Thursday, November 1, 2012

Home Is Where

The 4 of Wands says the party is at your house. The event is in your yard. You are the hostess. You welcome someone. The number 4 signifies stability; wands are associated with the alchemical element of fire. The stability of fire is the hearth, perhaps the perfect blend of things that seem opposite. When fire is allowed to burn within its useful boundaries, like a fireplace, furnace or oven, it warms and welcomes. The key is managing all of the circumstances to keep the fire stable but still burning.

That applies to a lot of things for me lately.
Just in case you aren’t in touch with the baseball world, there’s been this little annual event called the World Series going on. Now, as an aside, our World Series is just barely international. I’ve always felt just a teensy bit embarrassed at the American tendency to think that we’re the whole world. However, when my team, my San Francisco Giants win the whole thing, including a sweep of four consecutive games once they actually got to the World Series, I overcome my embarrassment quickly.
My guys are funny. They are amazing athletes. They are an ensemble, a constellation. Not to diminish MVP awards, but the thing that characterizes my team is that they worked with each other for a collective stellar performance. It’s a team sport, after all. It’s hard for me to choose a favorite. Posey has Galahad looks. Pence pumps them up with inspirational speeches. Pagan kept catching and hitting and stole a base that granted a lot of people a free taco between 4 and 6 pm last Tuesday. “Panda” Sandoval hit three home runs in one World Series Game. And there was pitching. And catching. And throwing. And hitting. It’s not like the teams they played were pushovers. My guys worked hard. I delighted in Sergio Romo’s jumping-jack happiness and enthusiasm. Did I leave anyone out? I didn’t mean to. They were all terrific.

My only disappointment is that I never saw the monogrammed handkerchief I mailed to “Mad Bum” Madison Bumgarner. May he use it in good health! GO GIANTS!!

We have been glued to Giants baseball television for some time but I did drag myself away last weekend to gather with my friends for our 20th fall gathering. Our first night all those years ago was spent on our hostess’ living room floor the night Polly Klaas was taken from her bedroom. She is always on our minds when we gather, symbolizing the fragility of life.

This time we went back to the fantastic house in Ft. Bragg, California where we stayed last year. We’ve all had a lot going on, so instead of staying up talking all night, we gave it up around 10:30 pm Friday. I left my door open so I could hear the ocean waves. We went to our own little almost-Night Circus, Zoppe Circus, an old-fashioned Italian family circus. The acrobats! The trick ponies! The clowns. Well at least, they were not scary clowns. The trick chickens! It was magic or just close enough.

We laughed because there was a tsunami warning from earthquakes off British Columbia, trying to figure out if the seaweed line was a foot or so higher than the day before. We heard there was a big storm, Hurricane Sandy, about to make landfall. We checked the latest path. It didn’t look good.

I had talked to one of my co-workers the Friday before. He was concerned about his house in New Jersey near the beach. He had lost his house, his whole town he said, with the previous big hurricane.

Monday was eerily quiet at work. Half the people I needed to talk to were hunkered down, bracing against the storm. I reached out to a few of them. A house was creaking. Trees had fallen. People were told to work from home. Then silence.

The next day it was still quiet, but those of us who could work kept things going as well as we could. We stole glimpses of the photo evidence of damage coming in. Atlantic City’s boardwalk. The fire in Queens. The sand, the boats and cars in all the wrong places, houses gone. The Bounty sank. Water poured into the deep hole that is still part of the construction site at the Twin Towers site. Dogs and cats and people scooped out of danger. Manhattan was dark.

Halloween came and I bought my candy to give away. We had executed the perfect pumpkin on the garage door, my husband’s idea. One black plastic garbage bag, a pair of scissors and some blue painter’s tape, and our house had a jack-o’-lantern. We set up the tent, the chairs, the table and the lights. We handed out handfuls of candy and I read cards for the moms and big sisters. We cooed over the ladybugs and shivered at the zombies. The sprinkles became a downpour and suddenly the four posts of our tent became shelter from our little storm, all that and candy too.

Somewhere in the night, the neighborhood stray cat slipped into the garage. We call her “Walternette”, the feminine feline form of TV’s Fringe’s main character’s doppelganger in an alternate universe, “Walternate.” Our furry doppelganger looks a lot my Tony at first glance, a big brown tabby with a pleasant disposition. She stayed there all night, then called up the stairs to us. I padded downstairs to greet her.

“Yeow,” Walternette said with a swish and a purr.

“You’re welcome,” I answered as I let her out, my temporary hospitality having sheltered one more soul from the damp.

More east coast people checked in today. Some had been without power for as little as 36 hours. They think New Jersey will run out of gasoline next week between people needing their cars and running generators. I still haven’t heard from my co-worker. His part of New Jersey looks like some of the hardest hit.

I hope somewhere out there, those whose homes are washed away or burned or buried in sand or out of power or just out of reach can find a welcoming hearth to rest their unsettled lives for a moment.

Our homes seem like the most secure of places and we laugh about what could go wrong when trouble seems so far away. It only takes a wave, a wind, a melting hunk of ice to snatch away that fragile stability of fire. Cherish the hearth as it is too soon gone.

Best wishes.

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