February 16, 2019
Three months post Paradise Camp Fire
A lot could happen in three months; you could move four times; people you once loved could die; you could cry and ache and yearn for things lost. Then you could pick yourself up out of the rubble of your emotions and take a road trip. You could listen to music that kisses your soul. You could learn to laugh again with family and dear friends. Then, by some miracle, you could find a new place to call home.
A place called Anderson, ten miles south of Redding – if all goes according to plan – will be our new landing place on March 3rd. It’s not the place we intended, but thinking back on it, neither was the old manufactured home on a tiny plot of land in a mobile home park, but how quickly I fell in love with it – My little slice of Paradise. Hard to imagine anything could ever live up to that.
Sam and I celebrated our 31st anniversary in January. As much as we are stuck to each other like glue, we are often at odds about some fundamental things, like what we consider important in a new home. At the top of my list is being within ten minutes of a grocery store – my gauge for civilization – and what I consider a good compromise for Sam’s preference to big remote places. This man can meander for miles and miles along back roads, pointing out For Sale signs, as if life in the mountains or on some Kansas-like prairie might be an option.
Along with the happy-looking pictures on the real estate website and the sparkle in Sam’s blue eyes when he described the place he'd found, I was convinced. We made an offer which was accepted. Sam had seen the place, but I hadn’t and for reasons I realized later as his need to explore strange new lands, he decided to take the long winding way out to it, rather than the direct three-mile route from Highway 273. By the time we reached the place thirty minutes later, I had a boulder-sized lump in my throat that literally hurt. The isolation I felt out there cast a dark pallor over anything hopeful the home had to offer. I wondered how – after all these years – this man still does not know me.
As stressful as this experience was for me, it had the opposite effect on Sam. He walked the acre of land as if he already owned it. He talked over the fence to the ancient German Shepherd and his even more ancient owner. He talked animatedly about the chicken coop and fresh eggs and made remodeling plans for the kitchen. I responded minimally, still in shock and beginning to panic. I had to collect my racing thoughts and either figure a way out or a way to talk myself into it.
As we were about to leave, Sam called me over to look at something. I just wanted to get in the car and go far from this nightmare, but I went reluctantly to his side. Behind the bushes was a huge peacock strutting amidst the grasses. It was pretty in all its shimmery iridescence, and I melted just a bit – enough to break through my defensive armor and touch into this man that I have loved for so long. It came to me then on the scent of rich loamy soil and cut grass; a picture of Sam with a garden; digging and planting, happier than I could remember seeing him. In that moment, through him, I imagined a tap root reaching deep into this good earth.
We drove back the short way this time (well within my ten-minute requirement) and I thought, This slice is for him.