If you travel down the long straight drive that leads to our house and turn sharp left at the end, you go past the white house where John lives, the cottage where Lisa lives and then on to our place at the very end. Three little plots living happily side by side along the edge of the river.
John is the very best neighbour and a good friend. He has lived here for close to thirty years and raised three children (now adults) amidst a beautifully overgrown garden that produces huge juicy plums by the bucket load and outrageously good lemonade lemons. He brings us fresh trout from the river, boned, filleted and marinating in his secret recipe marinade and he has been unfailingly helpful to me in dealing with any number of things including nasty cases of flystrike and tricky lambing situations. He warns us when the river gets too high and there is a need to be mindful of the flooding risk. He lives a wonderfully simple life, in what he calls his ‘piece of paradise’, wanting for little and completely happy with his lot.
Five nights ago, in the wee small hours of the morning, John’s house burned to the ground. He was away on a fishing trip and after we rescued his dear old dog from her kennel near his back door, all we could do was stare in horror and disbelief as the house was torched.
The ferocity and speed of the burning was frightening and it was terrifying and unbelievable to watch. There is nothing left. Cherished momentoes and reminders of the years of happy family times, the laughter, tears and special occasions are all gone.
It’s a hard lesson to learn and a solemn reminder of how fragile everything in this world is. How life can change in an instant and how possessions are such a small part of who we are. It’s made me think hard about our ‘stuff’. What really is precious to us and what I would want to save if ever we were placed in a similar situation.
This has been a tough week but the knot in the pit of my stomach is easing and we are finally sleeping better, no longer haunted by the memory of the house completely ablaze. We are slowly getting used to the sight of the burnt out remains where the house once stood and where now there is just a pile of blackened, broken timbers and twisted roofing iron.
John is still away on his fishing trip. He said there was nothing to come home to and he needed to do some thinking. Fair enough. In the meantime, the lovely old dog is happily ensconced in our back paddock chasing the chickens, we’ve installed two more smoke alarms into our house and the spare bed is made up and awaiting his return.
Life does go on and I know that in time things will be much better for John. Maybe he’ll rebuild? A beautifully simple little house where he is able to live completely off the grid? Maybe he will park up under one of his apple trees in a caravan or tent for the rest of the summer while he decides what to do? Whatever he does decide, I hope he stays around. We would really miss his cheery waves in the morning, the sound of his shotgun reverberating through the air in duck-shooting season and the sight of him dozing in the late afternoon sun with the newspaper at his feet.
Kia kaha my friend. Aroha nui xx