i didn’t know

i started this blog the day before my house burned to the ground. that was one week ago. i mentioned something about fire being cleansing before it ever reached anyone i love. i didn’t know. i didn’t think it would come for us, but it did. and when it did, it came fast and strong. i don’t have words for the images i carry with me into the wee hours of the morning, only setting them down to close my eyes when i can no longer keep them open. i don’t have words for the ache in my chest or the way our bodies swell with pride watching our neighbors stoop to help one another. i have seen men and women fight to save another’s home while their own still smolders. i have seen strangers embrace and old friends reach through the years to offer words of comfort and the use of their own hands.

beginning of our property.
the beginning of our property.
a piece of glass from our bedroom window.
a piece of glass from our bedroom window.
my husband's best friend and what is left of the house.
jack’s best friend and what is left of our first home.

tonight i sorted through what few pieces of clothing we have left. the sweet smell of burnt pine lingered on a favorite sweater. i sat on the end of the bed in this small room cradling my head in my hands, remembering the hurried hours before it all went up in flames. i paced the floors, forsaking housework in order to watch out the windows. the ash and blackened oak leaves fell all around and i talked myself out of being scared. don’t be silly. it couldn’t move that fast. but those canyons. those trees. the dry, dry grass. they’ll tell you if you need to go. funny how i can now recall that every inch of my body was on edge. my brow furrowed. my gut questioning my reason. so instead of packing i picked tomatoes. as the sky turned orange and the ash fell more furiously, i spoke with my neighbor. our eyes saying what our mouths could not. maybe we should get ready to go. the hotline says we should just be prepared. you get a real person. he didn’t sound concerned. i’ll get a shower. wait for my husband. i should grab the box on the top shelf of the closet. where’s my engagement ring anyway? jack called. he sounded excited…not yet worried for our land. we’re just being cautious, baby. do grab the box on the top shelf of the closet. by the time he got home the wind swirled in small circles around the yard. kicking up what i now know to be the remnants of friends’ homes. the lights flickered quickly as i moved from room to room and a foreign heat radiated through the trees behind our houses. when the distant explosions first started you could almost convince yourself that your ears were playing tricks on you. but they only came closer and more frequent in number. i’ll never forget following our yellow jeep out the gate, jack motioning to drive on, signaling that i shouldn’t bother to close it. the ash danced in our headlights like falling snow. as our cars melted into the river of them hurrying down the mountain, i looked back over my right shoulder as the flames silhouetted the ridge before our own. alone in my car, what little we’d thought to take stacked precariously in the back, i cried for the first time.

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10 thoughts on “i didn’t know

  1. This is a precious time to express one of the most painful of human emotions called grief. It isolates, paralyzes, and numbs our hearts. We go from moment to moment in a state of spiritual shock with uncontrollable moments of deep and heaving sobs were we cannot breath. Suffocating in our loss of hope, of dreams, of our anchor! And yet we force ourselves to reach out from this grave to another, to our God, to our common humanity; we ‘rage against the dying of the light!’ Only those who know the depth of this grief can be reborn to a new hope, a new future and a new family. Oh how we need the other, how we need to be there for others! My prayers are for those who may have no one near that they be found or that they stumble into another and we are raised from the ashes again as one for the other. I love you C&J into eternity.

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  2. I lost my home as well, and as I read this I am recalling my same experience. I spent Thursday, watering the greenhouse, tending the chickens, contemplating my sewing project, all the while the hair on my arms is standing straight up and my eyes are burning from ash and smoke. Then it was time to go “right now”! Thankfully I was able to grab a backpack full of clothes (some were less fortunate). As the days go by the little things keep sneaking up “I wish I could have grabbed that” things that insurance can’t replace, my Grateful Dead ticket stubs, heirloom jewelry, my grandmother’s lilac bush (not that I could have grabbed that anyway). But as we look forward to cleaning and rebuilding I start to feel inspired and creative. Our community has lost everything but together we will rise from the ashes stronger and more deeply connected to eachother. I wish you and your family the best in the upcoming adventure of rebuilding our lives……

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    1. Lorna, I am so glad you are safe. I am with you in that I keep remembering things…the irreplaceable sentimental things that I forgot or didn’t have time to get. I have been so amazed by our community’s heart in all of this. We will most definitely come out stronger as you said, that I can feel in my bones. I hope we can run into each other. Were you in mountain ranch? Thinking of you and hoping the best for you as well.

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  3. Love your words – hate that feeling they stir inside. I hate the word victim – I hate the word displaced – I hate the word homeless. To me – none of those accurately describe those of us from mountain ranch – whether your house burned to the ground or not. I don’t have a roof, I don’t have a kitchen sink or refrigerator, but somehow i still feel like i have a home. Mountain ranch is my home. The people, the pine trees, the deer, the stars. To each and everyone anxiously waiting to come home – know that Josh & Jim are ready to rebuild!!!

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    1. Amen!!! I just keep saying…I want to go home. I don’t care if I don’t have a house, that land and those people are forever my home. Thinking of you and looking forward to this difficult, but collective adventure in rebuilding. ❤

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  4. Caitlin…I envy your way with words. As I sit here wiping away tears from my eyes, I can’t help but wonder what you are thinking at this moment. I do believe that it is probably about someone else. We do not know each other well, but the flashes of your life that you share with the world has made me envious of the woman that you are and the life that you strive to lead. I sat with my husband the other night and talked with him about the loss that you and your community are experiencing. We both said how it is not something that either one of us can imagine and we talked in depth about the things that we take for granted. I am grateful for that conversation. My heart breaks for you every time that I see or read something about the path that you are currently traveling. Please know that you are in my thoughts daily. Stay strong friend.

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    1. Your kind words now have me wiping away tears. Thank you so much for reading, it is good to know that people are walking with us in spirit. I will never again begrudge the ordinary parts of life. Just to do my dishes would be a treat right now. All the best to you always. All the thoughts, prayers, and encouragement are keeping us standing tall. xoxo

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  5. You don’t know me…and I hope this doesn’t come off as “creeper”, but I found you through IG and felt compelled to share my heart with you.

    But I don’t know what to say.

    It has been a little over 2 years since we lost our home when a fire deliberately set on the next property jumped the fence and took out everything. EVERYTHING.

    I have written and deleted this comment about 6 times now. There is so much I want to say, so much encouragement I want to give, so much love and empathy I have for you and everyone else walking this road.

    No one can quite understand the deep grief that comes from losing your home, your safe haven, your everything to a fire. It is a violent, ripping loss and can leave you feeling so very alone.

    Embrace your community. Lean on each other. Pour out all the sorrow, all the hurt, all the anger. Don’t hold onto it. Look for the glimpses of sun that poke through the clouds and hold tight to the warmth and the promise of a new beginning.

    I wish, so very much, that I had known someone who had gone through this experience. That I could have shared my struggles and grief with someone who knew exactly where I was coming from.

    We live in a truly amazing place, with amazing, wonderful, RESILIENT people. Know that you are deeply loved by someone who has never met you, but who weeps for your loss as though it was my own.

    Should you ever desire, I would love to meet up with you, hug you, pray with you, and just talk. I’m in Sonora, so just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

    Sleep tight tonight, dear sister. Tomorrow is a new day, and God has you in the palm of His hands.

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