49 Writers World Tour of Southeast Alaska with Sherry Simpson
September 21, 2014
August 3, 2014
Years ago when I lived among the redwoods in a tiny cabin in a place called Loma Mar for what seems now no more than an instant yet longer than even a lifetime, my mother and the sons who were with me lived in the main house, which a fire had almost destroyed some months before, a house that was once high-end but had been sold to the young man who was now in the long process of restoring and replacing the burnt charred beams, the gutted kitchen, the water-damaged floors. It seemed the only things in the now-bare house that dared to promise relief from the draft and the gloom were the newly installed windows and the stone fireplace that had survived the months with almost no sign of the catastrophic fire that had led to our camping in and around the now-cold building, its bare rafters providing running space for the dozens of mice that had taken over the shelter, its uneven floor offering no welcome, its haphazard plumbing and wiring warning and thrilling my meager attempts at making a home. But my mother liked the fireplace and she liked the fire, and she spent hours every day sitting on the fireplace stoop and tending the flames, adding twigs and branches and sometimes logs, no doubt dreaming of those days when she was young, when she was charged with the chore of helping to mind the stove or the campfire, those days when heat came from her body and radiated into the sky and warmed the fire itself. Now, the scant flame from the few bits of kindling her grandchildren brought to her often failed to warm even the nearby air, and never warmed her bones.
Years later, a little woodstove sat in the corner of the mobile home I bought after we finally came back home to Juneau, and my mother would join the family for holiday dinners and for our occasional birthdays, but she never made a move to tend the fire. Although she’d grown so lean she was now no more than brittle bone and thin cold flesh, she sat on the soft couch across the room from the fire, tucked into a bright new sweater, sneakered feet lifted onto a stool carried to the room only for her comfort, surrounded by new babies and those generations who loved her and whose passions the years had not yet cooled, and allowed herself to be warmed by no more than her memories and the inevitable regret of a life not fully lived.