It is 6 1/2 weeks since the fire. We have been in the rental house now for 2 weeks today and I have not left this house in 2 weeks, until last night…
I have been terrified. Agoraphobia is a frightening thing and losing one’s home, the safety net you have built to survive going up in flames before your eyes not to mention a decade and a half of dreams, is to feel lost in the world. After not leaving the hotel room for a month save to walk the dogs, and one hour to come look at this house, and then moving here and not leaving for 2 weeks, my walls were raising up high into the sky like Jack’s beanstalk and I wondered if I could ever leave this place. And then there really was no food, and I needed so very many things. Finally, forced by circumstances, I left the house. I went to the Dollar Store with a list a mile long.
I love the Dollar Store. I feel comfortable there. I feel like these are my people in a way that fancy department stores and even big grocery stores never could, in fact those places terrify me. Still, I had to sit in the car in the parking lot to get my courage up to go in. Once inside I got a little basket and started down the first aisle, and in moments I was simply enchanted.
I used to go to this particular Dollar Store some time ago but when I moved into Dragonfly Cottage it was no longer close. I was amazed to see the things they had there and though everything isn’t $1 the prices are amazing. I soon felt, if shy, like a kid in a candy store with big eyes walking up and down the aisles in wonder, they had so much more than they used to and name brand nice foods. Lovely wines for $3.50 a bottle that you pay $10 for in a grocery store and I always get tickled to buy my hair color for $3, the exact same hair color I pay nearly $10 for in a drug store.
I needed lots of things like hangers, and little things for the house as well as drug store type items and odds and ends and I was actually enjoying myself and it felt good to get out of the house, but then…
I started to feel overwhelmed. My heart was in my throat and I felt lost at sea and wondered if I could make it home, and just then I looked up into the eyes of a very kind older woman. She smiled and complemented my dress and laughed and said if I wore it Monday it would be just perfect for St. Patrick’s Day. It was an ankle length cotton seersucker green dress with bits of pink.
I continued on as did she in different parts of the store and when we came upon one another again she stopped and said, “Honey, I don’t want to intrude but you look so sad, are you okay?” I started to tell her that my house burned down and it was the first time I had come out on my own in over 6 weeks and I was feeling… but by then tears were running down my cheeks and I was thinking “Oh God please don’t let me lose it in the middle of this store.” but she looked at me kindly and said, “Can I hug you?” And as she did I just broke down in sobs and cried harder than I have in weeks in a stranger’s arms in an aisle in the store. She stroked my hair like I was a little girl and she prayed for me, that I would be given strength to get through this difficult time, and when I stood up she smiled at me as she took a pin off of her dress and put it in my hand and closed my hand around it. “I want you to have this…” “Oh no,” I said, “I couldn’t possibly take it, it’s beautiful!” but she insisted. She said it was a very special pin and would bring me luck. It was a golden bumblebee with beautiful stones set in it. I just stood there gaping at it and she started talking to me about bees.
She told me that bees help us see the sweetness in life, that they are industrious and would help me work my way through everything that I needed to to get through the time ahead, so many things about bees that I knew. I love bees, I always have. I have planted large gardens full of wildflowers for the bees and I have always cherished their presence around me. She hugged me again and we parted.
I saw her now and again as we both continued shopping in different parts of the store. I felt shy and kind of awkward but very appreciative. She was like a fairy godmother and made me feel like my grandmother had. My grandmother was the most cherished person in my life and I loved her dearly.
It was because of grandma that I came to love vintage things. Grandma didn’t have much money but she had a charming little house from the 30’s and 40’s and I loved the things in her house. Her house was my safe haven. In a childhood full of abuse I was safe at my grandma’s and I just loved going there. She made donuts and let my cousin and I eat the donut holes she had cut out. I played in a sandbox in her back yard with the little girl who lived next door. Grandma was a wonderful cook and I liked to sit in the kitchen and watch her. She had to quit school in the 6th grade because her mother died and she had to raise her younger brothers and sisters. She then raised her own 5 children and took care of her father and her in-laws at home until they died while she raised her little ones. She was a tiny, round, Irish Catholic woman with wiry, unruly hair, very rosy cheeks, and she was just adorable. Family was all that mattered to her. She was very self-conscious about the fact that she had had to quit school so young but she was wiser than most people I’ve met with Doctorate Degrees. I miss her terribly still and she died in 1977.
Somehow or another I finished getting everything I needed, my little cart was overflowing, and I got to the checkout counter. I had a ton of stuff and was kind of embarrassed. Suddenly there was a woman behind me and I turned around and apologized for having so much, I said my house had burned down and I’d lost everything so I needed a lot of things for the rental. She squeezed my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry honey, I’m in no rush. And a year ago my house burned down.” We talked for awhile and discussed the fact that as sympathetic, kind, and wonderful as people are unless you’ve been through this you can’t possibly understand. We both said that it was so hard because you get yourself together and then you remember something else that you lost that you completely forgot about and you are blindsided all over again. We talked about many things.
When all of my things had been bagged up the checkout lady said she needed to see some I.D. I had purchased a bottle of wine. I kind of giggled. As I handed it to her I thanked her and said that she’d just made my day, that I would be 60 next month and it tickled me all to pieces to be carded. And the lady behind me said, “60?! Oh honey you are beautiful, you look so good.” I blushed so hard my cheeks got hot and I kind of giggled again and thanked her. As I finished loading up my cart the lady behind me hugged me and said, “It’ll be okay honey, it gets easier with time. I’ll pray for you.” The checkout lady said she would pray for me too and I thanked them both and walked out feeling so loved, so happy, so alright, in a way I hadn’t since the fire, then, right then, in the parking lot of the grocery store I knew I would be okay.
When I got back to the house I had to make several trips to get everything in and it felt so good to have food and so many of the odds and ends that I needed. I knew then that I could make of this little house a home, for now. It has been very hard because the rental furniture they brought in is really staging furniture, there is very little of it so that the house feels very empty, and all hardwood and tile your voice and every sound just echoes around inside. The only chair for me to really sit in is so wobbly it’s hard to get in and out of and if you slap your hand against the side it sounds like cardboard. I have been absolutely forlorn over all of this. But I am going to buy a good chair, a comfy recliner, and this week they are finally going to get a desk, chair and lamp in, and I am going to make a cozy little office and begin to work again.
Today I wrote to the students that had signed up to work with me in January for mentoring sessions but who had not yet had their sessions because of the fire. They have all been lovely and sweet and told me to take my time but I have to get back to work. I think you heal best when you rise above your own problems and open your heart to helping others, and that’s what my life is about. I have realized, too, that while I still have a long way to go this experience has changed me profoundly. I bring a deeper knowing to my work, my healing powers have been greatly enhanced through this time of trial by fire, and my resolve and commitment to the present moment is deeper than ever before. It is time to get back to work, I’m ready. It is time to begin to live again.
I know that this will be a long slow process. They are saying that now it could be as long as 8 months before the house is rebuilt, everything is gone inside, it is gutted. I have gone back and forth about living there or not living there again but I really can’t. I have prayed about it, meditated and asked for guidance and I truly believe that I am not supposed to. The house is really too big for me which I hadn’t realized until I was in it for awhile. I am a nester. The dogs and I spent almost all of our time in my large studio, and the Cozy Room next to it. Of course I used the kitchen and went in the back to shower and change clothes but I even slept in the Cozy Room. I would like to find a little place, have a small fenced yard for the dogs, plant a few flowers, and mainly dedicate my life to my work. I want to start the school I have been planning and even this will be a much deeper experience. And this work will all be begun from this little rental house.
Bloom where you’re planted. It seems so trite we’ve heard it so often, but it is touchingly true to me now, and what else is there? I’m going to be here for awhile so I will make the most of it. And as I hold my little bee in my hand I know that I will make it. I hear him buzzing and it makes me feel cheerful. I am not alone.
I send you all so much love, and hope that you are having beautiful moments wherever you are. Whatever you are going through, you will make it. And open your heart to the little miracles all around you. They are everywhere. Everywhere…