Fire! (and other F words) Part III


The FIRE in my apartment building in Montpellier happened on the evening of January 3, 2020. I had left for the U.S. on Jan. 2! It was such a lucky break for me that I wasn’t there. The building had to be evacuated. No one was hurt, thank goodness, and some folks had to be medically assessed. I still wonder about the 97 year old woman and her 70+ year old son who lived with her – “neighbors” across the courtyard, whom I had observed with curiosity through my 20 foot high windows. Their side of the building was where the fire started in a first floor apartment kitchen, and the flames reached our 3rd floor (French 2e) apartments. When a friend notified me of the fire in an email, it had happened already 3 days before. I anxiously wrote to my friends, the owners of the apartment, to get some information, and it was another day before I heard anything from them. When I did, they said that no one was allowed back into the building, it was locked and shuttered, and I would have to make an appointment with the clean up company to get all my things out as soon as I returned, and should probably look for another apartment, permanently! They told me that while their/my apartment wasn’t damaged by fire, there would be smoke damage to my clothing and other things I had left behind. I would not be able to leave them in the apartment as work on the building would begin as soon as access was allowed, and they would be using it as an office while the work was being done.

I think I stayed pretty calm at first, hoping I would hear more with maybe an offer of help to move or find a place to stay. As time went on with only links and phone numbers for their insurance people sent from the owners, who were also friends, I began to panic! I had a plane ticket back to France in one week and I had no place to go!!

Over the next days in the U.S., after many emails, contacting friends, working with my Renestance team who had helped me so much with my move to France, posting on a womens’ expat Facebook group I was part of from which I had dozens of helpful responses from women I had never even met, I found an Airbnb that was available for 2 weeks upon my return! Great! It was in the pedestrian part of town…so there was no way to transport everything from the old apartment to the new, except on foot, up and down the cobblestones streets, a distance of about 3/4 of a mile! 

My friends were wonderful! They came with boxes, a dolly, packing tape, and lots of brawn to help pack me up and move me out! It was SO much more than I had thought…how easy and fast it is to accumulate “stuff.” I had been careful not to, and just the extra clothing from the States, kitchen supplies, hangars, paperwork added a lot. Linda threw my plush “blankie” around her neck, Gary was pulling the dolly piled high, I had my pillows under my arm, and was pushing my two 4-wheeled suitcases with each arm! I had to laugh at the sight of us, like vagabonds on the move. Actually, I was very aware of the difference between my “misfortune” and that of people who were truly destitute carrying their lives on their backs or in a grocery cart…and in that moment, I actually felt blessed!

The long climb to the 3rd floor apartment, up winding, pie-shaped, shallow, stone stairs was challenging…55 of them in all. After my fall a few weeks ago, I was definitely in a bit of PTSD mode, and took it slowly. We made it. And for 3 septegenarians, that’s saying a lot!!


Two days later, a friend from the U.S. who had long ago made plans to visit me, arrived! Although I had had to tell her that my accommodations were in question, I assured her that we would work it out, come what may! It did add a bit of stress to my mounting sense of “WTF” (sorry…can’t think of a more appropriate expression!), and really, she helped me to stay grounded and present and not go “awful-izing”in my head too much. We had a nice time together, I was proud to show her my wonderful city, and she discovered places we could visit I might have never thought about. I believe, truly, that she kept me sane.

I am still here. At the end of this week, I have to pack up everything and store it away for the weekend, as this apartment was promised to another Airbnb rental before I came along. After they are gone, I can return for 10 more days during which time I must find another place to live! The pressure continues.

This morning I looked at an apartment that was just ok. Very small yet with a certain charm. After sitting with it for a little while, I decided it isn’t the one.  Later today, I heard about and saw pictures of a beautiful apartment, just what I want, and we will see if I get it. I’m moving forward gradually, hoping that I will reach the finish line before my 10 days are up!

POSTSCRIPT: I have learned that I can get a bit panicky in some situations, especially with great unknowns. And I know that, as I look back over my lifetime, everything, even the times which didn’t feel so good, has worked out. I believe that all things work for good, that it just takes perspective and wisdom and faith. Surprisingly, I have learned that I am very adaptable, so temporary inconveniences, situations that are different than I’ve been in before, new places, new living arrangements, can all be just fine once I get into the rhythm. And most of all, I have learned to trust the process and listen to my heart ❤️  – it never leads me astray.

17 Replies to “Fire! (and other F words) Part III”

  1. You are a brave woman, a true “adventure-seeker” and I am certain, you’ll find your next home quickly. Things do happen for a reason…trust your good star! If there is anything I can help you with, please let me know.

  2. Kate–You are brave beyond words and learning so much about yourself. I’m sure the next step will open up for you. You have made an impressive cadre of new friends who respond to your open heart. Keep listening deeply! Eager to hear the next installment.

  3. Bravo Kate, you are learning so much. As you said at the end, listen to your heart, it won’t steer you wrong. Much love!

  4. Dearest Kate, Your postscript says it all. Doesn’t get any better than that! Wonderful realizations and wisdom. You’re right on schedule for what we are all facing one way or another…how we respond to Newness! What an ordeal! I’m holding the vision that you get the apartment you are hoping for! More later. I’ve kinda been under siege myself but deeply appreciated your posts. And what a fantastically resilient and amazing body you have! A beautiful Heart! Love to you! Quite the New Year so far, eh??? Blessings,Carrie

      1. Kate…is there an email that I can use to communicate with you?? Perhaps you sent it to me at some point. It got lost in the fray. Please know I’m with you in spirit. My email is Perhaps you could write to me and then I would have yours? Thank you for your comment. Resilience! Yes! Daisies are one of my favorite flowers because of their resilience. I’d pick them on the backshore…they’d be wilted by the time I got home, and then spring back to life when put in a vase with water! Lovely! 🙂 XOXO

  5. Wow, Kate, what practice for “being with the unknowing.” Having home snatched away is one of the scariest unknowns, I think! I’m so glad you can write and link with all of us out here, so we can know what’s going on and send support. I honor your courage, open-heartedness and positivity practice!! Lots of love,

  6. Dear Kate,

    I am so sorry about your fall and the fire in your building. As you look for new lodgings, be positive! As you say ” things work out” in the end. When you are settled, send me an address and I can write to you. Jane Malmo recently had meniscus-tear surgery and is recuperating. Her last days in Paris were a struggle with knee pain and when she got back to NYC the elevator in her building was broken. Always something. She, too, is relying on the kindness of friends. I hope that your clothes, books and Chinese brush painting supplies are ok. Hope your bruised body and spirit heal soon. You are strong, brave and kind!!!!

    Happy Chines New Year and love, Lynnie ❤️🙏🏻

    Lynn Hunter 10 Lookout Court Gettsburg, PA 17325

    443-928-7072 cell/text

  7. Kate, so sorry to hear of your New Year calamities, and, wonderful to hear how you continue to find yourself resilient under challenging circumstances. Your Triple Heater has served you well in creating a supportive group of friends there, as you have here. You are brave to face these challenges and unknowns, and like you said, you have always done well. Carry on and follow your heart! xoxo Pamela

  8. One of our family mottos is “Knocked down 9 times, get up 10”. It sounds like you have experienced this literally and figuratively. It also sounds like each time, you have rallied and moved forward. Thank you for your insightful writing, sense of humor (it comes through), honesty and sharing your adventurous journey. It is encouraging to all of us who get knocked down and need to get back up!

  9. I am so very sorry to hear if this horrible fire that displaced you from your lovely home. I’m holding you in healing energy as you find the perfect new home.


    Sent from my iPhone


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