A New Path
This photograph was
taken at the ruins of 1925 Dartmouth, the site of my beloved
Sierra Paloma, a Queen Ann Victorian that was the first house built in the town
of my birth, Bessemer Alabama. It went up in 1887 and burned down in 2008. At
the moment this picture was taken, a bulldozer was scooping up load after load
of my life's debris into a dump truck parked at 20th and Dartmouth, destined for
the Bessemer landfill. I had been going through the remains of this fine old
home, since the ashes cooled after the December 13th
Day after day I
would sift and search on site, and then go back to my mother's house at
dusk, filthy with black ash, soot and mud. Sometimes I carried a precious piece
of my past that had somehow escaped the fire and water damage of that awful
I knew the primitive
Haitian art piece you see in the photograph was
hand welded and made of a resilient metal and should have survived, if only I
could uncover it. It had stood in the window of the “period bathroom,” the
bathroom with the original claw foot tub that
vandals stole the day after the fire. I just knew the art piece was
there, somewhere, and that it would only be a matter of time before I found it.
It was hard to tell the exact location of the window it had stood in because
that area was just mounds of ash, burnt wood and debris of all kinds. My
sister-in-law, Karen Shadix, was with me as we frantically searched just ahead
of the bulldozer. Karen’s keen eye led her to snatch the piece up, camouflaged
as it was in black smudge, and hand it to me. "If I'd had me a fire rake, I
would have found this sooner!" I had my camera with me because I wanted to try
and catch the toppling of the tallest of the chimneys.
I shook off clumps
of mud-soaked ash and held the piece in the sky with one hand and shot it just
as the bulldozer operator gave me a yell to clear the area. It was a triumph
and a badly needed one at that emotional low point in my life. It's now been
scrubbed and cleaned and soaked in WD-40 (rust was already starting it's feast)
and is with the other salvaged mementoes propped, stacked and piled in my mom's
and sister's garages.
found two claw feet from the old tub, and I'm making them into bookends. The
vandals who stole the tub may have a problem setting it up!
I have now had my
much-needed ankle fusion surgery done, and am healing from that physical aspect.
Spiritually, I am on a new path. I am not sure where this path will lead. I
don't even know which side of the country I will be spending most of my time,
but I do know I am going forward, and life is once again the happy, treacherous
adventure I've always known it to be, so down the path I go.
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