I’ve back-dated this post. Looks like it didn’t come through when sent from my phone on the front porch, 12 hours after the fire.
I’m not going to post a lot of photos from the interior. There’s a grim surreal beauty to it, which is not lost on me; but for me those will be easier to look at once the restoration gets well down the road. I’ll save them for then.
For now, here are just a couple from the Living Room. The fire started in the outside wall at the sill, in the floor between this room and the basement. Lots going on there – three iterations of electrical wiring going back to maybe the ’30s (the house was built in 1919), plus the chimney, plus rodents coming in from the snow, etc.. Inspectors say they may never know for sure what caused it.
Astute followers will recognize this view, though somewhat altered. There were once over 2,000 books here and in the next rooms, which I’m told unsulated the house structure from the worst of the fire, all gone now.
We’re presently living in a cozy little two room cottage about a half mile away, where we may remain throughout the yearlong rebuild process.
Somehow our wedding album survived, found in the burn pile four weeks after the fire. The clean up crew called me Friday to say they found it in the front yard as they were filling up dumpster number four, with a mass of undifferentiated black muck. Said they left it for us on the wood pile.
It had been in the living room with the worst of the blaze. Soaked with fire hoses and foam, then shoveled out into the snow, where it got rained on over Christmas and New Years.
The soggy album came apart in my hands. One edge of the book was melted together. But because it contained real photographs, black and white RC silver prints, the images survived. I peeled them from the pages with a blade and laid them out to dry.
Many in the pictures are no longer with us. A true memento mori. And yet so many are still close friends. And family. All older now.
Thanks, John Strader, for taking such wonderful photos that sweltering summer day. And thanks for taking them the old fashion way.
Our little town is amazing. We’ve always known that. The past two weeks, though, showed just how amazing it is. And more surprising, how very big our little town truly is. The flood of kindness and generosity has been overwhelming, from near and far – across the street, across the country, across the world even – from friends and family, and people who don’t even know us.
We steel ourselves against all the bad we know will come one day, prepare to do the hard things just so we can get through them. But we never prepare for the unexpected good. The good has slayed us.
People are amazing. Really and truly amazing.
Thank you for being part of our town. Thank you all.
Back when I was building the Melonseeds, I frequently got lost down a rabbit hole of history, thinking about all the things going on in the world at the end of the 19th century, in 1888, when the plans from the boats were drawn. Was a fascinating time, undergoing rapid change as fast as today. The transitions from sail to steam, agriculture to industry, rural to urban, were as transformational to society in that era as the computer and internet have been in ours.
On this day in 1889, Nellie Bly – a single young woman, 24 years old – set off alone from New York by steamship to set a record for circling the world, by ship and train and any other convenient conveyance. With just two days notice. She took the dress she was wearing, a coat, some underwear and toiletries, and a bit of money tied in a pouch around her neck.
The goal was to best the fictional Phileas Fogg, protagonist in a popular book of the time, Around the World in Eighty Days, written by Jules Verne. She would meet the author along the way, pausing in Paris long enough to interview him.
She was a young journalist who had talked her way into a job at The World, working for Joseph Pulitzer. Her first assignment had been to convince people she was insane so she could be committed to a women’s lunatic asylum. This was after talking the paper into accepting the project in the first place, to get the actual job.
She spent 10 days in the asylum. The exposé she wrote about the experience made her famous, and the ensuing outrage prompted improvements at mental institutions.
This race around the world was just a different kind of crazy. She sent back dispatches on her progress from remote places around the world, all published in the paper, using what was then the first modern form of worldwide communication – by telegraph. She crossed Europe, passed through the new Suez Canal, was delayed by problems with the trains in Asia, visited a leper colony in China. In Singapore, she bought a monkey. In Hong Kong, she learned that another woman had set off just behind her in the US, and was traveling the opposite direction, trying to beat her time, making it a real race.
Bad weather slowed her Pacific crossing, threatening to make her miss the 80 day deadline. Pulitzer chartered a private one-time train run, dubbed the Miss Nellie Bly Special, to speed her from San Francisco to Chicago, traversing 2500 miles in less than three days – a the fastest train trip ever. To spur the crews along, she presented each railroad superintendent on the with way with a bottle of expensive champagne.
She arrived back in New York after only 72 days, setting a new record for circumnavigating the globe. Which, alas, would be broken over and over again as travel improved, but it was quite a feat at the time.
A few years later she married a 73 year old millionaire, who promptly died and left her all his money and his steel manufacturing plants, which she ran successfully until she died in 1922.
I’m 58 at this writing. I can brag about my daughters.
Our trip to California this summer was for Amanda’s wedding to Scott. Was a great trip and a really fun wedding. We’re happy for both of them. Amanda started out teaching the kids of migrant farm workers for AmeriCorps, living in a cinder block room next to the strawberry fields. They’re now living in the Philippines, a teacher and a guidance counselor.
On the drive to the venue – next to Lassen National Park, 20 miles from the nearest town – we got a text from Amanda saying “Call me when you get to the fire trucks!” This is not a good thing. Especially in California.
The weekend before, Amanda’s wedding planner got married herself. She had to rush the minister to perform the rights before the guests arrived. A wildfire was bearing down on them, and forced them all to evacuate. So it seemed like we were gearing up for a repeat.
A crew was there with trucks and flashing lights, and helicopters that emptied out the pond at the ranch where the wedding was held, to dump on the fire across the street. No more pond, but no more fire. Fair enough.
Emily was right in the middle of it. She’s been working on fire crews in Oregon on the weekends for years. She actually had her gear in the truck, along with her bride’s maid’s dress.
Back in Oregon she’s been working a lot of weekends as a woodlands firefighter. Last week she sent these video clips from where they were cutting a fire break and setting a back burn.
It seems the whole western side of North America is on fire this summer. Just so happens the last crew she was on was all young women.
What was news to us was that Emily, at 5 feet tall and 110 pounds, beat out all the men on her certification test carrying 80 pounds of gear on a forced march. The other women on the crew had to do something comparable.
During Amanda’s ceremony, smoke still lingered on the surrounding peaks. Days later, the big Carr fire exploded to the west at Redding. She and Scott sent photos from their first day back in Manilla, of flooding from a typhoon.