Friday, March 15, 2013

Sifting Through Ashes

"Tear down the house that I grew up in. i'll never be the same again. Take everything that I've collected, burn it in a pile." - Avett Brothers

i hear this song play in my head every time i return home.

We've had a few folks come out wanting to help us clean up and recover stuff.  However when they get here, and they actually see it ....they believe there is nothing here to recover. All they can see are the ashes, the piles upon piles of our burned and ruined stuff.  All they can see is the ash.

But that's not what i see.  i see memories. i see bits and pieces of our life that are now blackened and scorched around the edges. Changed slightly, but still dear to our hearts.  Each burned piece that i recover evokes emotions that were long since forgotten. Memories fade with time, and it's these little mementos that we've held on to that bring them back to us as clearly as the day the memories were made.

 A broken cup with tiny yellow flowers on it that came from my Great-Grandmother's china set that was in the top cupboard of my kitchen. There is no longer any cupboards there, and there are only tiny pieces of that china set scattered through the house and yard.

A small square of blue and white fabric. All that remains from the quilt my grandmother made by hand for me when she was still on this earth.

The edge of  a baby blanket that both my children were wrapped in right after they entered this world.

13 years of love, laughter and memories, buried under the ash.

These are the things that i see.

We have found a few photos from my childhood, our college years,  our wedding and the children's baby pictures. Burnt around the edges, and weathered by the elements....but still ours.

i recovered the hand carved salad tongs my Aunt brought back from Africa years ago.  She gave them to my mother, who then passed them on to me.  They were still inside one these kitchen drawers.  They smell terrible, but they are unburned.

We begin the house demolition on Monday. So this weekend is our last attempt to sift through the ashes, and recover lost things.  We've been unable to really get in there and dig, because after the fire we had days of freezing rain and the ash which is piled 3-4 foot deep atleast is frozen solid.  The floor in the center of the house where the woodstove was has begun to collapse, and it's difficult to really get in there and dig safely.

My husband is still looking for his wedding ring, and we have not yet found the body of our cat Siddhartha.

My lovely brown hen seen in this picture is now at rest as well. No matter how well we try to keep the dogs penned up and the chickens penned up they still manage to dig out, and my dogs and the local hawk have killed most of my chickens.

Our cat Tom, who was tossed outside during the fire has not yet been found. Every time i am at the house, i wait for him to just wander out of the woods with a look on his face that says 'Where ya been guys?'.  But so far he has not returned. Despite contacting neighbors, the humane society, and putting up lost cat posters there have been no calls. 

My favorite glass pendants were recovered, although the glass was shattered internally.  My husband was able to mend the cracks but they, like all of us, will never be the same. 

This weekend we will spend sifting through the ashes and then say our final goodbyes.  Not to the physical walls and material possessions that burned up in the fire, but to the memories that were housed within it, and infused on all those lost items of the past. 

Once the house is demolished, and all the burned and broken pieces of our life there have been taken away, only then will the healing truly begin. With healing comes rebuilding.

As the first flowers of spring begin to emerge, a feeling of hope begins to emerge in me too.

“It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end… because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing… this shadow. Even darkness must pass.”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Two Towers


  1. What a sombering experience it must be. So sorry for all you and your family have been through.

  2. I am so sorry for you and your family.

  3. Oh Tree, that sounds so heart-wrenchingly sad! Have you collected some of the pieces of your grandmother's china? My mum has made some beautiful mosaic flower pots with broken china...thinking that would be a lovely way to keep those pieces...especially since you are wonderful with flower growing, too. That or putting them into a mosaic garden stone/tile?? Lots of love!

  4. I accidentally came on your spot and read your words and studied your pictures. I want you to know you will heal and those beloved possessions will find a forever place in your memories. Ive lived through 2 house fires. The first when I was fourteen and was forced to jump through a window to escape. The second was three years ago in my home od twenty years. Noons can knows the aching pain and the lost feeling of losing your home but it does get better. My prayers arewith you.

  5. Hey, just to let you know, I know it hurts now but chin up.
    I am adopted, and although my home never burnt down, I was snatched from my mom and dad. I was moving around in so many foster homes for 3 years. I lost my mom, dad, 2 brothers, and sister. Its been 12 years and I still don't even know if they are alive anymore. And it hurts, but I met so many new faces, and so many new families. Think about it this way: one day soon you will be able to look at this and see all the new memories you get to make. The "lets see how many people can fit in one bed during a storm" game, shadow puppets, exploring new surroundings. don't think of this as the end. Think of it as a temporary adventure.

  6. I just recently subscribed to your blog, & am truly saddened to learn of your dreadful experience. I can only imagine what it is to undergo such loss. A home is symbol of so much, & to be stripped of everything makes one so vulnerable. I am touched by the way you put your feelings into words. Thank you for your heartfelt sharing. Undoubtedly, it will be a long journey to healing, & I send you much light & love. ~Angela~