Home, studio, barn burned Aug. 3.

I emailed most of the Nov. waltz weekend dancers on Aug. 5th the sad news is that the entire house, movement space, and barn burned down early Friday morning, August 3. No one and no animals were hurt but three vehicles were total losses--the RV, small tractor, and '93 Toyota pick up, which runs and was bought for salvage value.. For the most part I am looking forward and not to the past and or about so many sentimental and practical possessions that were lost forever. As of Aug. 22, I am operating partly out of my cabin with temporary utilities and partly nearby at my brother's home (where I grew up), where my sister Joan also is staying since her cabin is without telephone. We are not sure but I suspect the front porch light had a bird's nest in it again and the blaze ignited from one of the little low wattage lights when I turned it on after arriving from a trip late Thursday night, Aug. 2. No investigator has any other more likely cause. Luckily several of my personal items were left in the car and truck and this laptop with all information was saved. And some items were in my cabin and in the Atlanta apartment.  But what was lost after 30 years in the house is hard to imagine, and all my most important personal writings, photos, etc. were in the house. And too, Pip, the new Labrador, is safe and ever watchful of strange sights and smells in the night...and day.
Dozens of dance friends and others have emailed and shared their deep feeling for Split Tree and memories of experiences here. We have a strong national community, it is clear, and that might have a surprising strength if mobilized and energized for future dreams. This will need new, younger leadership and the path is open for all who wish to set foot on it toward some hill top vision.

This is a photo from my phone camera from the south pasture about 45 minutes after the fire, maybe an hour later. The elapse of time is not clear to me now. Yes, it brings intense emotions up but maybe it is better to share with you this sight rather than keep it hidden. I sobbed on a neighbor's shoulder for a minute just before taking this photo but the need to cope and focus on practical survival responses, such as my sister, my dog, my two horses, directed my attention to what had to happen in the next few days. I am very happy I was the only one there that night and am very happy I was working at my email in the living room so that I could see the light of the fire through the hall front door and then quickly call 911 for the fire department, which did a superb job in keeping the fire from spreading to the trees and the cabins in them. It was a somewhat windy night but they stopped any greater damage. The glow could be seen from five miles away and ashes were carried a mile or two away. The loss was total and bids are being taken for debris removal and soon only pasture and grass will mark what was there...unless we create some marker. I will post some other photos of the site soon and email you the link and post it here.

Here is Dan Bowles' aerial shot taken Tuesday, Aug. 7. The white ditch was dug for temporary utilities two days later for Sid's cabin. Only the chimney and the large satellite dish remain standing plus some fallen barn roof sections partially supported due to the fire department's water and foam. All the metal roofing was pulled out to the sides by the firemen, none of whom were injured.

With Richard Powers' agreement, and with support from all of you so far, we have found a "magical" space (not that Split Tree can be matched very easily I now realize) at Chattanooga's old restored and elegant 1920s Tivoli Theater main stage. Dozens of dancers and friends have offered assistance and equipment and location suggestions; one vintage waltzer even offered $500 extra from his coffee business if we needed to pay more rental for a desirable space. It's too early for me to know my own rebuilding plans but the insurance company (USAA) is excellent and has been helpful beyond anything I imagined. Your ideas about the future are welcome; we've built a fine place but it now is history and this particular book is finished I believe. But new books start from small dreams and small steps and none of what Split Tree was about happened without input and work from hundreds of people and more than a few dreamers; mainly I was only a catalyst and principal dreamer for this extraordinary energy and talent. We probably will have some ceremony at the farm during the Nov. weekend, maybe Sunday afternoon; being close by would be comforting to some who like the camping and pastures and views. Several of the original builders, including Daniel Lee and Dan Bowles and Mada Mathis, wife of Lawrence who designed the space, brought dinner this past Sunday night and suggested, after some warm recalled memories and much laughter about mistakes we made during the long, semi-improvised building phase, a sort of farewell gathering this fall, maybe even a weekend of camping and sharing with friends who helped over the years. Ideas and thoughts? As usual, we would have insurance from the Country Dance and Song Society if there is any dancing but it would be a personal party and not for any other reason; waivers of liability would be required. Possibly we could find a tent and floor. However, there are many weekend date conflicts.

To all of you who lived the dream, thank you.

Regards, Sid, Aug. 13, 2007