The mountains are burning – thousands of acres a dry feast –consumed to the bone dry Colorado dirt. Homes are being picked up and thrown away in waves of thick black smoke. Animals are suffocating, burning, dying. Some reports say the smoke cloud stretches all the way to Oklahoma ferried on the swift winds that have always marked this city as home. It makes me think that mother earth knows how to make the most beautiful of pyres as I sit witnessing the deep black cloud nestled against a blue sky.
We are sandwiched in fires to the left and right.
Drought and wind. Lightening and urban sprawl that creeps up hillsides and down again into once hidden valley’s. Trees thick with the scent of combustible sap. Woods thick with bear and moose and these little squirrel’s with furry ears that make them look like Einstein. Welcome to some of the other things define this beautiful state. And it is – fucking beautiful. I would go so far as to call it breathtaking but I’m partial to it.
Partial to the mountains in which I run.
Partial to the animals I wish that I could bed down with in caves or nests made of tall grass.
Partial to the jut of certain mountain ranges still capped in snow. My mountains.
If you live here you know that come June the mountain streams no longer rush down to feed the city, they trickle. You know that the hillsides turn dusky yellow and
cracked brown, flecked with the shiny green of scrub oak leaves. You would know that the only truly verdant places exist in what I call fairytale land, low enough in elevation to escape the thin air and high enough to remain unmarred by the human need to conquer and build. You would know the only reason grass survives in backyards and open spaces is because we water the shit out of it. Look down on the state from the sky and you’ll see – the juxtaposition of yellow touching pristine jewel green. Kentucky bluegrass wasn’t built for Colorado – pine trees and columbine and aspen trees are. You would know that Colorado is naturally a dry bitch with harsh weather patterns and overbearing heat at the zenith of summer – and you would love her anyway.In Colorado it will always be a question of when will we burn, never if and we all know it.
This truth sits in the background of everyday living. The faint memory of how a large burn tastes in the back of the throat like a campfire gone too long. The sight of fire glowing red against a black horizon. Smoke framing familiar buildings in a grey haze. The beautiful sunsets that accompany a sky filled to the brim with ash.
To the burning hills.
Drew Dellinger wrote this amazing poem called Hymn to the Sacred Body of the Universe and it talks about how beautiful the world is and how transient.
Arising and passing away.
Arising and passing away.
I cannot think about the fires eating away at my home without thinking about this ebb and flow. Things fall in the face of fire and as they fall the ground becomes fertile with the ash of the old. New things grow, peeking up green and eager from under fire scarred rocks. This happens every year – it’s usually never so large that the entire world hears about it. It is usually never so large that 30,000 people are evacuated and sit waiting out the flames.
If you were here you would see that most people sit with a sense of calm. Because we know.
When the smoke clears. When the embers cool and the body count is done. When the insurance adjusters have come through and righted nature’s wrong. When we are done mourning collectively. When blame has been assigned and sorted out – the state will continue to live. The hulking beauty of mother earth will continue to fill the sky with jagged peaks and she will begin to grow new skin to replace the old…she will simply have more scars and a scarred earth is so much more beautiful to me…but I’m partial. Mount Galbraith burned last year ringing the city below in thick acrid smoke – I ran on its clay packed trails this year and the mountain was already being reborn. Life will return creatures will sleep and hunt and scavenge in the deep dark of the night – and then one day- perhaps this year or the next this cycle will begin anew and there will be more destruction. More burning. But we know this. We still lament the fire – the burning off of dross – but we know the truth of the cycle.
We know that there will always be fire. Fire’s like the Waldo Canyon Fire or The High Park Fire or the Flagstaff Fire.
We live in a place of hot heat and dry earth and hovering over all of it the beautiful.fucking.mountians. We live here to be a part of this beauty and in turn give up safety as we nestle in, explore crevices, walk through ice cold streams and breathe deep the mountain air. We dig fire lines and leave space between our houses and the forest and in the very back of our minds where spine meets skull we know that if the forest wants our homes it will take them with a fury. We know that the mountains will always burn and we will continue to ride those waves – for love or foolishness or some other thing…but mostly love.
Namaste my friends.
- Colorado wildfires worsen, 32000 flee homes | – Reuters (reuters.com)
- Colorado wildfire doubles in size overnight, tens of thousands flee (mercurynews.com)
- ‘Fire of epic proportions’ devours homes in Colo. (msnbc.msn.com)
- Furious Wildfire in Colorado Leaves Destruction in Its Wake (nytimes.com)
- Colorado wildfire worsens, forcing 7,000 more from homes (news.yahoo.com)
- Colorado wildfires worsen, 32000 flee homes – Reuters (in.reuters.com)
- Fire burns into Colorado Springs western neighborhoods (photos.mercurynews.com)