Fire on the Mountain

When the above fire broke out behind my house just a few weeks after Lance passed (actually the day after Lance’s birthday), I thought “Okay, this might actually push me over the edge.” As thousands were on a pre-evacuation warning, it beckoned the question “What would I take?” I know people always say pictures…but I was thinking letters…which I had just come across a box full of letters Lance and I had written each other over the years.

After the fire was no longer a threat and the slight sense of panic resided, it made me want to purge…like crazy. I started asking myself, “How would I feel if I lost this in a fire?” and if I wouldn’t miss it, I’ve been donating or tossing it. It’s been a good exercise for me because I realized how replaceable most things are. I’m not saying I wouldn’t be slightly traumatized if my house burned down but I realize that very little I have matters…beside my kids and dog. I mean I already had that lesson over the year but now I felt the need to do something about all the “stuff.” I thought about when you die you leave all these material things behind so why are they so important in this life? When Lance and I would go on our big trips to Asia, we would bring very little and I never missed a thing.

People sometimes ask me what I’ve been doing. Now you know. My sister and I filled three big bags of my clothes and I immediately gave them away. My friend Tiphaine and I practically took shovels into my kids bedroom and cleaned out their room. Every drawer, closet, and room in the house and eventually my attic is getting the big purge and it feels really really good. I’m recruiting more friends to continue the process and for anyone who wants to go at it in my garage is welcome.

I’ve always been a purger (my sisters would disagree but that’s because they are minimalist) but this particular time it feels extremely freeing and cleansing and clearing and just opening up the energy for new beginnings. I am not saying I am ready to move on…but I am willing to do anything and everything that helps me along in this process. I don’t want to be weighted down with stuff. There’s something about uncluttering, freeing the energy, not holding onto stuff….literally and figurtively. It’s amazing the amount of stuff that accumulates.

In case you are wondering if I have gone through Lance’s stuff, my initial reaction was not to touch a thing just in case he came back (I mean he did really look like Jesus when he died) but realized that’s not exactly moving on. I do a little bit here and there and I am trying not to feel too attached to his belongings. I’ve realized that I’ve got the best of him in my kids and his ever present spirit. So far I’ve gone through his clothes and have given the majority of them to his friends and family. I realized I wanted to spread him around and see his friends wearing his clothes and that would make me happy. I kept some ratty beloved t-shirts and sleep with one every night. My kids also kept a collection of his favorite t-shirts and wear them to bed or in Amélie’s case…all the time.

I’m saving the letters for a rainy day.

In the meantime, I’m purging. I encourage you all to do it too. It’s unbelievable addicting and liberating.


18 thoughts on “Fire on the Mountain

  1. OK, so I’m even more inspired by your wise and timely words. It’s so easy to get bogged down in stuff! The kids books and mementos are the hardest to go through for sentimental reasons. I save too much of that with no place to store. I’m gonna hit it all this weekend! Thank you! I always am so excited to read your words. You are really a very talented writer.

  2. So true… Very freeing to purge. We in the western world constantly surround ourselves with stuff… And ironically, in the greatest hour of our need.. They don’t necessarily serve us…

    You’re amazing.

  3. Dunbar and I accepted a house-sitting gig in the mountains, off Poorman, for the school year. We’re renting our pad on Alpine to a lovely couple from Toronto. In this process, we took all of our belongings with us, except the furniture. OMG. I know what we’ll be doing this winter. Love – Julia

  4. Nance, I am so with you. I have been purging as well and it feels amazing. I remember when our friends lost their home in the Sunshine fire the same questions came up for me. What do I really value and why am I holding on to all these things? It’s a great way clear out the old and open for new energy to pour in. Let me know if you need more help!

  5. How hard to let go and how joyful to set free! I moved every two years of my life so I was accustomed to living and packing light until my present home. It’s been over twenty years now… ( gasp) and suddenly I’m aware of STUFF. Ours, the kids, things I saved in case the kids might need it someday, ect. When Mom sold the farm to Sarah she took only a few belongings and walked away from the rest, some of which have taken residency in my basement. After helping her move and helping Sarah and Dan get rid of the flotsom that was left, I realized that “Simplify!” was more than a philosophy and should be considered a mantra. Now, slowly I go through the cupboards, the closets, the drawers and try to envision the contents moving on. I’m proud of you Nancy working towards your goal of ‘less is more” and I’ll use your example to refocus my attempt to pass on those items that are no longer needful. Thinking of you often and loving you always, Linda Lee

  6. When our friend Andy died, his wife Amanda gave all of the guys his clothes. It is still fun 5 years later to see someone show up to a party in one of his shirts or his ugg boots. It puts a smile on all of our faces.

    XOXO Missie

  7. Love it…tossed out no less than 20 T-shirts last night! It’s good for the soul.

    Thanks for the reminder, Nance!

    Love, Andy

  8. Love this post. It’s exactly how my family felt the healing we needed after our house fire.

    And it’s funny you said LG looked like Jesus, cuz that’s what we’d always call him at work, L-Jesus!

    Love you!

  9. Purging is my great love. I am with you in spirit. If you need a purge pal, I am on the next plane. I think about you everyday.

  10. Purging is so very cathartic on so many levels, what a great thing to do! After the loss of my brother I felt completely out of sorts and disorganized and while it seemed that I was organized on the outside, my feelings were reflective on how I felt inside. As my family purged over the course of a year, it helped to sort my feelings and bring a sense of togetherness…which I had not felt since he died. After dismantling his life and donating most of his belongings to charity (in Boulder, where he died) it changed my entire outlook on “stuff” because you can’t take it with you when you leave this world. I hope your days are filled with more cathartic activities as you move through the cycle of grief. You are so brave to share your thoughts with us and while I am an infrequent commenter, I always look forward to reading your latest entries. Love from Venice.

  11. When I read this blog the first thing that came to mind was what I have kept since my daughter Dove died in 1995- the little white shoes with the colored pokadots. Every once in a while ( I am a big purger of stuff as well) I come upon them in the box with my mother’s wedding dress (that I wore for an earlier wedding myself). I don’t know if I shall throw them out- but it would certainly be ok if a fire took them.
    I think all your impulses to move on are correct- but you know the process has its own lovely wisdom- and some of that is as quiet and slow as the fog along the shore in the morning.
    While I am in Oregon exploring the coast with Doug for this month- we must meet this fall. I would love that! Be well, wake up slowly, I hope Lance is visiting in dreams. So much love coming your way, shana

  12. You are a great inspiration to me Nance. I have just thrown away all the magazines in our house, well I save a few but you have great power of persuasion and I decided I have to purge myself of stuff that doesn’t do anything to enrich my life Next to the closet to continue getting rid of stuff. I have lots to do and thank you for making me feel motivatied and relieved.

  13. Nancy, I was in the middle of a purging fit in our house and this post inspired me to go on. You are so right in saying that you have the best of Lance right here with you – in your kids and in the many ways he touched other people’s lives. So much more important than “things”.
    About the purging: the getting rid of stuff is all fine and well, but how do we stop superfluous stuff coming into the house in the first place? That’s my dilemma. I get rid of stuff but then a few months later it all gets cluttered up again. Damn that Nordstrom Rack 🙂
    Miriam xx

  14. Nance,

    Thanks for the writing. I am a notorious purger and still grapple with “attachments” to things that clearly I don’t need….

    After a hiatus from purging, I am back in action and it does feel wonderful.

    You continue to amaze me-

    And, with regard to your last post on music, I am not quite there yet with Justin Beiber-Ani hasn’t hit the genre yet, but stuff I was enjoying at last music infuse: Alela Diane, M’Shell Ndegeocello and Alicia Keys first album, Songs in A minor.



    ps.I loved your wedding CD and listened to it over and over long after your fabulous celebration of love.

  15. Hi Nancy, I just got the opportunity to catch up on some of your beautiful posts… thank you so much for sharing. I love reading your blog, and love great memories of lovely Lance-o-lot. I’m going to work on making it out on Oct. 7th. Would love to catch up and share all of the great memories and celebrate Lance with you all. xo

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