House on Fire

Burning Bush painting I did several
years ago and donated to
a fund-raising auction.
“It burns but it is not consumed.”

Over at is the following question: 
If your house was burning, what would you take with you? 

It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question.

So I asked myself what I would take.  Actually, I’ve thought about this question before.  Many times. I’ve thought about it when I lived in a two-story house and thought about how I would escape if my house caught fire.  All the windows were painted shut.  I had the chair picked out that I would smash a window with – the window that overlooked my deck in the back of my house.  I could jump down from there and maybe break a leg or two but that would be better than a smoke inhalation demise. 

And I thought about what I would save.  Would I have time to save anything? What would I grab after I smashed that window with that old dining chair from my childhood? The one at the foot of my bed that has been at the foot of my bed for all the years I’ve lived away from the homeplace. The chair with the avocado green damask seat that’s so out of style it’s back in fashion. So after I smashed the window with my childhood dining chair, and after I grabbed my car keys that I so wisely placed by the side of my bed, and after I snatched my purse with my photo IDs and my cell phone to call the fire department – what then? 

I decide to prepare a mental box, just in case. In that box I place a photo album with my children’s old report cards and pictures from their childhood. But perhaps I should just give them those old trophies and their report cards and their childhood photographs and let them store them for a change.  

If I give those items away, what goes in the house-on-fire box? Thinking of course that my husband and our dogs are already outside, what would I really and truly feel the most sentimental about?  

Definitely my computer and my backup hard drive would have to be saved. Everything fictional I’ve ever written lives there. My twenty journals  have to be saved. I’ve written in those journals so much creative non-fiction, all about my dreams, visions and synchronistic events that have occurred over the vast years of my life. Can’t let those be burned up. To destroy those writings would be akin to dying for me. 

More and more items are piled into that box so that there is no way it would fit through that window now.  What if I did not have time to grab all those things? What if I only had time to save myself (after my husband and dogs have made it outside)? How much do material things really mean to me? Can I re-create all my fiction? Will I be able to re-create the stories and events I wrote about in my journals so long ago? Where do all those memories live? What good would they be if I was gone, but my fiction and my journals lived on? Would anyone take them and read them, or publish them?

On my refrigerator is a black and white magnet that reads . . . Barn’s burnt down, now I can see the moon.

This causes me to contemplate what is in the way of truly living? Do we really need all this ‘stuff’? 

After I obsess over all of this, I realize to have life is the ultimate gift.  Cherish it.  Save yourself and your creative energies will live on. They will be re-kindled. 

What would you save?


One response to “House on Fire

  1. This post reminds me my hard drive is overdue for a backup… and maybe I should keep the external hard drive with me when I leave the house!


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