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I have never been one to look back. I have never wanted to be “young again.” I have never wanted to go back and struggle through things and learn again what I know now. I have never wanted a do-over.

Until now. I cannot look back but I cannot, not look back. We are now coming full circle toward the season of losing out house. It is not quite early summer but when you feel the press of time like we do it feels like it is. In just 2 day less than two months it will be one full year since our house burned down. I feel like I have lived a 100 versions of me since then. I have written about the varying stages of fogginess or unawareness that we have passed through. Each time we think we are “right” again and then more time passes and you look back you realize you were not right, right yet. It makes me wonder looking forward what right will ever be. I know we will get through this year, and that we will build our lives again.

We are building our new fire wrought life as it should be, as we live it day-to-day. If we only looked far forward we would miss the minute to minute tasks of the day and of the steps toward recovering our lives in a way that is familiar. Each day has some new treasure or some new idea that helps us build the idea of our house and helps us have a home in our minds that anchors us to this time and this place.

Today’s treasure was a new lead for Sophie and me. When we walk together I need my trekking poles in my hands so the ground is not in my face. Trying to hold a lead, two trekking poles, watch the ground and keep a vigilant aura about me for unexpected things like the bunny rabbit that today jumped off a rock wall right into Sophie’s face and wiggled his ears. Even the best dog has to react to that. We survived nicely with our new lead.

We have had a variety of different dog-person interaction instruments. The best ones have a little give in them so we have a bit of give and take. The worst ones are those that leave one of us flying if the other does something unexpected. We’ve had some of those. Ask the ground. It has had the opportunity to visit with Sophie and with me at varying times depending on who went south when the other went north.

All old ones we collected together over the past decade, good and not so good, burned. Since the fire we have cobbled together a few nearly useless and sometimes dangerous solutions that ended up with both of us frustrated and sometimes tangled in our traces. Today we tried a model we have never tried before. It has a simple webbing belt for me and a simple webbing lead for her. The magic is that when you slip the simple webbing lead onto the simple webbing belt you are securely connected but more than that you can each move freely without dragging the other with you. If I lift my hand to shift my hat in the sun I don’t yank her head up with my hand. When she want to take a sniff on the right after having been sniffing on the left she can just cross over and the webbing-on-webbing slides nicely without getting hung up yet still has a secure feel for both of us. There is even a snap-in-length of elasticized lead so that you can add a little length and a little give. It is not for walking the dog on the sidewalk but it is perfect for our expeditions into the back yard and around our rural block–and for surviving bunnies who want to challenge your passing.

We have a lead and it works well. We don’t have a place to put it. We have lost our house and don’t know where to find it. The boxes of things for it are starting to pile high now. We have curtains in the basement, door handles in a basket under a table, baskets of tile and wood under my desk and an enormous kitchen sink in the entry hall. The third bay of the garage is stacked tall with closet parts, a pot hanger for the kitchen, outside lights, a work bench not yet unpacked, three vanity mirrors and more. I hate it when you cannot get things picked up and have it look nice. It I let myself, I would only have the option of hating that I have no house but I have a house full of things for it. I have learned to think neat and clean means that boxes that came this week have made it to the garage appropriately packed, repacked, or unpacked. I quit even thinking about where the stuff is sitting as long as I can walk around it.

You see, I lost my house. I don’t know where it is. At first it seemed like it was on a walk-a-bout. Now I know it has gone missing. When I look back at the early days after the fire I can spot in my backwards-looking trajectory points when I almost just “got us a house.” I cannot say that it is a good or bad decision that I did not do it in August or in September or in November. My sweet house is gone missing. It is not in front of us now. I cannot help but look back and wish that I had gotten a house that was simple even if it had not been the best house. I know that if I did get one then I would not have the house that has just had approved by the County. It is going to be a good house. It is going to be a warm and engaging house for us and for a future family. We built it when them in mind too. What I don’t know is what it would have been like to be home already.

I know I have to look forward. I have to pay attention to what is on front of me and I cannot let my attention be divided. As a minister friend once told me, “it won’t do to put your hand to the plow and look back.” He is right. Not only would the row be unplantable, I would probably fall and be tangled in the traces.

I suppose that is a good a metaphor for that is running through my mind today as any metaphor can be. We have word that our building permit is at the finish line but we are still struggling with the outside walls. With the permit we are faced with things that cost too much, or take too much time, or area too aesthetically heartbreaking to want to consider. What should have been a joyous day has the same metallic tang that has been in my mouth the better part of a year.

I cannot help but look back. I cannot tell if I got us a house out of a book and had it delivered on a truck if it would have made the phases we are experiencing easier, worse, or had no difference at all. All I know is that I lost my sweet house and I cannot find it again. With finding our house every step forward brings with it another seeming unsolvable problem. Though the trail is hard and rocky we have, with firm grasps on our trekking pokes, continued on the path.

I have to trust one more time that we can solve one more problem but at this point I have to wonder how many more times you can pull one more trick out of the hat. Does a time come when there is nothing left in the hat? Ah, but that is the trick you see, it always has appeared that there is nothing in the hat anyway. The true magic is not reaching in and pulling something out but believing that when you reach in there will be something there.


five mixed sizes of ceramic bunnies ranging from 2 1/2 to 12 inches high. One is brown with read burned into it