Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Sticks and Stuff
I STOOD AT THE KITCHEN sink this afternoon; hands plunged deep in warm soapy water and the smell of chicken soup bubbling on the stove wafting through the house. I stood there after the dishes were finished and watched through the large window that faces the pasture, the snow falling. Silver-dollar-sized flakes whirling in every direction one minute and then floating gently down in another and the two big chestnut trees are cloaked in white, their dark bark barely peeking under the white of winter.
I’ve watched summer come and go from this window. Watched autumn in blazing glory. Watched 375 thousand leaves fall from the trees. And now as the soft whiteness surrounds me it occurs to me that I have been living here longer than I’d imagined already and with no change in sight.
A week from tomorrow, the 28th, of February, will mark exactly eight months since my house was destroyed by fire. Eight months! Is that possible? Standing at this kitchen window it is an anomalous feeling. It’s been so long now that sometimes it seems as if it didn’t really happen at all. I could almost forget for a minute but that my days are consumed with insurance receipts, engineers, contractors, and county building departments… my nights too. Besides, all I really have to do is drive ten minutes down the tree lined winding road, turn the corner, drive up the hill and there it sits—a gapping hole of a house—a mere shell perched precariously at the top, empty. Charred trees still standing like sentinels over an open roof and new wood framing reaching up in the sky like fingers reaching… reaching for what? For help? For a roof? For the family that once resided here? For the love? Do the trees miss the laughter? I know the garden misses my hands.
I know every rock stack on the property, every daffodil planted by little hands over the past six winters and where the red-tail hawk perches watching for his catch. I know the trail cut through the Manzanita by deer and where they lay on hot summer days in tall cool grass under the oaks. I know the time of day by the way the light filters through my window and when winter bids adieu to spring. I know better than to be attached to such things for I know that everything is temporary, but one… and that is love.
I love that place I called home. It's not the sticks and stuff, or even the stones I've placed in a large circle in the garden or the stacks that stand tall around the skirts of the property… it's the feeling I have when my hands are deep in the dirt at planting time or the smell of ripe tomatoes in the summer. It's the screech of the hawk and the coo of the doves I miss most, and light of the full moon as it dances across the back of the house to taunt me awake. It's the sense of belonging and the feeling of utter peace.
Tragedy happens, everyday. People manage to keep going. It’s just a house… wood and walls. Stuff really. In the scheme of life this is but a trifle… a hiccup. I know this yet sometimes I forget.
© Cynthia Stewart