Spaces and Places

Yesterday was the 6 month anniversary of the disastrous Camp Fire.  We’ve been struggling with all the changes, grateful YES, but still a bit out of sorts.

Our lives are much different now. We drive on different roads to different places. We view our house as a house, not a home…yet. They say it takes time.

The other night, no tv on, just a quiet conversation that went like this:

“It just feels weird. It feels like I am living someone else’s life. What about you?”

“You know, I think it is like when someone has been happily married for a very long time and then an accident takes their partner away from them.  You remarry, find happiness again, but this new relationship only came about from the tragedy that still hurts your heart.”

We both got quiet for a moment.

“Did you ever see yourself living out in a place like this, like being a rancher, a lot animals around you all the time?”

“No, I guess not…We aren’t ranchers or farmers, … we’re gardeners.”

“YES, I am a gardener!”

I spent some time thinking about that conversation while remembering the time we spent in the small spaces of our travel trailer after the fire. I remembered how I came to appreciate the so-called living room in the trailer. It was a nice little comfortable space and contrasted greatly to the large living room we enjoyed for the past 30 years.

Then I started to recall how every room in our Paradise house had its own special feeling and identity, even its own name: The cold room. The beach room.  We also carried that same love of spaces to our outdoor projects – decks, patios, balcony, garden areas spread about the yard, pink and white dogwood trees growing together, grapevines shading sitting areas, hidden benches and swings among where the quail would hide, an area of walnut trees, and the front porch.

It is easy to focus a lot on the place. I think ranchers and farmers need to be very aware of the place, its resources and characteristics. I know since moving out to this flat valley region with very few trees, it is easy to only see the place – but for us gardener types that can leave you feeling very discombobulated (I love that word).

What excites me most is moving about from space to space and seeing different plants, different miniature landscapes. Here is my daydream for this new place: 60 grapevines of two varieties which is enough to make two barrels of wine, all neatly lined up with drip irrigation, rows of blueberries also neatly lined up in another space, an area of raspberries and blackberries carefully manicured, rows and groups of roses, several coastal redwood trees with azaleas and rhododendrons under their canopy, a small  orchard of apples, peaches, apricots, pluots, plums, nectarines, and pomegranate, a garden with rows of corn, tomatoes, squash, carrots, radishes, and lots of melons. There would be flowers everywhere. On the back side of the garden would be a fence where morning glories and small pumpkins and gourds would grow up on. Also, there would be a big composted mound where I would grow the world’s largest pumpkin, or at least so big that little children could slide down it.  Every step into a space would lead to another space- seamlessly. There would be different benches to sit upon in each space. When you were done moving about all these spaces, you would say, “This is a good place.”

Am I longing to return to the Garden of Eden – to a time before the responsibility of consciousness? In other words, am I trying to return to Paradise – the name of our burned down town? Perhaps. But, ranchers ranch and farmers farm and gardeners garden… maybe all in search of the spaces in the places. Perhaps singers sing, writers write, and painters paint all in an effort to find their spaces, maybe they even find sacred spaces. The town of Paradise was far from perfect, but after 30 years in one house and forty years in one place, we had created, what I now understand to have been, sacred space.

Maybe we should give a name to this new place? La Casa de Espacio Segrado.