Our house burned down in 2008 and in an instant, everything about our lives changed. I was reduced to only the clothes on my back at the time of the fire: a white nightie. Barefoot and cold, I couldn’t believe I was actually watching the house burn, watched as memories and valuable things went up in smoke, taken away in less than twenty minutes.
We slowly began the painful process of arguing with the insurance carrier and negotiating our policy limits with our lender, who was also experiencing troubles of their own: they became insolvent shortly thereafter. We went from one fire to another.
In the meantime, I began cutting pictures out and looking at what I wanted the rest of my life to look like, what my next house would look like.
I stumbled upon a great book: Moving On, by Sarah Ban Breathnach. She talked about putting back together the pieces of her life after a painful and all too public divorce. I could relate. My life felt like one big ugly public divorce, even though my husband and I were still married.
She talks about how there is this special relationship between a woman and her house. She even suggests that some women don’t really want a divorce, they just want a new house. How important it is to have a House of Belonging. A place where good things happen, a stage, a canvas, a blank page.
Soon after the fire, and during the creative endeavor of creating a new house, I began to write. And the writing healed me. Fed me. I stumbled, quite by accident, on my true calling.
I’m going to quote her because Sarah says it much more beautifully than I ever could. As a romance novelist, these words touch the seat of my soul:
“…meditating on the emotion women feel when they fall in love at first sight with men; I’m the one making the leap to house fever because I’ve succumbed to both. Suddenly, without warning (or so it seems) the trajectory of a woman’s life changes, becoming “a vicarious route to some essential part of herself that she does not yet fully recognize or understand.” The Beloved becomes “the heroic territory she longs to occupy.”
She thinks she’s found him–or home. Interestingly, the name of the greatest lover of all time, Casanova, means “new house.”