July 15th, 2012
One Year, Ten Months, and Nine Days
Since the Four Mile Canyon Fire
The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way,
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.
- J.R.R. Tolkien
I am home. I have gone There and Back Again, and returned to my own front door, and it is all changed.
Some people think that Jerry Garcia wrote those famous lines about the road going on and on, but it was JRR Tolkien, a man who saw the horrors of World War I, who lost his true love and soul mate before her time, and who dealt with his grief and loss by telling tales of heroic little Hobbits marching steadfastly into the face of evil and conquering it – but not without a price.
Bilbo Baggins defeats a dragon and returns home with untold treasure from the dragon’s lair, but it takes its toll on him. He tells Frodo he feels, “Thin… like butter scraped over too much bread.” And Frodo, the hero of his own quest, comes home damaged and frail. He writes in his journal, “How do you pick up the threads of an old life? How do you go on, when in your heart, you begin to understand, there is no going back?” Frodo never really finds peace at home, and eventually sails off to the Undying Lands with the Elves.
What is home when you finally come home again? And who am I, now that I am home?
I have gone to Mordor and back again – a long, slow trudge through jagged peaks and fiery chasms, and finally made my way home to this beautiful house. I have envisioned this house, this day, for almost two years. I have worked every day for months on end, with the architect, the contractor, and dozens of trades people – going over and over the budgets, the design, the energy systems, the plumbing and electric and the thousands of details that make a home. I have been involved in every detail of building this magnificent little ship in the clouds, and yet I am a stranger to it. It is as if we have just met – we will have to get to know each other now.
And I will have to get to know my new life now. For two years I have been a refugee, a middle-class displaced person dealing with grief and loss and more change than I ever wanted to face. And now I get to be “normal” again. Not a Fire Person anymore, just a friend, neighbor, colleague… What will that be like? Is it even possible?
Once again, I am starting over. At 55, I begin again. As the Chinese say, it is a time of “Dangerous Opportunity,” a time of change and challenge and new beginnings.
I walk up to the front door, take a deep breath and open it. I am shaking hands with my new house, my new life. “Nice to meet you, ” I say, and look around. A window seat, a lovely fireplace, a spectacular view. “Wow,” I say. “I wonder who lives here?” I believe I will now find out.
I’m going to grow old here, looking at this view, writing about this place. Me and Nellie and other dogs and perhaps a true love, a best friend, my Partner in Life. Wouldn’t that be something? We will all get to know each other, and laugh and love and count down the days, and watch the sunsets each night over the mountains.
When Frodo was in the midst of Mordor, his own personal Hell, he looked up into the sky and saw stars, peeking through the darkness. “Look,” he said, “Amidst all this evil there are still stars.” Amidst all this tragedy and loss there are still stars at night, wheeling in the skies over Boulder, like ever-fixed marks, the heavenly chorus of light.
I will pass my days here, in this house, on this land, and I will keep looking up. The road goes ever on and on, and as Bilbo said, “I think I’m quite ready for another adventure.” I think we will have many adventures together before we reach the end of the road, you and I. Thanks for walking with me.
Sending you Love, and Wishes for Sweet Dreams,