Mechanical. That is the way I can explain life post Camp Fire. Since November 8, 2018 I have been going about the business of life. Commuting to work and back. Doing my job as always both at home and at work. Eating. Sleeping. Making decisions. Searching for the miniscule pieces to pick up, to move on. Executing the processes that come with recovery. Yes. Mechanical. Robot like.

I forgot how to feel. Sounds strange, but true. I continue to be strong for my husband, my family, and my friends. I remain a pillar, the epitome of strength, the inspiration for other survivors to draw from when their crumbled lives become too much for them to bear. But numb. Brushing aside the pain, the fear, the trauma, the exhaustion. Simply surviving each day.

But today the tears have come. My eyes leak salty drops that slide down my cheeks. Grief has taken hold. I mourn my little cabin in the woods and the life I had built there. Memories of what now seems eons ago. My California dream turned to ash. The realization that everything is temporary. Our lives are. Temporary.

I remember what it felt like to fall in love with my home. It was nestled in a grove of giant incense cedars and Douglas firs. I loved those trees that dwarfed my house. They were mighty and stood watch over me. I loved to sit in the yard taking in their breathtaking beauty. The air filled with their sweet aroma. Freshly sharpened pencils. Immersed in that rich scent.

My home was cozy. It was filled with countless treasures. A sign hung above one door. “Love Grows Best in Little Houses.” The cross-stitched 57 Chevy I had made for my husband. A lifetime of photographs. Trinkets from so many, tokens of love. A steampunk lamp. Dickens’ Faire costumes. My mother’s cedar chest. Stained glass windows created by my brother. Generations of jewelry – pearls, diamonds, gemstones, gold. Collections – race medals, shot glasses, Christmas ornaments, hearts. My wedding dress. My daughter’s childhood belongings. My husband’s tools. The scale on which my mother weighed me when I was a baby. The mug my father used for coffee, the circular rings at the bottom of the cup from the stir of a spoon. My books. Oh, my books.

On the front of the house was an eight-foot-high Perry’s ice cream cone sign from a sweet shop in Warsaw, New York. It was there, while enjoying a hot fudge sundae, I was presented my engagement ring. Porch rockers that frequently played a part in a personal “Margaritaville.” Musical wind chimes. My secret garden. A windmill spinning in the breeze. The cherry trees I started from pits. The doggy playground I created for my pup. My copper rain chain that looked like a waterfall during storms. The boulders at the end of the driveway.

My walk-in pantry, the envy of my younger sister. Family cookbooks and recipes. My husband’s “command center” in the office. My college diploma. Bazooka bass speakers I destroyed when I turned up the volume of “Devastation Sounds” reggae. The old milk boxes originally used for milk delivery at my childhood home. My guitars. A wooden sign simply stating “The Stearns Home – Established 1992.” Ocean décor – “Hakuna Matata.” A pencil rubbing of my grandparent’s names from Ellis Island. Kukui nut leis. Bongo drums.

My home is gone. Everything but the memories. I couldn’t imagine ever leaving it. It was perfect. A joy-filled place. Warm. Comfortable. Lovely.

Today I allow myself to grieve. A step back from the business of life. A day of reflection. A day where I let the loss flow around me and through me. The reality of a shattered dream. And the reality that life goes on despite it. I will let the tears flow until they run dry. And I will then begin again.

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