The Story of Us


Fathers Day. OK, this one feels different.

I think a lot of us widows and widowers track how anniversaries and holidays feel from year to year. I don’t think it’s morbid, or even because we want to, it’s more that experience has made it a habit for us. One day I found myself asking “why am I feeling so shitty”, only to discover an anniversary sneaking up on me. All holidays, not just Fathers or Mothers Day, bring with them an edge. Three years makes a difference though. This one felt better, the first Fathers Day I wanted to celebrate since she passed. I picked out the restaurant myself.

But there was a moment, when I buttoned up a dress shirt for the first time since her memorial, the first really nice shirt I’ve bought since then, that I wished she was here so badly I almost bailed on dinner.

Maybe its better to get takeout instead, celebrate at home with a good movie.
This is just one moment, breathe, feel your feet on the ground.
No, no more hiding in your widowers cocoon. Lets not stay home, lets go. Its time.

The kids forgot their Father’s day cards at home. The dinner took forever to come and when it did it kinda sucked. Which is to say it was a classic Father’s Day! Seriously though I really enjoyed myself. The three of us talked about so many things, how the last few years in our new home have been. My son didn’t hold back, my daughter is maturing so fast she led the conversation more than she followed. The feeling of the last page of that chapter turning was tangible.

  • It’s time.
  • It’s time to dine with mermaids and drink from deadly flasks,
  • finding the well-wildness within.
  • It’s time to dance with crystals and claim kinship with ancient civilizations
  • seeded by aliens,
  • who are about to return
  • any day now.
  • It’s time to consider that your best recycling efforts
  • aren’t nearly as important
  • as your ability to cackle at the wrong moment.
  • You’ve streamed every movie,
  • watched every Youtube clip,
  • now It’s just you and the magic
  • you’ve been sheltering from the world.
  • It’s time to invest in real estate at the edge of sanity,
  • so you can resurrect your humanity.
  • It’s time.

Something has definitely shifted. Weirdly enough I feel available to the world again, back on the market in a way. I don’t know how it happened. The page just turned.

My morning practice has grown, become more central since there are no more early commutes with the kids in summer. The extra space has resulted in my process sifting out into two related practices. The movement prayer I begin my day with, and my work with animal spirits. After focusing on a different animal on the lunar cycle I’ve reached the point in my work with one spirit that its time to make a costume to represent it. The costume is a means of conjuring the presence of the spirit I’m working with in me, as well as a means of receiving power directly from the spirits.

My first dance came with the Strawberry Moon.

I settled on the Seal to work with, I thought it would be the Swan I’d work with for so long but the Seal impulse was so strong, like a root. I hand stitched the large cape over many months, finding moments here and there. I layered its colors with dye like the mottled Ocean colors so many Seals and Sea Lions wear. The mask came together roughly after an artful attempt failed. But my new Seal skin was strong, just the right container for my work.

I woke around midnight on the full moon, made my offering outside and danced. I had depleted myself leading up to that night, pushing hard to finish my new skin. The work was good, but not as strong as I had hoped. The Seal people met me on the shore I always travel to. The Grandmother Seal was there to guide me deeper into the water. All the young pups were gathered around. I know some of them want to be carried into this world, but I was not yet ready. I’ll have to wait for the next moon to go deeper.

Just keep showing up, it will be OK.

And then everything caught fire.

OK, not everything, we’re still here. But everything got really really hot, and then some things caught fire. We needed a new car. I went the cheap route and got the used Nissan Rogue. It was a little like a tin can but had AWD for the winters and we could afford it. Five days later True and I were on our way home from an afternoon cooling ourselves in the water fountain park in Redmond when the transmission died. Just. Died.

It was only 100 degrees out, not the 111 predicted for the next few days. We were of course perched dramatically on the shoulder of a highway. 5 phone calls later a local cab picked us up and took us home. I have AAA but given the heat wave tow trucks were scarce. We were quoted 90 minutes.

True was a few inches away from inconsolable, but she did OK. Me being pissed off did not help, but I got a grip after a minute or two.

“No sweetie, we’ll get home OK.”
“What about Tadg?”
“We’ll pick him up in our truck and then go wait for the tow truck.”
“Is it safe?”
“Yes, Petunia is great isn’t she?” She got to name the truck.

Four hours later the tow truck showed up. 4. That night True had the first disturbed sleep I’d ever heard coming from her since Terry died.

“Its OK Bear, Papa got you.” She slept close for several nights.

Then things got really hot. We stayed inside (central AC!) for several days. I had the car towed directly to the dealers. Once the temperature got back down around 100 we wandered in to buy a different car. Upgraded to a used Subaru. Serves me right, I was being cowardly about payments before. Man up, get the white yuppy mobile. Cars are not my joy.

We had two beloved families pass through and stay for visits. I wonder if they know how much their presences are a blessing on us? To have people who are not family come and stay in your home is such a deep grace. True especially basqued in the warmth of female friendship and Mothering. She even scored a Mom haircut (thanks Robin!) Everyone seemed to get out just in time.

That new car feeling lasted for a few days until stuff started to catch on fire. We had just gotten a roof luggage carrier for our big trip to CA at the end of July when we discovered that we might need it to flee from the Grandview fire a few miles away from our home. At least we would be fleeing in something new.

Turns out it takes more, and less to move our pod than I thought.

We are not just 3 people. We are 2 garbage bags of stuffed animals (argued down from 4), a skateboard, 15 lbs of electronic equipment, 2 Guinea Pigs, 2 Cats (we only found 1), and one Dog. I promised to move 2 more cats and one more dog but someone else fielded that. I left the fish off because I just can’t fit a fish tank in the new car.

Ping! {text on phone} Your area is on stage 1 alert for a fire in your area.

The “grab your shit and run away scale” goes like this:
1- Ready. Get everything together and be ready to move.
2- Set. Actually load the car and corral the animals.
3- Go. Run like hell.

OK. We can handle this. Step 1 feels roomy. I can walk around, bark orders at the kids and look like I’m in charge. After about 3 hours we all had backpacks packed, animal supplies and carriers ready, electronics prepped and important stuff ready to go. I can get Beckie’s dog and 2 cats if it comes to that. We can do this. Papa’s in charge. `Time for True to go to bed.

Ping! Your area is on stage 2 alert for a fire in your area. Be ready to leave immediately if your status changes to 3.

Oh crap oh crap oh crap oh crap oh CRAP! I’ve got to move 2 kids, 2 dogs, 4 cats (if I can find them all) and 2 guinea pigs! Its 10 pm, I’m not waiting for level 3, its time to go! I shook True out of a very deep sleep (man can she sleep) shoved everything mercilessly into the new car and headed to the neighbors house to get the other dog and cats.

“Hello, is anyone home!” Glad I yelled that before storming through the house catching cats and a dog. Yes someone had indeed come home and my moving services were no longer required. Glad he did not sleep with a firearm or the night could have gone a lot worse. Into the car and down the road where Kelly and Ron graciously put us up.

I should say that at this point there was just a little ash falling from the sky and a touch of smoke, otherwise everything was normal. Tadg was on edge, he cried a few times, let me hold him. Tigey is our wildest of two cats, named after Tadg. He is a big sweet fluffy Maine Coon cat who loves to spend the hot summers outside hunting. We can go days without spotting him. We couldn’t find him to bring with us. Tadg was beside himself.

True was comforted by her guinea pigs, who traveled better than any of us, and by the knowledge that at least half of her stuffed animals made it out with us. She was however convinced that our house would burn down. No amount of assurance from me seemed to convince her otherwise. We would be homeless, traveling in the new car with guinea pigs and stuffed animals to make it all OK. She dropped off quickly enough though. I slept for a few hours, maybe.

I was back there, in that state of constant fight or flight, just like when Terry was sick. Every moment was a razors edge to be navigated. Every night felt like falling into a pit rather than drifting off to sleep. I worked with my calming techniques. Feel my center, breathe deep. What was the answer here? What did I need to do for us?

Once I calmed myself my intuition told me I could return home tomorrow. If the fire hadn’t moved towards us maybe level 2 would be OK for a few days. Yes, that felt right. If we were at level 2 in the morning I would leave early to check on things. If the wind was in our favor I’d bring us all home and just stay ready to leave. That earned me a couple more hours of sleep.

The next day went as my intuition had told me. We returned home and even spotted Tigey in short order. True was comforted by the sight of our home untouched. We organized our car roof storage to hold packs and some pet food, important papers and of course the travel stuffed animals. We drove around that way for almost a week.

I decided it was important to risk sending True to her day camp. The time away did her good. She even had a horse competition down the road and scored 3 ribbons! Tadg and Bella drove with me most of the time. We were on alert, but we were also working for each other, making each others lives easier. It was good family time.

Despite the explosive Bootleg fire to our south the Grandview fire came under control fairly quickly at only 6k acres burned. True rescued her two garbage bags full of stuffies from the roof storage. Each stuffed family member was greeted by name and given a place of honor in her room. Each, a heralded survivor of the Grandview fire in good standing.

After the fire was out my adrenaline glands gave up the ghost and I slept. There’s a downside for me now being under long term stress. It takes more time, more naps to recover. But by the time of the next full moon I was ready to dance again.

I feel heavier as a dancer now, the weight of bones that have known some strife brings me closer to the dirt. But I really don’t mind it. I can settle into the feeling of the soil so easily. I can open to the spirits that might be around so quickly. It’s all right there.

The spirits were waiting for me at the shore again. We danced longer now, more of their feeling sinking into me. I’m seeing now that I’ll need to dance when the moon is dark as well. There’s something to discover there too.

I’ve been thinking lately, how its my job to carry our story, for now.

Maybe Terry felt that way when she was alive. She was really the vision carrier of our family, the one who knew where we should go. With her gone I’ve had to find a way to make a home and carry our story alone. Writing helps that a lot, its like reading the braille of our future.

I know that the kids are slowly writing what our little family means to them. Will the fire season of 2021 make it into that story? Will this be the first of many natural disasters that challenge us? It seems likely. Cancer, Covid, megafires, these are the main events of their lives now. The new world we’ve pulled into being through our inaction on climate change is upon us. That world will surely be their world. I do not speak the braille of that yet.

One thing I do know is that through all of this they love better than anyone I know.

They are miracles.

Blessings to you and yours during this time of great change.

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