I have thought of a thousand different ways to begin this post, myriad ways to try to re-enter this space that was unalterably changed the night of February 5, 2014 when Dragonfly Cottage burned down. I kept starting with the phrase, “After the fire…” but it wasn’t right. There was before the fire, and after the fire, and most importantly there is a bridge spanning the life that was, the life that I thought would be, all of my hopes and dreams and plans, and the life that will come, but I am still in a hotel, 2 weeks and 5 days after the fire, after the fire that took the lives of my four beloved little parrots that I had hand-raised from babies and had for nearly 20 years: Solomon, a blue crown conure; Emmy Lou, a tiny green cheek conure; Sierra, an incredibly precious Meyer’s parrot; and tiny Tommy, my little dusky conure. To the end of my days I will remember screaming uncontrollably for the firemen to get them out long after the little ones would have died. I got out the back of the house with my 4 beloved pugs and Miss Scarlet, my grey parrot. Rather than recount all the details of the fire I will share here the links to the two podcasts I did after the fire with the details…
I started this post three days ago. I couldn’t go on. Finally, I knew that I had to get something up even if it was bumbling about, tripping over my words, with tears running down my cheeks.
Here’s how it goes…
You are distraught, hysterical, inconsolable, numb, you can’t breathe, nothing will ever be the same, nothing will ever be okay, and then you collapse in a fog of too much emotion, where nothing is clear and everything is uncertain, and you can’t imagine it will ever be anything different.
And you do and say ridiculous things.
The day after the fire I said to my dear daughter Rachel who raced there that night and has taken tender care of me ever since, “But I didn’t even get to eat my bananas…” I was simply forlorn. I had gone to Sam’s Club the night before the fire — I go once a month to refill my meds and stock up on food — and I had come home with, among other things, a bunch of bananas. The day after my house burned to the ground and my sweet parrots had died I worried about the bananas. To say that you can’t think straight is an understatement.
There are so many people involved as the fire is happening and in the days afterword you are just in a fog. Rachel stayed with me at the hotel the first night and then spent most of the days with me and then went back and forth as she still is after having to go back to work. She has dealt with most of the official paperwork and so forth until this last week when I had people here every single day filling out mountains of forms, was interviewed, and right now cannot tell you almost anything I answered.
The day after the fire people started asking about contents in the house and I swear to you I had no clue what was in there. I was in shock.
In the days that followed I was constantly a wreck because first of all I am agoraphobic and my whole carefully constructed world, the safe nest I had built over 15 years, the place I never left, was gone. What proceeded, and would never have been able to be accomplished without my medication with one raised for the high anxiety that was debilitating, was an exhausting round of taking 4 pugs out 4-5 times a day when they did not know about walking on a leash. They came straight from my rescue to my home with a very large fenced yard and have never had to walk on a leash. We got harnesses and walked around gingerly, terrified they would get loose. I was in a an overwhelming state of exhaustion and tears after every walk after Rachel had to go back to work and I did it alone but I learned something important…
You do what you have to do. And I did, and I have, and I am, and I will continue to do so.
Now when it comes time to walk them I feel a sense of dread. I am nervous and feel overwhelmed, but I make it and each time I do I feel such an enormous sense of accomplishment and relief that it helps build my confidence. These babies have always been and still are my saving grace. If I had not had them here I think I might not have gotten out of bed. I think in life a very important thing is to have something to take care of, an animal companion of some sort even if it’s tropical fish, something larger than you. And they have ministered to me and taken care of me and loved me through it, we are loving each other through.
I want to write more, so much more, but I think just getting something down here will help me get back into writing everyday, to record my journey, to try to help others, perhaps, a little, to see that even through the worst of this you can get through. The hard things in life come, there is no way to stop them from coming, but the sheer knowledge that we can come through it all and get out on the other side is what has and is saving me. My mindfulness practice is my life preserver. I keep coming back to the fact that despite it all I am okay, and I will be okay, and somehow, some way, we will get through it all.
Please pray for us, hold us in your heart and send us good thoughts. That helps so much, and the one thing I do want to say here is that I am absolutely blown away by the kindness of people. You can feel very alone in life and then a tragedy happens and people come out of the woodwork to do something nice for you, and my beloved family of friends at Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue have been sending gift certificates to amazon and more to help me rebuild.
And so on we go. I will keep you posted here. Right now I am so very tired, that existential kind of exhaustion that makes you feel as though you will never have an ounce of energy to do anything again, but I am writing this post, however disjointed it might be, and I hope you will forgive me if I have to kind of stumble about trying to get going again. I am here, and I will continue to be here.
My house burned down, but life goes on…