At about 12:30 this afternoon, an announcement came over the loudspeaker: 大山地区。建物火災。平塚５５１。 (Oyama area house fire. Hiratsuka 551.) 551 is the old house next to our kominka – the one with the big gate. Oh! But the announcement was wrong. It wasn’t 551. It was 555. Our kominka, “Go-Go-Go” is gone, gone gone.
To be honest, it wasn’t actually ours at all. We had organised a meeting with the Kawasakis tomorrow morning to go over the details of the long-term lease agreement. I was excited and planned to announce that the deal was done and official. Our roof repairs were slated to begin in June. I have been drawing up my ideas and really making the place mine in my mind. Measuring, dreaming.
But, instead, I must announce that a historical 120 year old house is no more. It was heartbreaking to see its charred bones, to know all the lovely details and beautiful features that were lost: Okame’s pretty face, the kumiko window, the elaborately carved and colored family shrine, the massive koinobori pole. All of the luxuriously large beams and posts, the floor and ceiling planks. Ah, so sad.
The trees in the garden and near the house were scorched, leaves crumpled, flowers browned; it must have been a hellishly hot fire. Aside from trees, no one was injured. The barn and shed and all of the equipment in them are fine. The blueberries, the Swath, the Bog, and the Ent are all safe and sound. Just the house.
There were four fire engines pumping water up from the fire cistern down the road. Dozens of firemen were working on the remains of the house when we got there: dragging the collapsed thatch away from embers; cracking down beams; spraying water. There was an ambulance, a team of fire investigators, a handful of policemen, and a lot of neighbors – many of whom were relatives of the owner.
The Kawasakis arrived shortly after we did. We all gave reports to the police and the fire department. Tod & I watched the scene for two hours, in shock. When the fire crews packed up and the rain started, we left and sought comfort with friends who fed us and made us laugh.
I feel weird about the timing of this accident: both concerned and grateful. Grateful because if it had happened six weeks from now, we’d have been out a 4.5 million yen roof repair. As it is, we have only sunk time and effort into the property, no real money. And concerned because our meeting to agree on the lease was tomorrow. Was someone sending a message? Who and why, I do not know, but I feel like the house burned down because of us.
Well, I still want to live on this property. If the Kawasakis are amenable, we’ll build something new. The scorched trees will recover or we’ll plant new ones. It will be okay. Different but also good.
Julian of Norwich said it best, “All shall be well, all shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”