Friday, September 17, 2010
In And Out House Stories
Family members and friends are still sending me outhouse stories, but my allergies have kept me IN, so time to change subjects. To amuse myself indoors I've been painting happy scenes, sun flowers and sea turtles. A week ago last night a gas main explosion in San Bruno lighting up the sky directly across the bay from me. From any window on the west side of the house I could see flames shooting 100' feet into the air. This included the view from my front deck, kitchen, living room, and study, where I now sit. Not a view I relished. Sadly seven people died, and many were left homeless. The flames raged over two hours, triggering for me memories of the Oakland Hills fire over a decade a go, which killed one friend who was housebound, and destroyed the homes and disrupted the lives of so many others, including many close to me. Like a stone that skips over the water. loosing momentum with each plop, I find that each fire around here awakens a memory of a previous one. About thirty five years ago, asleep in bed one spring night, I woke to notice the strange yet beautiful glowing color of the rayon draw drapes. This was long before I painted, and took interest in unusual colors. This window faced south, towards the rose garden, a canyon, and San Jose. I glanced at the clock on the night stand, a digital readout, in a time before most clocks were digital: in large read numbers it flashed 4:44. Strange, I thought, for the sun to be rising so early... I rose and peeked through the curtains. It took a minute to register. On the other side of the canyon a large home was an inferno of fire. I screamed, waking Lee and the dogs, and called the fire department. Shortly sirens could be heard. The structure was a beautiful new house, just ready to be occupied. It burned to the ground quite quickly. No one was hurt, fortunately, and it was eventually rebuilt. Other than photos and movies, it was the first structure fire I actually witnessed. The imprint it made on me was the clock. For about five years, I woke almost every morning with a jolt. I would glance at the clock, and leap out of bed. It always said 4:44. The trauma of it all was imprinted on my unconscious. Thank goodness I eventually processed this. Nowadays if I am lucky I sleep till 4:10. Old age seems to do that for me. I move to the living room lounger, where, with a cup of tea, I pick up on whatever book is enchanting me. This week is Ivan Doig's the Whistling Season. Each page is like a poem. What a great writer.