Sometimes in the middle of an ordinarily beautiful summer night, below a nearly full moon and among crickets singing their song into the darkness the world takes a moment to remind you that you are not in control.
We were reminded of this in the early morning hours of an ordinary Tuesday as we stood on the edge of the barnyard and watched our neighbors work to control the flames that were threatening to destroy a house that has been a fixture of memories on this landscape for well over 50 years.
As the smoke rolled from the walls and out the windows I kneeled among the things I was able to grab while we still had time–my guitar, my books of writing, my camera and photographs chronicling years of blessed living, pieces of me I could not bear to see dissolve in the heat of a disaster we were powerless to stop–and I knew this was that last night I would spend under that roof.
We weren’t ready to let go. We had plans for this house, plans that I have shared here to ensure many more years of popsicles on the front porch, canning wild berries in the tiny kitchen, waking to the sound of horses grazing in the pasture below us, windows open to the prairie breeze and watching the sunrise from the window above the kitchen sink.
But we’ve been reminded, once again, that nothing’s forever. That house where my father was raised, where my grandmother lived and died, where I put on Christmas performances with my cousins, fell in love, grew up and sighed a breath of relief when my new husband carried me over its threshold, held us close and reminded me that I can come home again.
That no matter how lost I might be, I can be found, out here among the wild grasses, red barn and sweet smell of horse hair.
And so I have been found. And thanks to the quick response of the rural volunteer fire department–our neighbors, local bankers, truck drivers, farmers and ranchers that transformed into heroes in the night–we did not have to watch that house burn to the ground. We were able to walk through its doors once again and bury our noses in the smoke-laced fabric of our world and make decisions on what to keep– our favorite sweater, our dining room table, a forgotten photograph–and most importantly, what to let go.
We are thankful for that.
And thankful for our community of friends and family who helped us sort through the rubble, made us dinner, poured us a strong drink, encouraged us to salvage the irreplaceable things (like the rocking horse that has been in our family for as long as that house has stood ) and told us everything was going to be alright…told us they’d be right over to help with paint the new house, put in the floors and get us ready to move in.
We are blessed. Unbelievably blessed.
So today I am thankful to kick through the rubble, to sort my clothes on the lawn, to make plans with my husband, take a trip to the lumberyard with my pops, curl up on my momma’s couch rest easy knowing that we can never lose everything.
Because we are worry and love, community and friends, sentiment and replaceable things.
We are us, we are exhausted and summer’s only so long.
We have a life to build out here.
We’re moving on.
I will leave the light on
Meanwhile, back at the ranch
August 17, 2011
To come down from the buttes after staying out a little too far past sundown only to see the lights of the barnyard illuminating the grass and the kitchen of the house glowing warmly through the windows, waiting for my return…
it means more to me than I can describe here.
I imagine the same sight greeting my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and my father. I imagine them feeling the same deep breath, the same overwhelming calm as they drove in from the fields, rode up to unsaddle a horse or strip off the layers from a hunt in the hills in the still of a late summer or autumn evening.
I imagine the smell of baked bread reaching them from the open windows or the smoke from a grilled steak waiting for them to sit down around the table, the door swinging open and the warmth of this old house whispering “this is home this is home this is home this is home…”
No matter how far you find yourself.
No matter the distance between you and these buttes.
No matter the time that has passed, the mistakes that you’ve made, the words you can’t take back, the pain you might hold onto, the life you might have found down the road or the love you might have lost here…
This is home…
And I will leave the light on.