Thursday, June 28, 2012

The disaster.

One to two days ago my sister's parents-in-law were confronted with a disaster: A fire, roaring across their Colorado Springs-town. They were given 45 minutes to evacuate. Both thought it was merely a safety precaution. Both thought they would be back within two days. These shared thoughts showed in their packing—two changes of clothes and two dirt bikes from the father, and two changes of clothes, a few pictures, and food items from the fridge to take to my sister's from the mother. That was (nearly) all.

Where their home of 24 years stood now stands ash and a scattering of bricks. There is one tree, half green, half scarred, and another tree, standing resilient. The mother-in-law is in mourning. (Very, very understandably in mourning.) What does she mourn for the very most? That she didn't pack anything of her mother's—that every physical remembrance is gone.

I would mourn that too. One hundred times over. One million times. I do mourn now, for this family member of my family member. I cannot even comprehend what their loss would be like, or how their loss must feel. I realized that they too could not comprehend it. It must be why she grabbed small things—temporary things. A French philosopher I read and loved, named Blanchot, wrote a book about how "the disaster" could not be written. This disaster could not even be thought of.

And the thing that happens after natural or other disasters is happening to me now. I am thinking about my sister's family, and my sister, and myself. I am thinking about the things that I value. I am thinking about the losses that may come, and the losses that have come. I am thinking about how to best be prepared. I am thinking about what I would have grabbed.

Spencer was asked this on a little questionare for my bridal shower. "What would you take in a fire?" He had to answer, and then I had to guess his answer. I got it wrong, because he said his piano. Jokingly. Not comprehending the reality that sometimes there are fires, and you have to take things from them if you want to keep them safe. If you want to keep them. I asked him again, this week, these days. We talked about our answers together: Each other. Our computers. Our passports. Our important papers. Pictures we might have (though we try to keep them backed up).

If I could, I would take my white bike, but it is resting in my grandma's garage. If I could, I would take my off-white wedding dress (that belonged to my other granny), but it is resting in my parent's home. (I wonder if I am safer, with my things divided, or if there is more of me to lose.)

I think again of the fragility of life, and how it can change in a moment. How it can be defined (or redefined) in a moment.

I think of my own disaster, that I tried to write about, because I needed to get it out of me. I needed the words down on paper, so I could be grateful, and so I could remember in a way that heals. Almost every day I notice the scars on my legs and wrist that weren't there before. One day when I couldn't keep from looking at them, Spencer reminded me, "Everyone has scars." I pointed to the biggest one. I touched it gently, while whispering something to Spencer about its size relative to the others. He told me that I had a bigger one, one that I hadn't noticed. He was hesitant to tell me, but told me anyway: it was on my back, where I had laid in a pool of glass and blood for hours. Of course it was. How could I have forgotten?

The last few days have found me glancing at my scars in gratitude. They are reminders that I am still alive.


Their house before the ravaging:

Their house after:





3 comments:

Naomi said...

So so devastating.

And I've been thinking similarly, too, even though I haven't been touched as personally. But I think I would most mourn the loss of my old journals--those items that can never be replaced.

I can't imagine the grief. My heart goes out to them.

Rachel Hunt said...

Spencer said his journals too. I would say mine, but again, most are at my parents, so if their house goes, my words inner workings do too.

Cumorah said...

Oh sister, I just read this. Thank you for your perspective. Happy you are here. Happy we're all here. :)