful flowers that sprung up everywhere. I would sit in the sunshine and read his books – Kurt Vonnegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “Babylon Revisited” among them. We would have been friends.
He was an avid bird watcher and his home is a paradise for them. He put wooden feeders for them everywhere in the trees. Some of the best times I had here was sitting on his old front porch, early in the morning and early in the evening when the hummingbirds would come to visit the most. Those tiny creatures travel up to 3,000 miles over the ocean in their journey every year without feeding and are known for overcoming great obstacles. I wanted this to be a place for them to come and be fed. I added a red hummingbird feeder.
When I leave this morning, it will stay there, right alongside the feeders Jerry left for the birds.
The sun is rising now and there was just a tap at the window as I was finishing the last line. A brilliant red cardinal sits there.
This has been a home for all of us.
Right now, the sun is casting its first orange glow against the trees in this forest. I am grateful that I couldn’t sleep and that on my last day here, I could watch the sunrise.
This is the place where I healed. This is the place that Jerry created that feels like home, the place that is filled with his gentle energy and the things he loved. When I was cleaning one day, I found a picture of him in the garden, smiling, and I put it on the fridge – so I could see it everyday and be grateful for the person that created this safe space tucked in a mountain.
Jerry in his garden in the photo I found.
I moved here in May 2011 on the day someone had predicted the world would end.
It was my beginning.
The days moved into weeks, and into months and into two years. I moved the doll that looks like me with the heart in its lap six months ago to take on tour. I realized in a panic, days later, that the heart sitting in her lap was lost. I searched everywhere and couldn’t find it. It was tiny and most likely was lost forever. Like the mysteries of this beautiful house, it would be a memory of a beautiful message.
Last night was my last night in this house. I took Niney for a walk under the starry sky. I could hear the river rushing nearby and I felt a peace in the darkness. I heard an animal sound – perhaps coyotes or a bear, and turned on my flashlight. I didn’t see anything and started making shapes with the flashlight on the ground.
I thought about how grateful I was for Jerry and this space he created. I wondered if he knew somewhere, that I was leaving. I wondered if he knew how much the comfort of his space had healed me and gave me space and freedom and peace. I wondered if I would get a sign from him – my old artist friend that I had never met.
And at that exact moment, as I made patterns on the ground with my flashlight, something red glinted…..
it was the tiny red heart that mysteriously appeared the week I arrived and that I had lost six months before.
He was saying goodbye.
The forest is completely golden now. The light moves across this room. There is a car outside with all my things in it and a new house built from the imagination of my true love, waiting for me to arrive.
It is time for a new beginning.
I will never forget this place or the sweet old man who made it into a paradise.
Farewell, Old Friend.