Aug 12, 2010

the not knowing

Around 7:00 on Saturday night James and I were getting ready to go over to a friend’s  for dinner when I heard banging sounds outside the bathroom window.  I looked out and saw the front of my neighbor’s house entirely engulfed in flames - a floor to ceiling, roaring, uncontrollable blaze.  I immediately called 911 only to hear the disconcerting message “911 please hold”.  

While I was on hold James ran next door to see if any of the family of five were home.  He found the owner working on something in his back yard.  The fire, probably electric, started and spread so fast that he was totally unaware that the front of his house was even on fire. He just stood there helplessly and cried until the fire department came.  Luckily the rest of his family wasn’t home.  All are safe, including their german shepherd named Hope, who James picked up and moved over the fence into our backyard. 

By the time I got off the phone and into the front yard, the flames were through the attic and about fifteen feet from our house.  After what felt like an hour but was probably only five minutes, the firemen came and put it out, sprayed the entire inside of the house with water and gutted the front of the house.  Neighbors stood in the street and watched with wide-eyed amazement at the whole scene.  Slowly the rest of the family arrived to see their house full of fireman, smoke and water. 

The whole experience was another slap in the face reminder that you never know from one moment to the next what life is going to bring. One minute I’m putting saran wrap over a bowl of orzo I made for a dinner party and telling my husband how nice he looks, and the next minute I’m standing in my front yard watching my neighbor’s house burn.  My friend Robert respects the "state of not knowing".  Or as he puts it, "recognizing it as an enormous domain, a divine domain even, a place of reverence in which our egos find peace.”   I like the idea that the dance between order and chaos has room, plenty of room, like enough room for a Ziegfeld Follies movie set, with a white stair case and a chorus line of girls with giant pink feathered fans.  


  1. Wow, what a scary event. Glad everybody is okay.

  2. Great writing, Melissa. I think painters get used to living with with uncertainty and not knowing.

  3. Hey Melissa Suzy Q is an alias for me, Susan Maakestad. I don't know why the above comment didn't use my real name. Maybe this one won't either.