The Forest, Having Blown Up

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We’ve had an unexpectedly dramatically dramatic summer, and I would be most grateful if the energy that’s hurled us thus far through the green-flowered and golden weeks would flatten out a bit into some semblance of balance and peace.

But, there is too much, so let me sum up:

Part One

My soul is a broken field, plowed by pain.  ~ Sara Teasdale

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I guess we’re always, most of us, both prepared and unprepared for loss. We’re full of intellectual wisdom and knowledge about death and grief. We believe we’re fortified by these words and the stages and steps they describe.

And then we step into the land of loss, and the barren, rough landscape opens up, and every surface we encounter in this new world scrapes away at our sense of the known and bloodies our fragile attempts to touch and learn, and sucks the words out of us, and the walls that encompassed the reality we’d come to recognize and rely upon utterly fall away.

Of course, they were only made of paste and cardboard to begin with, but we had so carefully constructed the stage set that encompassed our lives for so long that we disregarded the potential for its devastation.

And how easily, and quickly, it can all collapse and be blown away.

The utter strangeness when a circle of love is broken and the presence of that circle’s heart is removed, requires tricky navigation, and, for a time following Clancy’s death, I chose not to move at all. A week after his death I turned 60 and it meant nothing but that I’d existed for another week.

I didn’t know it then, but I was ill. I had lost contact with my senses, sheltered—or hidden–so deeply within my grief that I didn’t understand that something “out there” was wrong. When I tried to move through my yoga, bicycling, and trail walks with sweet Riley, I felt like the tin man in need of oil. Every joint and muscle hurt, first a bit, and then unbelievably. I stopped trying.

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Phillip, family, friends, the four-leggeds, and the gardens helped, as they always do.

We focused on tending Riley’s loss of her lifelong companion and littermate, began to adjust to our own sadness, and I met with my wonderful physician, who helped identify the disease that had taken up residence in my body. Some knowledge does lend power, and over the past month, prescribed treatments have largely eliminated my pain. It’s being “managed,” as they say. (I say, “Hooray!”)

Gratitude always walks with grief, a partnership that, if we choose to recognize it, helps to make us whole again.

Part Two

Little by little God takes away human beauty:
Little by little the sapling withers.
Go, recite, “To whomever We give a length of days,
We also cause them to decline.”
Seek the spirit;
don’t set your heart on bones.
~Rumi

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Since I felt stronger, we traveled to an area Phillip had already explored for our retirement. Never sure if that should happen now or later, we visited the communities we found most attractive. We looked at some homes for sale. Mostly, we hiked and sat, and listened. Sweet Riley’s ability to join us on the trip proved a wonderful opportunity to reconfigure our circle of intimacy, settle into each other’s energy, and learn more about the family we are now, without Clancy’s physical presence. Knowing the felines were in good and loving care, we relaxed into the healing offered to our spirits by a landscape we love.

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On the way home, we looked at another home that intrigued us, and made an offer to buy it. It was a Friday afternoon, so I called a realtor in our hometown and arranged for her to visit Monday morning, to list Full Moon Cottage for sale. How exciting, to make a change, we thought…perhaps this was the new path Clancy’s death had created for us.

The universe had other plans. Early Monday morning, a storm propelled straight-line winds speeding across the area, and twirls of small tornado tails bobbed down, here and there, twisting bits of the world into unrecognizable designs.

A single kind of thunderous crash caused us to leap out of bed, adrenaline lending us a rather impressive athleticism. Phillip grabbed the flashlight and, through the darkness, assessed that possibly a tree or two had fallen. As the sun rose and daylight scattered across the yard, we saw instead that, without warning, and in an instant, the forest beside our home had exploded.

Part Three

My barn having burned down, I can now see the moon.  ~  Mizuta Masahide

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Through a fog of dazed shock, I began to clean the decks as Phillip saved what he could of the front garden. Several of our trees had fallen, but the more dismal reality was that about 30 or 40 of our neighbor’s white pines had crashed across our front yard. There was no way we could clear the havoc ourselves.

A few hours later, covered in dirt, mud, and pine needles, we greeted the realtor, an impressive false smile frozen on her face as she stepped over branches and bravely proceeded to draw up the contract, assuring us that when the home actually came on the market, 10 days later, all would be well.

Home insurance doesn’t pay for storm damage, except for that sustained by the physical house, and we miraculously had little of that. But that’s where the miraculous aspects of the story stopped, we felt, since we did have about 40 trees, in a hundred thousand pieces, that had to be removed.

The morning after the storm, I watched as the two turkey hens we’ve come to know over the years paraded their new chicks through the rubble, over and under branches, accepting of the changed landscape and inviting me to be as well. A doe and her fawns leapt across the yard nimbly. Easy for you, I thought. Can’t you see the world’s been upended?

A few days and a small fortune later, we were left with what we called a muddy “trail of tears,” and worked about 80 hours between us lugging, raking, tossing and scraping together branches and limbs, in 91° heat and a sour funk. I mourned the little crab tree that had anchored my front garden, the vegetables and berries we’d lost, the lovely old hickory tree. A sad business indeed.

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Still, Riley seemed happy to be home, reunited with her cat buddies, and unfazed by the need to jump over or circle around trees on the trail, or stop and re-route altogether, so that was a blessing. And I was feeling physically stronger every day, another light in the darkness.

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By Friday, we decided to put off buying a new home, moving, or selling Full Moon Cottage. We were fairly spent, almost on empty, and fully exhausted.

We set down the rakes and shovels and took off our gloves and sat on the deck, sipping ice cold beer and surveying the altered scene before us.

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And we began to laugh. And, of course, we counted the many blessings that had equally fallen all around us. We had been spared injury; the house was minimally damaged, the gardens would recover, and many were still growing madly…

I shared that I’d had the Masahide quote running through my mind all week. And then I told Phillip, making a sarcastic joke, that, at least we could now receive better internet and phone reception, which the wall of white pines had always prevented. He replied, “The forest having blown up, I can now receive three bars,” which really set us off…and I knew we would be OK. Better able to see the paste and cardboard of life for what they are, we can set them aside and focus on what’s really real and lasting. Like the turkeys, and the deer, and sweet Riley, we will make our way across these losses and come to new places, feeding on the blessings that are all around us, and loving the memories of all that’s come before. Our family’s circle of love was never broken; I see that now. It’s only changed, and Clancy, and Riley, and our precious four-legged felines will always be that circle’s heart.

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17 thoughts on “The Forest, Having Blown Up

  1. Blown up, indeed. Thank God that whatever microburst-mini twister-fire demon that hit the forest didn’t come to hurt Full Moon Cottage! I’m very very thankful that no one was hurt, shaken as I’m sure you all are that “it” hit so close…. Prayers : )

    • Thanks, Matt; it was scary initially, then overwhelming. Eventually we laughed, and now we’re trying to adjust to the new openness and skyline. 🙂 Love you.

  2. Wow! You’ve been tested to the max Kitty! Lessons abound. So glad you and Phillip were able to clean things up and the house wasn’t seriously damaged. It must have been heart breaking after all of the effort you put into making it so beautiful. I guess these are the times we are meant to realize how lucky we are to have made it through unscathed and with the family still intact. It is true, but so is the pain of missing what was and dealing with what is. Knowing you guys, you will shift gears and be off and running sometime soon. Great pix as always. Things are already looking closer to normal again 🙂 btw, those pix of your trip looked so much like Maine. It reminded me of where i used to live…Hope a new house comes into view soon. Take a very deep breath, hug the babies and know all will be well. Thinking of you and sending hugs to you as well…….VK ❤

    • Thanks, Hollis, I do think the road will smooth out a bit, but you’re right: many blessings and some of them very precious indeed. You are kind to offer your thoughtful words and encouragement. 🙂 I hope your summer is passing peacefully.

      I do love northeastern Minnesota! It’s beautiful.

  3. Oh. My. God. Kitty. I was thinking of you yesterday, realizing much of the summer had gone and that we hadn’t spoken for weeks. I am so sorry for all of the turmoil, but I can’t help thinking of Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium – you know, how the store had a tantrum when it knew he was leaving? I’m sorry about your health issues, but glad that you are pain-free. Talk soon? Love you bunches. TJ

    • It was rather emphatic, wasn’t it; and the waves are still rippling and flowing through us…unsure of the meaning at this point. Have to sit with the mystery and just listen for a time…but we’re certainly giving the experience our attention and discernment.

      Thanks, TJ, it has been a rough time, blessings glittering through, but it seems to have been (may still be) a kind of testing, and I have to say my endurance is flagging… and I wish the object of the quest were clearer, and the resurrection/return at hand. 🙂 If only life were this linear.

      Love you,
      Kitty

  4. So glad you are safe – and also feeling better. An altered view ordered up by some force – perhaps to bring all your blessings into full view.

    • I agree, though it’s always my practice to wait, listen, and tease out meaning…it’s like discerning a dream’s meaning, isn’t it? Sometimes things resonate rather quickly; as you say, our blessings have come into clearer focus, and other meanings are lodged more deeply and surface, from unconscious to conscious, as time passes…thank you so much for your empathy and wisdom, Ogee.

  5. OMG!!! Where on earth to start???? WHAT a post!
    Maybe fate intervened, maybe that house wasn’t meant for you all….maybe Full Moon doesn’t intend on you leaving just yet….

    Totally, totally, get the barren land of loss, and how the veneer we build can crumble in a heartbeat, and how strange it is to keep moving forward, whether we want to or not, without an energy that should be there, but isn’t…..but, I love how Clancy is and will always be the heart of the circle of love, that is so beautiful…and true!

    So…the forest exploded did it? and you had 30/40 trees lying in your front garden?

    YOU HAD 30/40 TREES IN YOUR FRONT GARDEN???????????????? OMG!!!!

    I shall NEVER complain about our weather again, or the odd tree coming down!!!! Speechless I am…utterly SPEECHLESS!

    So glad you both felt able to laugh….in whatever shape or form! And SO glad you are feeling stronger and better….long may that continue!

    Happy, happy, belated birthday, I’m wishing you all you wish for yourself!
    I love all of these pics, cats in baskets, Riley, cats on Philip….ADORABLE!
    Hoping things CALM down…..I shall be thinking of this post for a while to come!xxx

  6. You always make me laugh, Dina; thank you.

    It has been an exciting time, and a bit of dullness would be lovely…the cats certainly keep us merry. I wish Fergus wouldn’t find my basket quite so comfy, but there you go, better than Murphy on my back when I’m trying to use the laptop (though Phillip seems OK with it).

    On we go, facing our next adventures together. 🙂 The gardens and landscape will evolve, and that will be another story, or many.

  7. I am forever amazed by the twists and turns of our lives. Even when we know it in our heads, that all plans are provisional, we take so much for granted. But even after such a disaster, it is good to give thanks. How good that the family wasn’t injured. And that you survived. And we never know when heaven intervenes, and we are saved another alternative… May the recovery bring you new strength and blessings, and ever greater partnership with the animals who share in your environment. Best wishes to all, Kitty.

  8. I think the hardest times are when we are reminded of how little we actually control. Death and violent weather and new health issues are shocking. And all of those together especially difficult. I wish you patience and peace, Kitty.

    • Thank you so much, sweet Amma…the good news is that, having been hit by all three, I can sit and unpack them in relative peace (emphasis on relative. 🙂 ) There’s a Rumi quote that says something like, “Where there is ruin, there is hope for treasure,” and that’s the image I’ve been holding.

      We’re sitting amidst all this destruction and sifting for the gold. Your wish for peace and patience (never my long suit) touches my heart so deeply. Thank you and thank you again.

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