Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Things We Carried

The fire came in quietly. For me, anyway. I didn't realize it was there until Chad came home from work on Thursday night and made a harmless comment, an aside really... "It's funny how you don't think about how it would feel to lose your house in a fire until it's close to you."

I looked up from my word game, startled. "Is a fire close to us?"

"No. It's up over the hill. Not too close. I was just thinking about it."

And I went back to my game. And he went back to listening to his podcast. And we watched the kids climbing all over the playground. And that was that.

Until Friday morning, when I woke up to a phone call from a concerned aunt and a text from worried parents. "We heard Eagle Mountain is being evacuated. Do you have to leave? Do you have a place to go? Is your house safe?"

I was completely caught off guard. "Uh, I'm not actually sure." (Funny how you get out of touch with the news when you have no TV.) I jumped online and looked at the most recent updates from KSL and Eagle Mountain City's website. I called Chad to find out what he'd heard. And I peeked out the window. No flurries of activity. No clouds of smoke overhead--On the mountain, yes, but still miles from us, right?

Wrong. Saratoga Springs was evac'd. And the Eastern side of Eagle Mountain was leaving. Ciara called: "We're headed out. Keep us posted on what's going on with you guys." A mile away, and they were asked to leave. The fire was threatening us from a mile away.

And still it wasn't a serious threat for me. Not really. A mile and a main street away. It would take a fire indeed to reach us on the inside. "But it wouldn't hurt to pack up the most important things," Chad said. "Just to be prepared. Just in case." So I pulled a couple of empty bins out of the garage....

And then what? How does one begin packing for something like that? "Just in case the rest of our possessions burn down in our house, we should pack..." what? What can't I live without? What is absolutely irreplaceable?

It turns out, all the value of our lives fit into two bins. Two bins. Two bins that contained everything I would be devastated to lose. That I could never replace or recreate. Chad's journals--volumes of his recorded life. Valuable indeed, since I am notoriously bad at keeping a journal. My children's baby books. All of our family history books. The camera, of course, and the hard drive. Photo albums--the most recent ones, at least, with all the pictures of Risa that have mysteriously disappeared from our hard drive. All my writing journals and dream notebooks and poetry. All the vital documents, obviously. The two portraits of Momma, and the baby quilt with the stitched outline of her hand. And her letter to me, written just months before she died. Our ipod, with thousands of songs, representing decades of collected music. Coren's Money and Risa's Bebe. And Chad's and my letters and emails and cards and love notes to each other.

And that was it. Those were the things we carried. The things I could never have parted with. The things that will never be found in a store or online or on a flash drive somewhere. Strange how your mind can go into emergency mode like that, and you can whittle your life down to those few most basic, most cherished things. The rest melts away... Well, truth be told, it doesn't entirely melt away--I still would have been heartbroken to lose my shelves and shelves of books and my carefully assembled wardrobe. But there we were, left with two bins that told the essence of what/who we were.

Thankfully, we never had to escape with our two small bins. My shelves are standing, still loaded with books. My clothes are hanging in my closet. My house is clean and ash-free (and a good thing, too, because I still forgot a few things that I would have kicked myself for later--patriarchal blessings and Momma's wedding ring). All is quiet and calm and under control. But, for a few quiet hours, I got to search myself; I got to choose the things that I would carry. 

Thursday, June 7, 2012

In Memoriam

Yes, I know I am rather behind on my blog posts--there are still some events from April I need to post about (my little brother-in-law's lovely wedding); and some big events that have happened recently (i.e. my third child's entrance into the world). And I will get on those this week.

But today, today I am in mourning.

I just read about the passing of Ray Bradbury two days ago. Those of you who know me well know my undying love for the man, for his writing. He looked at language the way a composer looks at music (I imagine, anyway, not having any real ability to draw from when it comes to composing music). He builds his sentences to ebb and flow, to run together in musical rivers, every word chosen to fit into the harmony of the sentence. You don't really read his words, you sing them. I am captivated by every paragraph. Enthralled. In ecstasies. And yes, that sounds rather dramatic. But if you've read much of Mr. Bradbury (no, not just Fahrenheit 451), you understand. And you probably agree. Yes, I will be presumptuous and say you agree.

I actually didn't read Fahrenheit 451 until college; and quite frankly, though it is beautiful, it is not my favorite of his works. The first Bradbury book I read was Something Wicked This Way Comes. I was astounded! And I was addicted. I bought books and books of his collections of short stories. I read them over and over. There is one in particular--"The Burning Man"--Nothing happens in the story. Nothing. A boy and his mom pick up a hitchhiker, who drives along with them for a while. Absolutely nothing. And I still remember feeling haunted, a sinister sense of something coming..... He can do that with zero action. That story made me want to be a writer. That one story about nothing that gave me chills and left me wondering.

And I've pretty much read everything else since. I love The Martian Chronicles, the way he created the Martian landscape in a new way, different and lovely and melancholy. And The Halloween Tree and From The Dust Returned speak to my eerie side, but with a touch of grace only he could write just perfectly. I love Dandelion Wine, it's poignant tribute to summers as a child. And did you know he wrote every single day of his adult life?

And so I bid farewell to a literary giant. A man to whom I have always wanted to dedicate my own published work someday. A man that built my imagination, and fueled it, and matured it. To the creator of Martian worlds and haunted carnivals and malevolent planets and captured childhood perfections and regal family reunions of the dead..... etc. etc.

To a writer, the first to change me. To Ray.