Thursday, July 31, 2008

A Burned Kitchen

New Mexico July Part 3

In a forgotten high place in the desert is a burned house. It was a wash, and almost everything remains where it fell. Whoever lived there moved on, or perhaps they rebuilt on another side of the property and never went back. Pots sit on the stove with skinny looped bars sticking out, their wood or plastic handles that provided leverage long gone. The sink is filled with the ceiling and the kitchen window.

A potato ricer is evenly rusted; encouraged by the many years of sparse rain falling into the room from the sky. A pantry cabinet has fallen all the way out of the kitchen onto its back below the slab. I am not sure why dishes and enamel cookware also litter the front yard. Were they thrown from below the billowing smoke that could be seen from miles away? Were they picked over later when the damage was complete and dropped dismissively into the dirt? There are shards of thick swirling glass midcentury accent pieces, and glinting triangles of a textured ochre pane maybe from the dining room or the front door. Flowers are still sweetly pink, patterns recognizable even after their residence became their most frightening kiln.

There is a high risk for fire in New Mexico, but I am not aware that houses here burn any more frequently than other places in the country. I have never been in a house fire, and hopefully I never will be. I walked through this record of fire and thought of the situations where I had to make the assessment: what do I have? What do I need?

Of course this could apply all things: to food, love, time, money, space, heath or furniture, but my life isn't always budgeted evenly. The questions mainly come up when I taste there isn't enough salt in what I've made or when looking at my collected dimensional clutter and bare walls, I wonder why I don't have more 2-D decor. I can feel at home almost anywhere and I have enough space to live and sleep and cook, but is it enough? Is it in the right place? Is it the ideal elastic hammock of my independent youth? What do I have and what do I need?

The smell of New Mexico is strong. After it rains, everything in the ground takes a deep breath and makes itself available to the air. The light bakes everything and the fearless plants are determined and fragrant. The environment is adaptable, wild, mysterious and comforting to me, and I breathe it. I try and smell the answers.

The smell of this fire is long gone. When I walk out of the kitchen and look at clouds above me I know I'll always have New Mexico, and it knows I need to go and be under more roofs. It won't tell me where, so I suspect there's more smelling to be done. And besides, the house in New Mexico isn't ready for me yet.