September 11th, 2010
Four Days After the Fire
Hello from The Road, My Friends,
Yesterday, I talked with my wise friend Lainie in New York, who said, “Honey, today you’ve had a good day. You’re in a pretty place and your friends are going to bat for you. But you know that when you pull into Boulder and see that smoke and that mountain, you’re going to lose it.” I know, I said. I’m dreading it.
It’s so odd to dread going home. When I’m traveling, I always get to a point where I’m ready to be home, ready to sleep in my own bed and rattle around in my own kitchen. I miss the mountainside and the trail from my kitchen door where Nellie and I walk every day, through wild flowers, up to the Forest Service land.
Why live way up in the mountains? people ask. For this, I say, spreading my arms out. For the view of the Flatirons, the Divide, the city lights. At night, it’s like an ocean of light, flickering warmly. My Boulder. My mountain.
I want to close my eyes and tap my heels together three times and wake up a year from now, with my house back, but brand new. I want to skip the next year of sifting and listing and gathering and remembering and mourning and submitting and arguing and everything else that’s bound to go with this.
I am in Yellowstone right now, pound for pound the most beautiful place on earth. It’s hard to fully feel the beauty, but the landscape and the animals here are so amazing that I’m often completely enraptured by them, and I forget about my troubles.
Yesterday I saw a baby mountain goat with its mom by the side of the road. Then a grizzly bear and three cubs tumbled around playfully in the willows across the river, then a herd of bison swam across the river – the babies wildly cavorting on the other side, shaking off the freezing water and scampering around the adults. Trumpeter swans, blue heron, bald eagles, a bull elk bugling outside my cabin door last night… Nature is a surrounding balm.
When I checked in last night to get the keys to the cabin, I was exhausted and bleary. Too many different kinds of feelings in one day. At the desk the young woman looked at my driver’s license and said, “Oh, Boulder! Is your home okay?” So I told her what had happened, then went to find something to eat.
When I got to the cabin and had finished unloading, I noticed something on the bed. There was an envelope with my name on it, and next to it, a lovely throw blanket with “Yellowstone National Park” embroidered on it, rolled up and tied with a ribbon. I opened the envelope and there was a card, covered with butterflies. Inside was written,
“Dear Mr. and Mrs. O’Conor,
We are sincerely sorry to hear of the tragic loss of your home. We would like to give you this blanket to express our sympathy. If there is anything we can do for you during your stay, please let us know.”
– Canyon Lodge Front Desk
I picked up the blanket and suddenly burst into tears, sobbing uncontrollably. I had been blindsided by the kindness of strangers once again. When I finished crying, I looked at Nellie and said, “Look, this is our First New Thing. A blanket from Yellowstone.” One of many gifts that this journey will bring.
So this morning I head for home — I’ll pack the blanket and the suitcase and the dog bed, and head down the yellow brick road that leads to Boulder. When I get there I’ll ask the Wizard for courage, wisdom, and most of all, a heart.
There’s no place like home. I hope I find it soon.
Sending you love,
Andi and Nellie