September 5, 2011
I spent the day in Slave Lake checking on my lot. Most of the debris has been cleared away. The square hole where the foundation had stood has lost its shape. The sides sloping inwards rather than being squared as they once were. The occasional utilities pipe poking up from the ground. The back yard area is now overgrown with weeds and wild bushes. The land is no longer flat, but roughed up from the emergency equipment and the removal equipment. “Danger – Do Not Enter” signs placed strategically along the steel fences that enclose the area where the house once stood. Now it looks like an abandoned city lot, with litter accumulating against the fences.
(This photograph, taken by Jim Meldrum, is an aerial view of my property after the wildfire and the debris removal. My lot is the last one on the left.)
If this were a piece of property I had just purchased and planned to build a new house on, my emotions would be different. I would be excited. Eagerly exchanging ideas on where my bedroom will be, where I will situate the kitchen sinks, what window I will look out of when I’m in my office. I would be walking around the overgrown back yard, pointing out where I would put a tree. Discussing the merits of one type of tree over the other. I would be planning where the front flowerbeds would go. On which side of the house the front door would be located: in the middle or closer to the driveway.
But it’s not a fresh piece of land, waiting for a new family to embrace it. Instead, it looks abandoned and worn out. It’s a piece of tired land that needs a lot of tender loving care to bring it back to its glory days.
I have now had to make my home in a city three hours south. My need to create a home for my son and I requires that I integrate into my new community. Our financial needs require that I find new employment in this new community. That means new connections, possibly even a new career.
In order to create a home out of the house we are living in, we need to feel comfortable in this new space. This requires a certain level of attachment to our immediate surroundings. Special items, given to us by friends to help make this house our home, are strategically placed on shelves, dressers, and on the walls. Dishes, pots, and food are placed in particular areas of the kitchen. Furniture is arranged in order to maximum space and increase comfort.
As the months go by, the “temporary” mentality is slowly receding. My new house and community are feeling more like home. I’m noticing the beauty of my neighbourhood. I’m relishing in the green spaces that frequent the city. When I drive by an interesting park or path that leads into a strand of trees, I make a mental note to check that out at a later date. I begin to notice how enjoyable this forced displacement to the city is becoming. The area I travel within helps me to forget that I’m in a large urban centre. As I settle into my new home in the city, my ties to Slave Lake are unraveling.
For more details about the wildfire that burned down my house, along with many other homes, see my blogs under the category “Slave Lake Wildfires.”