Where I lived, I was always fixing a hole in the roof. While others sat comfortably watching Bachelorette and Bill Moyers and the Magic, I was up on the roof, with my bucket of patch. I generally experienced this as an aspect of the blessed grace of inconvenience and was thus happy as a mud lark.
Then we had a fire and the roof suddenly had a hole in it that couldn’t be patched in a lifetime.
Suddenly all it covered was dirt and the ashes of everything we’d owned and known. That was last Easter and sometimes it seems I haven’t moved an inch since. Sometimes I’m still in the same zone as I was the day of the fire, standing in the ruins with the little bunch of firefighters offering us consolation and I’m still unable to hear in a way to understand or to speak a coherent word. And all these months later, almost every time I go out to the old home place, to work at trying to keep the brush down and tending the garden, as I stand there I feel like bawling, though mostly I don’t.
What my girlfriend and partner of twenty years and I lost was a 12 by 60 house-trailer built before Lucy went off the air . . . a dwelling-vessel made to actually be pulled and pulled repeatedly, like behind a Roadmaster sedan or station-wagon . . . made to be moved from park to park as the occasion dictated, going dead-slow sure, but honestly mobile, with running lights and hitch at the ready, a form of residence you might not think looked like much from the road . . . that might cause your otherwise open-minded realtor to hit the accelerator, but whose insides had been transformed by said girlfriend into an organic starship . . . a Voyager with a sunburst shag rug . . . a haven of wonders for head and heart filled up and over with pieces of art from almost everywhere on earth . . . objays transported to the U.S. of A .from the deepest cracks of the four corners by forgotten travelers and rediscovered during our own wanderings in small town thrift stores, back-road yard-sales, country curiosity shops, farmer’s markets, mythic jockey lots and more than occasionally and without apology in garbage piles.
There were also several hundred lp records lost . . . reduced to nut bowl goo . . . everybody from Blindboy Grunt to Ferguson at the K.C Underpass and a couple of hundred books, some harder to find than honest news, along with hundreds of photographs documenting the life of we the undersigned and then there was everything I had ever written, except what was saved because it was published or posted somewhere and it was a lot of work, in every sense, including a rotten but improving novel, more than twenty stories in varying but mostly advanced stages of completion, poems, essays, resolutions and wills . . . Worst by far, we lost our eight cats, our animal shelter and cast-off posse, who for us were family.
Of course, these are the times . . . the personal catastrophes…that push our human instincts towards considerations in temporal . . . towards intimations of blah, blah, blah . . . toward the scent of Home Absolute. However, more to the point here, these are the times when, if you’re not made entirely of silicon, you lose your fucking mind. Lose it if you accept that what we call “mind” in this transitory sense, amounts to a dynamic construct . . . a cinematic conglomerate of work, personal memory, cultural artifacts (imbued with individual meaning), the physical environment (with which we are most intimate) and, most deeply, the creatures we love. Made homeless, I lose that mind of mine . . . being benumbed, vacant and evacuated . . . on the verge of tears and murder at once, as all that has made up dear home and at the same time dear, dear mind is ripped away, gone.
After the fire, for the first few nights, we stayed in a little motel with no name other than Motel. We were there with other people who also found themselves suddenly without homes . . . people who had, for various reasons (mostly having nothing to do with being lazy and/or shiftless) been thrown out of rented apartments and mobile homes and houses they couldn’t make the payments on anymore. Whole families, five, six in one room, their worldly goods stacked ten feet high under blue plastic tarps in the back of pick-ups, the spillover jammed along the motel walkway where the kids sat doing homework in the evenings, their diligence evidencing, I believed, a valor well-taught, and perhaps as well a gathering determination not to let this thing ever happen to them or theirs.
One of the more interesting things revealed in the routine, emo-pumping interviews the TV and radio news shows conduct with people in the midst of disasters is how often the people being interviewed turn around and say something about the sympathy they feel for all the other people in similar circumstances and without claiming any profound insight we . . . post-fire . . . think often and easily about others that have been made homeless . . . either by accident or by the villainy of their fellow humans. People who have lost their lands and houses and loved ones and even culture to the storms of egomania; to the fires of religion; to the flood of greed. And also and not just secondarily, those endowed with relative abundance and previously habitually somnambulant who at first glance would seem still to be still in possession of their land and have homes still intact but gradually awake to find they’ve lost ownership and control over these things, likewise their jobs and communities and lives.
And there comes a point in the evolution of dispossession, whatever its cause or nature, when, to stand a chance of actually regaining home, the numbness and insanity must be shaken off and the work of returning begun, provided there is a path, an avenue of hope open. The desire for home, the inherent craving for a place to sit in this universe with oneself and crew and to have some say in the course of its development is incalculable. There may be some who are content, or temporarily situated, or immersed deep enough in high-priority addiction to live like email. But for most the need for home, even if it’s only tribal membership or a spot to plant one’s foot and take a shot or even home as the highway . . . wanting home is as fundamental as thirst and real dispossession causes people to go off like firecrackers or alternately, to fall down in a torpor and then decomposition and again, if trapped without hope or a place to start, to die and try to take the rest of the world with them.
Being in the Big Country and having a fair awareness of resources, we did find a place to begin again: fixing up the old house where we’re staying with the intention of selling it to finance rebuilding back out on our little patch of swamp. Mentally, we’re living in a tent because that’s how we want it. We keep our shit in a box. We know we need to stay hungry and focused on the work and not drop our drawers too often for the sexy whore distraction-excuse of purposeless activity.
The loss has happened and we’ll never be the same but we’ve got some place to go and mean to get there. No whining.
Which reminds me. Register and vote. Begin the
work of reclaiming home.
[Forever after at http://eyeshot.net/painterfire.html]
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BEWARE WHAT FOLLOWS!
bullfight review's first issue includes
many people you know
as does the combined hobart/monkeybiycle #3
and the pboz #4
schroll's novel called the famous and the anonymous is out -
here's an interview, one eyeshot contributor to another, all about it
tobias seamon's the magician's study is out - it's very pretty looking
copies of incidents of
egotourism in the temporary world
(by the eyeshot editor) are still available