The Gift

Lily’s View from his new home:


The night before Valentines Day the fireplace damper shut down while I was sitting on the couch with my dogs gazing into the fire. The only other glow came from a cluster of twinkling star – like lights that were arranged on top of some pinion boughs on the tall chest. Because I was seated on a low piece of furniture I never noticed the smoke streaming out of the fireplace climbing high into the rafters.

When I heard Lily B my bird make a strangled sound from the place he was roosting on top of a ceiling fan, I turned around. Terror stricken, I couldn’t see him because Lily B was engulfed by smoke. Screaming his name over and over I jumped up, ripped the rug and threw logs away from the door, opened it and ran out to the storehouse to get a fan. Once back inside I climbed a ladder up to his perch but Lily was gone. More panic. I screeched “ Lily, where are you” weeping uncontrollably. And then I heard the flutter of wings as Lily flew up from the floor answering my frantic call. Grabbing my poor bird, I stuffed him into a cage and placed him outside the front door, praying that he would not die from smoke inhalation

My two Chihuahuas were on alert but under the radar as the smoke poured out the door. Strangely, the room didn’t clear and my lungs hurt, my eyes burned as the room continued to fill with smoke. A friend arrived and it was then that we discovered that the damper had closed by itself. I had been using this fireplace for 5 months and had never had a damper problem until this night. But the tell tale sooty black adobe bricks above the fireplace suggested that there had been serious problems before. We poured water on the fire until it went out…

Just before this incident occurred I had been thinking seriously about moving out because major construction around the house was about to begin. I had come to New Mexico to write, renting this house because it gave me a place to land after driving across country. My first shock occurred when the wild dogs that roamed the area awakened me very single night at 3 AM. And then there was the house, a virtual steam bath from a fierce summer sun that streamed in from the southwest windows. And yet, it never occurred to me that the studio I had rented for such a ridiculous price was non functional. A broken window, a torn screen that took six weeks to fix, gas leaks, one of which was never fixed, doors that wouldn’t lock, absolutely no attempt to winterize the structure, plumbing and water pressure issues, and finally the lack of working radiant heat and a refusal to issue a dump card until I threatened to withhold the outrageous rent had left me feeling betrayed and very angry.

Equally disturbing, the property manager violated my rental contract rendering it invalid by her continuous invasions during the first two months I was here, a fact I was now grateful for. She entered the studio when I wasn’t home without my permission and sent others to the house without letting me know beforehand. Someone hit one of my Chihuahuas because this once friendly outgoing little creature now bit men.

Fortunately I have developed a few friendships with caring people and had a place to go when this fire became the straw that broke this proverbial camel’s back. With help from friends I moved out.

Lily B somehow miraculously survived the fire, just as he had survived a brutal attack by some animal, just a month after we moved to this place. I believe that the threats to his life were dire warnings not just for him but for me. Because I am in relationship with all living things, but especially intimate with my own animals I often get information from what happens to them.

I remember so clearly the dream I had just after arriving in New Mexico last August that something was going to happen to Lily, and I awakened frightened, for him and for me. A short time ago I had another dream that Lily was going to die, and once again, fear struck. Yet he has been spared twice. Gratitude flows out of me like the river that wends it’s way by my door.

Leaving a chaotic and unstable situation for a peaceful sand colored structure so close to the river has made me realize that I had been living on a threatening knife-edge ever since I had come to these mountains of New Mexico. I am proud that I managed to deal with all the house problems and learned to accept what was, making the best out of the situation. I refused to allow ongoing house issues to detract from my love of this high desert. I took pleasure in every sunset, every mountain view, every weather change, every petroglyph hike, every Tewa dance, every canyon, art museum, movie, Mexican dinner, I could go on and on here. But most of all I feel profound gratitude for  the great generosity and support of friends who cared enough to help me.What else could I ask for?

Below, Lily basking in the sun.