For two weeks I watched as the weather warnings popped up on my phone. "Severe weather, flash flood warning". "Flood warning until Thursday". "The river will crest Friday". "New crest forseen on Monday". And so on. I'd made it a morning ritual to walk a block down to the Civic Center to see how far the river had risen. I figured that since it was rising from the southeast corner where the river met the road (quite literally), then I would know its time to leave the house if the water made it to the curb on the far north central end of the lot.
As the days passed and the water rose, I began to slowly make preparations. Tony stopped by the library. (I lived right above our community library called iLOGIC: Institute for the Love Of Genius In Community.) Tony is one of the volunteers who came in and immediately became an asset to our project. When he came by we stacked books on tables and away from the floor. We moved furniture trying to be sure that we were protecting the most important items from the water, should the building flood.
After several more days of watching the water, the Flint river crested and there was not a drop of water on the block. So I'll admit, the first thing I did was not get everything back into place. Not much was going to be happening in the library for at least another month and we would be adding more book shelves and decor soon, so it was okay to let things remain stacked up. I got back to work on a number of projects that were quickly becomming priority; namely the Building Creative Communities Conference in Colquitt, GA where I had been trained as a Social Artist and was returning to train others. This is a very exciting annual 2 weeks of community building and growth experience, so I was focused on helping to make it happen.
On the evening of Friday, January 8th 2016 I hurt my neck trying to "whip and nae-nae" when my children left the house for sleepovers with their best friends. The Monday before that I woke up with the distinct intention to find someone I trusted to keep my 3 children for 2 days because I thought I may soon become exhausted. I'd been working almost non-stop for a few months and though I love what I do... I could use a break from time to time.
Well, about an hour after the children left the house, I got a call from my Mom asking if my aunt had stopped by. She had.. As a matter of fact... What was that noise? I heard something popping in the kitchen. I stepped out into the hallway and saw a wall of black smoke coming straight toward me. Back at the end of the hall, where the kitchen was, I saw a bright orange glow. There was a fire. I walked quickly through the smoke and into the kitchen where I expected to have to open some windows and smother the pot. No. I walked into the kitchen, looked, walked out- then came back in. This was really happening. My kitchen was really on fire. The fire had already begun to eat the wall, cabinets were falling down, smoke was billowing.
It was awful and it was my mistake. It was one of those moments that makes you really question this whole "adult" thing. I really had to adjust to the change in my reality in a short period of time. Then I had to adjust to the new eyesight. I had been in the kitchen with the fire for a good 10 minutes. The bright light from the fire and the thick smoke combined to create a very strange texture in my vision. It was as though a curtain had been lifted. After the fire department arrived and did their thing they let me go up and get a few things. My suitcase was already packed because I was lazy after the last laundry day and stuffed a bunch of clothes into it. When I stepped into the door, water pooled at my feet at the bottom of the stairs. At that moment I thought: "Humph, Now it floods..." What else do you think when hell is followed up by high water... Literally?
That night my great friend, Capucine answered my call and came to the house. She was there before the fire trucks left. She let me come to her house to re-group. My mother and aunt came. My Mom, always so tempered in her reactions and conscious of the situation said: "Tannur, you need a coat. You are in shock, so you don't know that its cold."
I went to Capucine's house and cried for a few days. Then I got to work, calling the Red Cross, who by the way ACTUALLY HELP quite a lot. Then trying to have a conversation with the landlords. Doing laundry and crying some more. Looking for a new place to live, trying to budget and rearrange my plans, surveying the damage in the community library space (No damage!) Then it was time to tell the children that we could not go home. IF you have ever had to muster the courage to tell your children that while they were away for the weekend, their whole lives had changed then you know all that goes into that. It's not a moment I can describe, I just wish it on no one; parent or child.
Nothing was moving fast enough in the time after the fire. It was as though the rotation of the universe slowed down to inisist that we rest and re-evaluate. I was preparing to head to Colquitt for the conference in a couple of weeks and my mentor, Jan Sanders called to offer her support. Jan had opened up space for me to co-facilitate with her and I was honored to do it. She offered Social Artistry exercises for me to practice to get my mind right. She was there for me in many ways and helped to make sure that my children and I were okay.
My family stepped up and allowed me to send my children to Philadelphia while I attended the conference. This way they could be able to spend time with their cousins, relax, be well taken care of and I could focus on my work. My mother who had been overstepping really irritating odds to keep my children while I figured out how or if to re-build could use the break and so it worked out.
At some point during the clean-up/pack-up/throw away days, I realized something very important. It was almost 14 years ago exactly that I set this whole thing into motion! There is a saying, 'be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.' It's not just that you might get it. It's also that you don't know how it will be given to you. Well, when I was pregnant with Reiki I set an intention to travel the world with her when she turned 14 so that she could learn about how women come into womanhood in many cultures.
Suddenly it hit me! I'm getting what I asked for. This might be the perfect time to travel. This might be the perfect time to throw caution to the wind and start life anew. Show my children the world. Learn about myself and how I really want to show up in the world. And so much more.
I decided that I'd go to Colquitt, facilitate the program and wait to see what the universe sent my way. No expectations, just gratitude. Although my house just burned down, I had work, I had my life, my children didn't have to have the trauma of the experience of fleeing a fire and I had a super wide open opportunity on my hands. Really... Gratitude was the biggest thing on my mind. So I went to Colquitt and we worked it!
I went and we had an incredible 10th Anniversary Building Creative Communities Conference. During the Social Artistry Creative LEaders Training we were joined by Audri Scott Williams and KAren Hunter Watson. They are embarking on an 198 City Tour called the Red Flame for Freedom Movement. This movement will bring 3 days of arts and workshops to each city in the US that is a major hub for Modern Day Slavery. The intention is to start the conversation that will end slavery in the world.
I decided to jump on board! I will be facilitating Social Artistry and Emceeing poetry and arts events in each city to raise awareness of Children and Families in Poverty, Mass Incarceration, Sex Trafficking and Labor Trafficking. What would the world look like without slavery? How would each of us make the changes needed to bring about such a world? These are questions worth asking and worth bringing my children to explore the answers to. This is the worlds that we will be leaving to them and I want them to learn how to be great stewards of it. For more information about the Red Flame for Freedom Movement, click the link below.
That's it for now... More to come!
I'm busy working on my blog posts. Watch this space!