The day I thought our house burned down

Yesterday I thought our house was burning to the ground.

Here’s what happened:

It was a beautiful, warm sunny day. Our first warm day so far this spring. I spent the afternoon gardening. Eventually, I decided I needed a few perennials for a shady area near the entrance to my studio. Pretty it up for the people coming to my classes, you know? (Who am I kidding, I wanted them for me, too!) So, I went to Walmart and spent a highly enjoyable hour or so looking at all the baby plants and various bulbs and bags of dirt and compost. I filled my hatchback with good stuff and went on my merry way.

While driving home (and while I was still in town – we live outside the city limits), I saw a huge, wide column of very black smoke out on the horizon right – it appeared to my estimation – where our house should be. But I tried to tell myself no, our house isn’t on fire. That smoke is probably way farther away than it looks, and someone is just burning a field. But the smoke was SO BLACK. Not what burning a field usually looks like. My next thoughts went like this, as I tried again to reassure myself: “You didn’t leave the kiln on or the dryer on or the oven on or the stove on… you haven’t used any of those things all day.”

But the closer I got to our house, the more and more it looked like the fire was coming from our property. And then when I turned off the highway onto the gravel, “smoke” was pouring down the road. (I later figured out that it wasn’t smoke, it was road dust from the incredible amount of emergency vehicles and responders.) And I could see multiple flashing red and blue lights at the top of the hill right where our house is. You can’t see our house from the bottom of the hill, but you can see emergency flashers, apparently!

Naturally, I started freaking out that our house actually was on fire and the only thing I could think was, “Thank God, I left Poppy outside on her chain. Maybe somebody rescued her for us!” Poppy is our puppy. Yesterday was the first day since we got her that I left her outside in the yard while I went somewhere else. When I finally crested the hill and I pulled into our yard, I could see that the fire was at our neighbor’s barn. It was fully engulfed. There were vehicles with flashing lights everywhere. Cops and deputies and firetrucks and ambulances were all over our yard. My husband was here and I ran to him right away and started sobbing because I had really really really thought our house was burning down. It was so scary.

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One of our other neighbors is the one who called it in. He was out doing tractor work in his yard. He saw all the smoke, and he knew that my husband was at work and I would never be burning something in our yard to make that much smoke, and neither would anyone else in the neighborhood. So he and his friend drove up to see what was happening. They could see the fire from the road; they called it into 911 before they even got out of the vehicle. We are blessed with good neighbors!

However, neither of them knew the address of the property with the fire, so they called it in as my husband’s and my address. My husband was at work and he heard over the radio, “Barn fire, building is fully engulfed,” at our address, so he got worried and sped to our place. On the way there he was trying to decide if he should attempt to go in and drive out the truck we keep in there, but then he saw all the smoke from the road and figured it was already a total loss.

Needless to say, we’re both super glad that it was not our house or barn (though honestly, I would have been relieved to pull up and see our barn on fire vs. our house, if I had to choose!). The one that burned down was quite old, and it was filled with scrap metal and piles of wood, so the loss wasn’t enormous. I’m glad everyone is okay and the damage was contained. It did make for a scary evening, though!

fire

This photo by Ashley Renee Pitt.

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After the firefighters left.

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Wreckage today.

Eclipse 2017

Like millions of my fellow Americans, I watched Monday’s eclipse with fascination. I live in South Central Iowa, and my dad, who is an amateur astronomer, drove down from Minnesota in the hopes of seeing it on its path of totality.

The night before the eclipse he sat on my couch, scouring weather sites for forecast information. He looked as far west as Grand Island, NE, and as far east as Nashville, TN. Ultimately, he decided we should leave my house at 5am and drive to Columbia, MO, the town closest to my house along the path of totality. From there, we would stop to look at the forecast again and drive east or west along said path until we were in a spot with clear skies.

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It’s 5am on eclipse day!

Prior to this week, neither of us had ever seen a total solar eclipse. We were excited! But not half as excited as we will be in 2024, now that we know what an amazing experience it is. Sounds cheesy, I know, but it’s true.

A lot of the fun of the eclipse was the build-up. We stopped at McDonald’s in Columbia to grab a bite and check the weather. The forecast looked as good as anywhere else within a couple hours’ drive, so we went to the airport, thinking we would find:

  1. other people
  2. access to open skies and
  3. (importantly, since we got there at 9:45am and the eclipse started around 1pm) a bathroom.

First, we had to stop at Walmart to buy cheapo lawn chairs because in our obsession over checking the weather, we forgot to bring some. We saw LOTS of people walking out of the store carrying them, to the point where I wondered if they’d be sold out and we’d have to sit on the ground!

At the airport it was hot and humid, but everyone’s spirits were high. We chatted with the people near us – a family from Branson, MO, a couple from Brainerd, MN, two young women from New York, and a family from Dartmouth, MA, where I went to graduate school – small world.

I brought glow in the dark bracelets, the kind you break to activate. I bought a tube of 20 at the Dollar Tree, so we had a *few* more than we could use. After offering them to our new neighbor-friends, I walked around the parking lot and gave them to families with little kids. Many of the younger kids seemed confused as to why I was handing them a glow in the dark bracelet in the middle of bright sunshine, but they accepted them happily.

The bracelets did work!

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Bracelets glowing during totality

As the eclipse drew nearer, the skies began to cloud over. We worried that we were going to miss it. But, lo and behold, shortly before 1:00 a nice gap appeared in the sky right around the sun. We were blessed or lucky – either way, the entire parking lot full of people was grateful! Airport personnel went around with extra pairs of eclipse glasses and everyone shared food. We were offered water, pop (including Sunkist, which was a deliberate purchase, according to Lachelle from Branson!), sandwiches, and moon pies (another clever purchase by Lachelle).

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Moon pies

Our spot was excellent. We were within a hundred yards of the line of dead center totality. That means we had a long time to look at the eclipse, though on the video I state that “it felt like 10 seconds.” I’m not even going to try to describe the eclipse to you. I don’t have the poetic chops to do it justice. I failed utterly in describing it to my husband. It was only after he watched my reaction to it (on video) that it looked to me like he understood how amazing it was. I almost cried when I took my glasses off (during the peak), and I still almost cry every time I watch the video! So… even though the video is pretty embarrassing – I had no idea I was so, um… vocal – I’m going to share it with you, too. I hope that sharing my amazement will inspire you to catch America’s next total solar eclipse. April 8, 2024.

Check how far you’ll have to drive in 2024 using this map (plan a vacation around it if it’s a haul!): https://www.timeanddate.com/eclipse/map/2024-april-8

See you there!

Paper cutting

Hi all! My new ceramics studio is not quite done yet, so I decided to try some paper cutting this weekend. I did a little youtube crash course and learned how to cut really pretty paper snowflakes. (We’re supposed to get our first snow of the season tonight.) I now know two things:

1) I need sharper scissors. Ha!

2) This was really fun and I definitely want to figure out how to transfer this process to porcelain. These snowflakes would be so beautiful in translucent porcelain, hanging in your window or on your tree!

I think this could be a fun class to host later this winter. Add a little wine into the mix… Fold, Sip, Snip? What do you think? It’s incredibly satisfying to open the snowflakes at the end, fold by fold by fold. I’m not sure what gets me more – the surprise involved, or the final symmetry of the patterns. Symmetry makes me happy inside… ♡

Shiny paper proved too difficult for my phone to photograph nicely today, sorry!