baby steps

The journey since the fire has been excruciating and difficult for both us…….we’ve done the journeying separately and together. Circumstances dictated that I return to the land and that he didn’t. I couldn’t turn my back on the one place that had afforded us so much hope and joy, in the wake of the fire, when all seemed utterly lost and broken, clinging to the one thing that had given both of us so much pleasure and pain was my only option, but not his. His reasons for not returning were complicated, mine were more simplistic.

Since returning to the land I  have :

had remains of house removed, upsetting

sold scrap metal (twice, long story), boring

had new driveway made from old house, expensive

bought a caravan, weird and exciting

caravan bought - 1

had caravan moved to site of burnt house, macabre

caravan moving - 1

had metal structure built over caravan from burnt crap and some new crap, resourceful

metal structure - 1.jpg

had battery house built, and solar stuff bought and installed, deja vu

battery house - 1 (1).jpg

had grape wires and posts replaced, pointless (most of the grapes never recovered)


had over 80 olive trees pruned or chopped down, distressing and hard work

olive pruning - 1 (1)

had a chunk of burnt forest removed, relief

firewood - 1 (1).jpg

painted the crap out of the caravan, exhausting but satisfying

painting - 1

removed loads of stuff from caravan, freeing

rubbish - 1

had bore hole pump fixed, strenuous and mucky

bore hole pump - 1

had running water plumbed into outdoor sink, luxurious

sink - 1

made myself a loo, with an old chair, a Leatherman and a rusty saw, awesome

enjoyed the cowboy shower, familiar


In between all this, I’ve nurtured the gardens

Planted new trees

Saved some flower seeds

had the world’s smallest wood burner installed, very very necessary

Completing all this has given me such a huge sense of achievement, creating an almost instant home, a place to lick my wounds was utterly necessary, siting it where I have was almost like a calling, one that I could not ignore

I have hope again, hope where there was none, a feeling that I never, ever want to feel again
It has filled my heart with joy, to see the land restore itself, hear the river running, listen to the buzzards playing, the owls calling at night all the sounds that were so familiar to me, the sounds that told me I was home, the sounds that gave me comfort and held me when nothing else could.
This is a place that welcomes me, enriches me and anchors me….the process is almost complete, it’s job almost done, it’s nearly time to move on, the shortening of the days offers time to rest and reflect, the dawning of the next chapter will emerge as the sun starts to rise in the sky and the days are no longer dark……

 

Advertisements

sad endings and new beginnings

the last thing I had that hadn’t been consumed or destroyed by the fire has now been swept away by a tsunami type flash flood on my land

The river broke over the top of the 8 foot high wall that borders the land, chucking burnt trees and branches, litter, lumps of coal and a tonne of top soil and ash all over my garden, it swept away all the trees, bulbs and herbs that I had been growing in pots, most of them have disappeared completely, no doubt littering someone else’s land downstream and blocking up the river

I am so completely heart broken by this turn of events that I can’t even cry anymore, I just shrugged and laughed……

So I’m off for a break, somewhere far away, where everything is white instead of black

where I am not constantly reminded of the grief that is consuming my life, where I can get a different perspective and not have to climb huge hurdles everyday just to stay on top of things, or fix something that is very broken or unfixable, or tidy up a terrible mess……..there’s only so much anyone can take until we break, I’m not waiting around to be broken by this, so I’ll cut my losses and get away before I too am so broken that I will be unfixable………

I am happily saying goodbye to 2017 and am looking forward to welcoming in the new year with an open heart and open mind………happy new year everyone

attachments

As the enormity of what’s happened starts to sink in, I’ve realised that I have less stuff now than when I left home at 17, the only difference is that I have a husband and two dogs, oh and some vehicles

Last year my best friend, a friend I had had for 34 years suddenly stopped communicating with me, whilst there may have been a myriad of reasons, it was hard to not take it personally, the grief and anger I had, overwhelmed me at times and ate away at me, the realisation that I would never have such a friendship again, it was 34 years worth of friendship, marriages, births, deaths, breakdowns and of course laughter, joy and all the other stuff of life…….

I realised that I would never have a friendship like that again, I don’t have enough time in front of me to formulate it….well I may have but I doubt very much that I will…….I learnt valuable lessons about myself and how much I had invested in something that could so easily be thrown or taken away…it was a hard lesson to learn

I can’t compare the loss of that friendship with the loss of a house, but the feelings are the same…..and I’m guessing the lessons are the same too……the attachments I had to my things, the things that I had collected from all over the world

the fabrics that I had dragged across Central and North America, literally on my back, overland, the amazing tin collection that had taken me since I was 17 to amass, mostly priceless and very rare…none of it I can or will ever have again, I can’t possibly conceive of starting it all again, so I won’t…it’s only stuff, it didn’t really matter, the attachment I had to it was probably unhealthy and to be honest I hardly ever looked at the tin collection, it never came out of it’s boxes and the fabrics I was too sentimental about to ever cut up of turn into something else…all a bit like a museum of my life….very Miss Haversham…..a bit depressing in a way

I think, on some level we would all like to be able to let go of something, but whilst that “something” is still in front of us or in existence, we can practice it and some may even achieve it, some pay a fortune for it, spending years meditating or living some kind of monastic life but do we ever really “let go”. It takes a certain kind of honesty to admit that a) you may have an attachment and then b) to admit that you haven’t really let go. This event has given me the opportunity to grow and understand in a way that obviously no-one would want, but it has happened and there’s nothing anyone can do about it, accepting it and learning from it, asking better questions and doing things differently is all that is required

so, here we go again

ourlifehandmade part two, stay tuned

falling or flying, the choice is yours

this latest experience (so far) has shown us who we really are and what we are capable of, the stuff we have inside, that can’t be incinerated by fires, or frozen solid by extreme cold

or swept away by flooding and landslides,  eaten up by earthquakes or consumed by erupting volcanoes…all of which we have experienced and seen

we can either use those resources we have inside to climb back up and crack on or allow the situation to take over and sink deeper into a pit of despair and misery……

we know what we are choosing……..

life

ourlifehandmade

Lidl breakdowns

Since the fire, I have obviously been grieving but also trying to get on with all the paperwork, logistical stuff, organising the dogs, sorting ourselves out, just on a basic level, with clothing etc..this has preoccupied me, in a good way…..now the ash has settled, life is returning, we are trying to take better care of ourselves, take time out together and apart, do some physical work, exercise, relax, laugh and spend time with friends

Sometimes I wake after only a few minutes of sleeping and weep as I’ve remembered something else that I will never see or touch again…..little things….the things that made up my life, the things I’d spent a life-time collecting or momentoes I’d kept, because of who’d given them to me or some special significance they had……..the things that told my story, treasures

I know on a philosophical level, those things don’t make me who I am, it’s besides the point, they were my things and now I don’t have them, I will never have them again, I know I can collect new things that will also have meaning and tell another story, but not that one…..that story has ended, the memories I will still have (until that fails me too)…….so now we have to build a new life with all the little bits and that is what I am finding hard to do

Every time I try to go food shopping, I go with a basic list, I come out with what I went in there for, but I always have a breakdown, I find myself staring at something on a shelf and crying…….today it was vanilla pods, they were available, and they were about €2 for one pod, it wasn’t the price or that they had never had them in Lidl before, it was that I have lost so much more than just the things that went towards making our life….I have lost the desire to cook…..this has never really happened to me before..

Those that know me or have followed the blog, will know that I love my food, I love growing it, I love cooking it, I love eating it and I love sharing it……I don’t love any of it now

I have spent my entire adult life collecting the perfect utensils

the hard to find spices, the most beautiful crockery, antique Georgian glasses, gorgeous tea towels, brilliant cookery books, handed down recipes


the list is endless, and everyday I remember something else….we can build a new home and we are starting our new story, the things will come when the time is right but that time is not now

 

there is no “normal” anymore

Like for many others in this area, there is no “normal” anymore, there’s  “before the fire”

and “after the fire”


for those of you that have followed our story and the one from before moving to Portugal, we have been constantly building since we married (21 years ago)…….

I had a home for a bit in the UK and then we built a new one….

which didn’t really become my home

we then moved to Portugal and rented various hovels!!

We’d been living in our new house for 2 years, but it was a building site most of the time, with no running hot water or bathroom, that was fine

I liked my outdoor bathroom and when the Rayburn was on there was always hot water on the stove top…..

We had almost finished all the very expensive and complicated plumbing which would have given us two sources of hot water

one from the Rayburn in the winter

and one from a solar water panel for the summer……….

we were two days away from filling up the tanks and testing the whole thing……

Having a home was the most wonderful thing, unpacking all our stuff which we hadn’t seen for years

getting it out, finding places for it, mounting pictures, paintings and photographs

actually being comfortable

cooking and eating amazing food from our gardens


harvesting for the winter


I had just finished making 120 litres of grape juice

we had, rather ironically just finished paying for and sorting out all the paperwork for a very expensive olive grove on the other side of the valley in front of the house, which has now exploded too……

having an actual life that wasn’t full of stress, hard labour, long hours……

I was so proud of the house, what we had done, how beautiful it was……ourlifehandmade

sadly that period has ended
that chapter of our lives was abruptly closed on the 15th October, a day and night that will forever be melted onto our hearts

please help us if you can :

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/sarah-and-rick-whitehead