A fire swept through, on October 29th, 2003, taking with it 14 houses, our 500 square foot cabin, among them.
So many trees in the center of the hottest heat burned, while a few, where the fire jumped, survived.
Glen’s shop, which he had finished building 11 months prior, was gone too, save one wall.
His woodworking magazines stood there still, to our delight, side by side, along that saved wall — 1982-2003 he’d been subscribing. When we moved in closer to see, Glen exhaled deeply at the sight of it, the still standing magazines. That breath disintegrated them, then and there, and they too, were gone.
I stopped dancing then, and instead became a ditch digger as our lives became focused on rebuilding.
My friend, Rachel. She died in a freak accident a few years before, when a tree fell on her car while she was driving, killing her instantly. She left behind her two year old daughter, and her grief stricken husband. He gave me her Patagonia rain jacket soon after her death, as we were the same size. I lost Rachel’s rain jacket in the fire.
We lived in a tent on the land, working as quickly as we could to build a new home, a new shop (with insurance people pushing from behind, we had nine months to do both).
George W. Bush was president.
I would burst out of the tent every morning, calling out to the trees that remained:
“Good Morning AMERICA!”
I dream about her still. She is alive in this dream, but is just now finding her way back home. Her daughter is in middle school, and her husband has remarried and has a few more kids. Rachel doesn’t want to disrupt this new family order, so she lives outside, in-between the trees, peering into the windows of the house from time to time, never telling them that she is there. Never telling them that she never died.
For days, weeks, months at a time we chop, cut, dig, hoist, nail, tear, pitch, and clear.
The house gets built, the shop gets built -- yadda yadda yadda -- life goes on.
Rachel had long brown hair. When Rachel’s daughter was still very small, her father would take her to town to run errands. In the center of town was a statue of Pocahantes, also with long brown hair. Every time they passed the statue, Rachel’s daughter would wave and say, “Hi, Mama.”
I don’t leap out of the tent anymore.
I don’t call out, to the trees that are still there.
Instead, I wait, as you wait, to see what each day will bring: how, when and where there will be another reckoning, natural or otherwise.
Also, I dance.
Mostly with my students these day, who I love, very much.
Yesterday I did, and there was a moment when I said “I see seven solos in the space” and someone replied, “I see all of us in the space.”