Updated: Jun 11, 2022
Retirement was good, I managed to get my eyesight restored thanks to superb work of an eye surgeon and then spent the next two years relaxing in a sustained state of bliss before my father let me know he could use a little help around the house after my mother took a tumble and broke a hip. Glad he was accpeting my heartfelt offer to help when the time came, I arived at their home the day before my mother was discharged from the rehab center. Fortunately, modern surgery had repaired her hip and she was soon fully mobile and self reliant beyond expectations without further complications. Life for them returned to normal routines. They adopted a dog which soon became known as Sky because she guards her territory against invasion by anything on wings. The cat was shocked by her unexpected presence and disappeared for a long time after first laying eyes on the dog one morning when he came up to the back porch for breakfast. He eventually came back and accepted Sky as something to be tolerated, able at last to share his territory with her.
During this process of transition the pandemic was well underway but none of us contracted the virus throughout the months it spanned and still haven't to this day. But my father's heart was exhibiting signs of progressive failure and it finally stopped beating a little over a year later, about eleven months before he turned 90. He had lived a long, interesting life working around the world and had died in his easy chair while enjoying a midnight snack of fresh grapes. I had hoped he could have it happen that way. None of us has ever wanted to die in hospital or on some damned freeway at rush hour, or any other hour for that matter. I had helped my parents build their home in the country and that's where they wanted to live out their years. It's a pleasant, comfortable place with lots of big, shady pecan, oak and elm trees with a creek along its entire length of wooded landscape. Two water wells pumping wizardly water from the depths still provide plenty for everyone's needs four decades after tapping into the ancient aquifer.
And in addition to a nice big shop building with a water tower attached, we built a bit of whimsicalness into deeper reaches of its woods for fun.
There's lots of room for gardening and strolling about, so it's a nice place to be but I had hoped to live out my years ensconced within wilderness surrounding the home/studio I had enjoyed living in for almost two decades. Then an act of gross negligence by a district forest ranger who decided to proceed with a prescribed burn near a place called Hermit's Peak during the windiest season of the year and smack in the middle of a period of prolonged, severe drought changed everything.
That prescribed fire quickly jumped its bounds and roared out of control to become New Mexico's largest wildfire to date, having burned–in combination with another accidentally USFS-sparked fire in a place called Calf Canyon–almost 320,000 acres as of the date of this blog entry. I evacuated hours before being ordered to go by authorities but I fully expected fire fighters would be able to stop it before it climbed up, over and descended several ridges before reaching the house. I was wrong to have such an expectation.
On the day this wildfire surged 30,000 acres within a 24-hour period, it managed to wheedle some of its sparks into my house which was subsequently gutted by the inferno burning inside. Now it looks like there is going to be an unexpected Elevenths phase of life as I decide how to proceed from here on. The wildfire burned the entire length of the canyon my home was nestled in, the beautiful forestland within the canyon scorched from rim to rim. It may not be feasible to rebuild there due to flood and mudslide risk which could persist for years, if not decades into the future. All it took to bring this disaster about was one act of incompetence by someone who probably never should have been allowed to play with fire.
So now my life will not wind down on its Tenths as I had thought it would. Elevenths are in progress as recovery gets underway. And even Elevenths may not be the final phase ahead. Prospects are always exciting, even after disaster. Imagining better outcomes than before.