Friday, May 9, 2014

The road to recovery

Is the road to recovery ever smooth?  Are there usually roadblocks that pop up now and then?  Yes on both counts.  Along with occasional detours and potholes.

While we were in the middle of trying to clean up what was left of our previous life I had thoughts that I would attempt to create new art from things I was finding.

And there was a lot to find.  A lot of metal bits, pottery chunks and a whole lot of glass.  In my workshop I kept sheet glass in a couple of different places.  A bit of it was stored horizontally under my work table.  That glass heated and when I tried to recover it it had become brittle.  The mass of color that you see above was all glass that was stored vertically in a wooden storage cabinet.  During the fire it had heated and in my mind I believe that the wooden dividers of the cabinet added needed fuel to help it all melt down into a huge slump.

Although it doesn't appear to be much glass in the case it was pretty full.  On the far right side was hundreds of square feet of clear waterglass and glue chip.  Within was an assortment of greens and blues.

Relaxing in front of the cabinet is Little One.  He was a most amazing cat to work with and will be missed.  Little One was one of the nine cats to perish during the fire.

During clean up I also gathered hunks of metal, aluminum from my wheel rims that had melted and reformed into new shapes.  Instantly I thought they would be interesting to work with.

A chunk of glass from the burned cabinet.  Here greens had stood next to white and black glass among other colors.  When they all melted together it resulted in this piece that I broke apart from a much larger piece.

The blues.  There is a fair amount of glass such as this mixed blues mass. A bit of the remelted glass has charred wood embedded with in it.

Combining the elements.  Here I've taken fused glass chunks and wrapped them with wire.  And the same has been done with the aluminum pieces.  Suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.  Measures 20 inches long by 9 inches wide.

This design and more are available in my Etsy shop

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The chimney stands alone

After the flames where put out and the smoke had cleared the chimney stood awkwardly alone.  Once the center of the home where we all had gathered during the chill of winter and occasionally in spring and fall when the temps were chilly,  now its future unsure as it swayed dangerously.  It was decided that it would not be allowed to stand as a reminder that some kind of dwelling had existed at its feet, it would be forced to crumble and fall to the ground.

The insurance company was good about paying us for the house and our contents.  We have been able to find another home and we are slowly rebuilding our lives.  Its amazing how quickly things add up when you are trying to replace ---everything.  I signed up for a campaign on GoFundMe and I have to say it feels a bit awkward asking for help.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Poking through the remains--following the signs

 After we were given approval by the insurance company and clean up began in earnest some bits and pieces of our lives before the fire made themselves apparent in ways that I can only describe as signs. As in I felt we were given signs of where to search for items of value hidden within and under all of the rubble. Were they from a higher power?  This I don't know.  Were they merely coincidence?  Of course, that's a possibility as well.

Where do you start cleaning something like this up?  We started with gathering all of the metals and sorted them before hauling them away.  The easiest thing to have happened next would to have been to bulldoze it all on top of itself and call it a day.  That idea just didn't feel right, at least not at this point.  I made the decision that I would sort through all the areas that I could.  The fire and water to put the fire out compromised two areas--the long excavated basement wall that was part of the two bedrooms in the basement and the wall by the staircase that connected the basement to the first floor.  These walls had caved in and were dangerous to search in.  All other areas within the house were covered in a thick layer of ash, debris, charred wood, etc.

Room by room I sifted through the bits.  The china cabinet that was on the first floor and now scattered on the basement floor held items that I had inherited from my father, a reverend in the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.  I had hopes of at least finding his crosses that were made of metal and perhaps some other small trinkets.  I did not realize that here I would be given the first of signs.

While digging through the area shown above part of a small plate caught my eye, probably because of the cats on it.  So, I started digging a little deeper and this was were I found my first set of remains of one of my cats.  All that was left was bones, the long bones of the leg along with some ribs.  It was then and there that I realized that my mission now included searching for them.  The fire burned incredibly hot and the things I was hearing from people was that there would be no parts of any of the cats left.  Apparently, this was not true and now I knew I had to find them.

Within a few feet of the first set of remains I found my second set, again not complete. The bones I kept protected and safe. The remaining area was searched and bits of metal, fused glass and bits of pottery salvaged and then I was on to the next room.

The bedroom held nothing besides bits of metal and it wasn't until I was in the second bedroom that the next sign appeared.   It was the remains of a partially burned book and when I picked up this mound of paper I opened it up to the page below.  Its hard to see but is the haunting image of a cat staring directly at the viewer.  The area surrounding this book held yet another set of remains.

During the preliminary basic search I had pulled this ceramic cat from the debris.  I was really amazed at the condition that I found it in.  Its fully intact while items of a similar nature just didn't make it without at least cracking.  This was really surprising considering that it used to sit on the first floor next to the wood stove and now its on the basement floor.  You can see the fallen broken brick and block on the ground that I found it next to.  The cat was originally white glaze now an aged gray charred patina covers it.  Once I returned to this area for a more thorough search I found my last set of bones bringing that total found within the house debris to four.  Two additional cats were found in my workshop area and another on the ground floor under a wall that the firefighters had pulled down while trying to contain the blaze that night.  Finding those two was especially painful in that they were mostly intact.

Of the nine cats that we shared our lives with six were found.  All of the remains were then taken for cremation so they would all be together.  I was given guidance by a friend who told me that for the cats that I could not find to include a bit of ash as a symbolic remembrance.

The ashes were given to me in box covered with paw prints while the gray cat looks on.  The stuffed horsie was a gift from Lupina, a German Sheppard friend with a heart of gold.  I don't know if she realized how much comfort holding the soft furry horse brought me while I was remembering my lost loved furkids. The cremains, the ceramic cat and the horse all remain together now that we've moved into our new place and have found a safe place in the kitchen where I visit them everyday.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

The aftermath...poking through the remains

I haven't published or shared any of these pics until now.  I walked around after the fire with my camera taking shots of things and that's were the photos stayed until recently when I finally downloaded them.  The fire was so recent occurring just over two months ago.  Sometimes it feels like this has all happened to someone else, its like it just can't be real.  But, of course, I know its happened.

Here's a handful of shots from February 2, just a few days after the fire.  The insurance adjuster had already been on site, at this point we were waiting for approval to begin the task of cleaning up.

 Left front of the house from street view
 From the front looking across what was my workshop
 What are lovely colors like this doing in a mess like that?
 Smoldering for days afterwards
 Looking down on what was my bedroom and were I was sleeping when the fire broke out
 It stands alone.  Don't blame the chimney and the wood we burned, the fire was electrical.
 The last stick standing.  
 All cooked out--the remains of the kitchen that fell into the basement
 Scrap metal remains
Mangled chard mess of what used to be a happy home

2 months after the fire that changed everything

I spent a few minutes trying to come up with a name for this blog today.  Burning Down the House seems pretty appropriate.  In late January my house burned down, a total devastating loss. My husband and I were able to get out of the house with the clothes on my back, nothing more. Within a few days I had gotten my hands on a camera and started snapping off photos with the intent of sharing them at some point. 

The past couple of months have been spent cleaning up the site of the fire along with starting to rebuild our lives one step at a time.   And trying to stay sane which is a job in itself.  

Loosing everything all of a sudden out of no where is really a life changing experience.  I've never been through a disaster before.  The absolute worse thing of this disaster is loosing all of our furkids.  All nine of our cats were trapped in the fire, none were saved.  They haunt my thoughts and my dreams. Some had been with us for a number of years and some were rescued within the last few years.  Each one was so very special, I plan to include tributes to each one here.