On What We Take

One of my favorite things to do is to come home from the market on Saturdays and put the berries in a vinegar wash, lay them out on the counter to dry, and then place them in a glass dish in the refrigerator. Why is it that the simplest acts feel the most holy? Why is it that slices of tomatoes in august and fresh sheep cheese can remind you of what you have perhaps been forgetting for months now.

In times of disaster we get closer to being alive. We are shown, unwillingly, that nothing is permanent. We are at the mercy of time and nature, and we are due now and then to be reminded of it.

I wrote just the day that the threat of the fire had passed, like some kind of strange omen, a line in the sand of how wrong we can be when we think most of all that we are right. In a single afternoon the winds change, as winds do, and the fire jumped the ridge line. It has spent the past few days now surrounding our small community, creeping down the mountain and flanking our home on either side.

I remind us like a mantra, it is just a thing, they are just things, we are safe, he is safe. At night I pray for the people who are protecting our mountain and our home. Since becoming a mother I pray a lot but I do know to whom and I do not think it matters. I like the act of it, the verbalizing of wants and fears and gratitude. The humbling idea of something so much larger than my own life force.

A family member is camped out near the evacuation line waiting to be let in. He has some things there and he plans to retrieve some things for us. When they let him in one morning he calls us. We are sleepy eyed in bed back in California and the fire feels like a bad dream we wake to. He asks us what we want. Chance, my husband who is not yet my husband in this life, has a quick list he has made: his record collection, two guitars in the basement, a duffle bag of climbing gear, the titles to his cars, and a cowboy hat in the upstairs closet. I try to walk through the house in my mind but I am speechless. I do not know what I want, nothing and everything feels incredibly valuable. It is the home where we brought everything we’ve collected in our lives, our safe place: vintage glassware and handmade rugs, first edition copies of books and vintage dresses, his baby clothes in the basement.

The only thing I ask for is a silver tray that was once my grandmothers. It’s sitting at the top of a black chest that is otherwise full of every trinket and scrap of paper I have saved my entire life. Every memory, old journal, every ex, every trip to Europe, every University. Every artifact of my person is in this trunk. But it’s too big, too heavy, and too much to take. When looking back at the whole of your life and given two minutes to decide what to take; what do you grab? It was an incredibly surreal experience. I ask for the tray and he tell me on top of the tray is a leather bag, I tell him to take that too. It was my uncles writing bag, and when he was alive he wrote movies. So I take the tray and the bag, and that is all.

I think a part of me felt that if I took nothing, it would still be there when we show up after snowfall this winter. That if I could see it in the trunk in the house, then I could one day sit there again on my rug and unpack my life and show my son someday all the people I have been. If I didn’t take it, it would always be there.

For now we wait, and the winds change and the rain comes, but the fire creeps on. For now she is still standing and there is hope from everyone there. I’ve made peace that what will be will be, and we are safe and calm and have more than anyone one person could ask for in a lifetime. It is something I have been working on; being comfortable with this past year with struggle amidst blessings, feeling entitled to my hurt even though I have a lot. Because refusing to feel something, just because you do not think you have the right too, does nothing but clock the channels and keep the light out.

This picture up above was taken by Katch Silva this summer at our beautiful home. The files of her film just arrived last night and I hardly had the heart to look at them. I am so grateful they exist. So grateful for everything that is. So for now, I am going to do the small acts and wash the berries and wait for the tide to go out and my son to wake up.

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