I took the above photo in Spring 2010 almost exactly 4 years ago when I had just been there about a month and a half. It still takes my breath away, and when I look at that picture it all comes back to me, why I chose this place to put down roots, the place I wanted to live for the rest of my life, the place where I could roost and rest and do my work, my sanctuary, and all of that still holds true. The smoke from the fire is clearing as is my mind, the nightmares come less frequently, my little birds that were lost in the fire are flying free, unfettered, and at perfect peace in the bright sky somewhere over the rainbow, and I know that I will go back.
I didn’t think I would move back into the house. After the fire the horror of it all, the exploding, fast-moving fire, thick black smoke almost down to the floor in minutes, sitting in the police car across the road from the house screaming hysterically, begging the fireman to get my babies out long after they would have died, those memories were so overwhelming in the early weeks I decided that I wouldn’t go back, the house would be rebuilt, I would sell it, and move on. Moving beyond that terrible night, however, I have reconnected with what I have known to be true for 15 years, what I have talked about, written about, and even shared in podcasts — Dragonfly Cottage has always been more a state of mind than a physical location.
I have told this story so often as I think about it again I smile softly, almost as if caressing my own Velveteen Rabbit, worn in spots, the story’s nuances a little different each time I tell it, but the heart of it is still the same. Dragonfly Cottage was born in the aftermath of separating from a twenty-five year marriage, and living alone for the very first time in my life at 45. I actually moved into the first little Dragonfly Cottage the night of my 45th birthday. This has significance in more ways than I can count today but the moving date was just a fluke of timing, it was the day I was given the keys and could move in.
It happened slowly. I am just 3 weeks away from the 15th anniversary of that day, on April 30 I will be 60. I was so lost and devastated in several directions in the months after moving into that tiny white cottage in the clouds I wasn’t sure how I would survive. I say “in the clouds” because it was actually a garage apartment behind a grand house, once used as servant’s quarters as so many southern homes had, and the little apartment was above the garage. There was an industrial type steel staircase going up one side of the building, it was quite a climb to the 2nd floor where the apartment was, and scary, with a tiny landing that opened into what I came to feel was like a little dollhouse. 4 little rooms and a tiny bathroom. And I loved it, dearly.
Through many sad days and bouts of depression I began to make a little nest, pretty much everything coming from eBay or little old junk shops or consignment shops nearby. Strings of twinkly lights were in every room, plants everywhere, inexpensive little plants from the grocery store, old worn and tattered vintage quilts that had holes, some considered “cutters” because they were in poor shape, but the fabrics were lovely and I washed them gently and spread them everywhere with lots of big puffy cheap pillows. And I had my parrots — the 4 I just lost in the fire were there along with my beloved African Grey parrot Henry whom I lost in 2008 — I couldn’t have dogs there so our dogs then stayed with my husband– but I had Beta Fish, and a fascinating little aquarium for Fire-Bellied toads, and for awhile I had a bunny that I dearly loved but never quite figured out how to manage in that space and when a friend fell in love with her I let her take the bunny home. Her name was Sassafrass.
One day, feeling lonelier than I had ever felt in my life, I stood on that tiny steel landing so high up and looked down onto the alley and wondered how in the world I had ended up there, and all of a sudden a little blue dragonfly appeared as if magically, one second he wasn’t there and the next he was. He landed on my shoulder and I looked at him out of the corner of my eye afraid to move lest he fly off, but he stayed for a few moments and in those few seconds it was as if sheets of depression slid off of my body and I felt light. As I watched him fly away I realized that I was smiling for the first time in a long time. He came as a spiritual messenger of survival and transformation, and I turned around, walked back into my little white cottage, sat down at my desk and wrote, “Welcome To Dragonfly Cottage.” In that moment the cottage was born in my heart.
Dragonfly Cottage soon became a website community for women around the world and lasted for nearly 7 years. In those years I moved 6 times, and each place I lived was Dragonfly Cottage. The dream that the cottage was became a plan for the future and each place I lived was another incarnation of the cottage and the dream grew and grew and spread it’s wings and flew until January 2010 when I bought my beloved home pictured above. The first week in February I moved in and all that I had known and loved and planned and dreamed were made manifest in this place. The dream expanded and it was as if my very body shot roots down into the soil like a tall tree, I was there for good, there for the rest of my life, I would live my life of solitude, make my gardens, write and do my art, spin and weave, and grow the work that would take care of me for the rest of my life.
The night of February 5 this year, almost exactly 4 years to the day, I watched the cottage burning in shock and horror and for the first time in 15 years I could no longer see or feel Dragonfly Cottage in my heart. I took “Dragonfly Cottage” off of everything. I wrote that Dragonfly Cottage had died. End of an era. I was so bereft and grief stricken I didn’t know what would become of me. I could not see my way into the future. In those early weeks there was no hope of resurrection.
But time passed, and sheets of depression began to fall away, and the dust began to settle, the smoke cleared, and one morning I woke up and knew that I would go home. I feel fluttering inside of me as the dragonflies begin to return to roost in my heart, to help reawaken the dream, because it is so big, it is so much larger than me, it is a message, it is my message to the world.
I have survived many things in my life. I am a survivor, but more than that I have learned how to make beauty wherever I am. It is happening here in this little rental house and for now this is my temporary Dragonfly Cottage until I can return home, and now I settle a little more easily here and begin my work again. Today I put the old banner at the top of this site and I almost cried. Dragonfly Cottage did not die, it never will, it will outlive me one day because it is more than my life, it is the story of how women survive, it is the story of how women are so much stronger than they ever knew. I have come home to the cottage inside my heart, and here I will remain.
And so this Friday evening I am sitting in the front room of this little cottage on a busy street watching my pugs as they sit up on the back of the couch looking out the big front window. They are amazed that there are cars and traffic and people so close and they spend a good bit of the day watching the world go by, barking, and sleeping in the sun, and Miss Scarlet is happy in her cozy home and is sitting on top of her cage preening as I write this. Tiny Delilah just hopped over from the couch to this chair, walked across my body and plopped down on my right leg and immediately went to sleep. I am preparing to do this week’s podcast. Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of the beginning of my podcasts and I have fallen in love with doing them. And tonight I pick up my pastels and begin to draw again. The 100 Ladies are on the move, and there is so much more.
I will go now but I will be back tomorrow. I look forward to meeting with you here. It’s so good to be home. Thank you for joining me dear friends, Welcome to Dragonfly Cottage.