For the first months after the fire that left our home and 65 others in our valley in ashes I yearned to return home. I yearned for my spot on the earth that had been my home for the past 15 years. I yearned for my house on that land.
Yearning must be the strongest emotion following loss. I suppose loss is part of the stuff yearning is made from. There are times when yearning is a void; we are yearning for meaning and do not know how gather it to ourselves. Sometimes the meaning has been taken away and we are left seeking the meaning we knew. That is how we were after the fire. We yearned for the home that we knew and for the ever-changing beauty of the mountains and the plants and the land around us.
A year and a month after the fire the yearning is just as strong as it was but it has better manners. It does not pop up when you least expect it flooding us with emotion. Its voice is quieter, like a sweet whisper reminding us that what seems just beyond our grasp really is there. We can find succor in the yearning because we know the yearning will be fulfilled. Our place on the earth, in a space that envelopes us and protects us, filled with things of daily tasks and with things that delight us with their beauty is real. It is not illusory as it felt for so long.
We are going home.
We are going home to a new place, not the place we thought we yearned for. The yearning for our home that died in the fire transformed into the yearning for meaning. It became yearning for time with each other. It became yearning for things good and true. It became yearning for being with others. It became yearning for life and for love. It was yearning for meaning. After we understood that our yearning was not bound by time or space. We found meaning and understanding of our fire-wrought world.
Over the past few years we have planned for retirement in 2015. In May this year we were thrust into considering an accelerated schedule by my health and by my spouse being “downsized” in yet another round of budget cuts at our University.
So in May, just as we finally began rebuilding our home we were faced increased medical bills and a 2/3s drop in income. We talked of downsizing the house or converting to what was effectively a spec house but our contractor wisely urged us not to do that. After lengthy discussions, he asked if he should stop building. Between that meeting Friday afternoon and Friday midnight we knew our answer. We were both going to retire, stop building, sell the partially finished house and move away. We went to sleep feeling good about our decision.
In the morning I was uneasy and my spouse happy. In the afternoon I was happy and he was uneasy. It took us about two days to both become realistically, uneasily, happy. The following Monday morning we went in search of our new home. We loaded our minivan with camping equipment and headed north on US Highway 93 planning to look at every interesting spot between the Idaho-Montana border and the Canadian border. After a very late start we found ourselves driving past midnight on a 2 lane mountain road in the rain. Prudence dictated that we stop short of the Montana border. We had to stay or make the hour and a half journey over the mountain pass that divides Idaho from Montana. Over the pass we went. We needed to sleep in Montana.
I got sick at the top end of the Bitterroot Valley and we went on to Missoula to be near a hospital should we need one. No hospital was needed but we did take a hotel room where I stayed sick for three days. My spouse went gathering information about Missoula returning to the hotel to report what he found. After two days of his searching while I slept, we decided that Missoula was a fine town, well suited to raising a family but not right for us. I regathered my strength and we drove north. Eventually we found ourselves in Whitefish, MT where we had lived in the 1970s. Where we least expected it, we had found home.
Today we closed on our new land and tomorrow our new contractor will arrive with his team to start our new home. This new house of ours will not be nearly as grand but that is pleasing to us. Our new house will not have the sweeping views or bold high-mountain desert sun we had. Our new house will have trees and bird song. It will tuck itself in and us with it. We will be at peace.