Bee looks down to see a new scuff mark on the toe of her right L.L. Bean duck boot. She smiles to herself; the first imprint of wear being made today. These boots aren’t right, they are the right size and the right style; but they’re not her boots—not yet. Her boots are gone. Gone with the rest of her things and cherished belongings. Gone with her home and her garden. Swelled up in wildfire and turned into ash.
Bee and Luke spent the following weeks digging through the ash and wet dirt of the aftermath. What was left of their home and tangible memories were insignificant. A home she had grown into and made their own, now just a mere plot of land surrounded by fire damaged trees and charred grass. When they were told to evacuate, they didn’t have time to reason with what to bring and what to leave behind. Naturally, their safety and the dogs came first. When it came down to items and sentiments, they didn’t have time. Bee grabbed an overnight bag and shoved a pair of socks, two pairs of underwear, jeans, and a sweater. She climbed into the car with her slippers on. Together, they drove. Away from the carnage, the flames and the blackened smoke that was suffocating the sky.
They had their lives. That was all that mattered. Their things could be replaced, were not as important; but she did miss them. Not the things exactly, but the memories that they carried with them. Her duck boots had been gifted to her from Luke their first Christmas together, almost 8 years ago now. Her boots were worn, stained and to be completely honest smelled so bad that Luke made her keep them in the garage. But they were hers, they were molded to her perfectly. She’d traveled the country with those boots. She’d ventured through the snow late at night with Luke and the pups, the moon their only source of light. They’d been with her through almost everything—and now they were gone. Those Goddamn awfully smelly boots.
She’d gotten a new pair, the ones she wears now. It didn’t replace the void. It wasn’t necessarily the boots she grieved, but it was everything: their home, their land, her garden, their livelihood, starting over. For Bee, there is nothing more insecure than not having a home.
Luke and Bee were able to stay with her parents across the state while they, “got back on their feet.” She borrowed blouses and pajamas from her mom, Luke oversized t-shirts from her father. Everything she had was lost, they had to start from scratch: on the pull-out couch in her parent’s dusty basement.
Bee looks down again at the scuff mark on her new boot. She can hear Luke behind her inspecting the soil and the plants along the rim of the property. The dogs panting from wrestling with each other, exhausted from their ability to play undisturbed in such a large plot. Bee looks up and sees the lake front ahead of her, just a slight 100 yards away. Luke said they can get a canoe, or a kayak. Something to take out onto the water during the early mornings on the weekends. Their own little sliver of paradise. Bee begins to make her way around the property more, Luke was so excited when he found the listing online,
“A fresh start,” he said, “We can build a small house here, wake up every day on the edge of the lake.”
It did seem promising, and even exciting too Bee. A place of their own again. A place where the dogs could run, a new place to start her seedlings that were sprouting on her mother’s kitchen windowsill. A home. It would take time, and money of course. Luke had argued they’d have all the time in the World, and the amount of money they were saving living with her parents was a plus. They lived minimally now. Only a few items of clothing, the bare necessities. When you’ve had everything you own crumble into ash, you develop a new perspective of tangible items. Bee no longer needed a variety of jeans in different shades and shapes. Luke still cherished reading, but no longer obsessed over keeping his shelf overstocked and on display. They joked with each other about their new way a life, each seeing a different side of themselves emerge from the ashes. Still as utterly compatible as before, and ironically, happier. More peaceful. Of course, they mourned their home and pitied themselves for awhile, but eventually that had to end. They had to begin moving forward, together.
“It’s perfect, isn’t it?” Luke said as he approached Bee looking out onto the lake.
“It really is,” she replied, “and we can make this work?”
“We will make this work.” She turned to face him. Luke grabbed her at the waist, and she wrapped her arms around his neck.
“Let’s make this work, then.” Bee was smiling now, brighter than ever. Smiling at the possibility of this new life they could build. Smiling at the gifts they had been given when everything else was taken away from them. She was ready, she was ready to take this step. To be vulnerable in this new future, knowing now that nothing is every guaranteed—but that won’t stop them from trying.
Luke grabbed Bee’s hand and they began walking away from the plot of land, the dogs following close behind, when something caught her eye.
“Wait, what’s that?” Bee started in the direction, towing Luke with her. Tucked away in the corner of the brush was an old fire pit. The circular brick wall crumbling now, but inside were remnants of old ashes. Within the ashes, wildflowers made their way through. They blossomed a variety of colors: reds, purples, blues, and oranges. They had flourished here, their roots set deep, they rose through the ashes. Bee didn’t even notice she had started to cry when a tear rolled down her cheek, she reached down and plucked a bright purple wildflower. Her own reminder that fire cannot destroy everything, and in some instances: it even creates life.