One woman’s quest to make sense of a nonsensical world after losing her dream home and all her worldly possessions to a raging and sudden wildfire. Exploring the existence of God, our cultural discomfort with grief, what it means to be human as well as life in a 1967 Airstream trailer, Kristen Moeller shares her humanity, her spirit and her dark edge openly for herself as well as for the countless others who beg to be heard in their wild journey through this wacky world.
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A crack in the armor

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Yesterday we smiled.  Not that we haven’t smiled at all during the last month but the smiles previously were fleeting and slight.  Yesterday we smiled a lot.  As we scrambled to get out of the house to meet the Fire Marshall, we bumped into each other, our non-existent patience worn thin.  I had a conference call to start my authors on their writing day – another one I wouldn’t be joining – and begged their forgiveness as I adjusted the time to make our important appointment.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a group of neighbors, Randy the Fire Marshall, Kate from the County, Sean from Planning and Zoning and Dan from the Fire Department – with a shiny red fire truck.  Although the sun was shining, a biting wind chilled us to our core as we stood and waited for the bad news to begin.  This meeting was to detail our “options” around improving our road.  We had received the news that due to the poor condition of our private roads, unless we brought them up to snuff, we would not have rights to any future emergency services which would prohibit the desire of any insurance company to insure us again (if they ever would anyway…).  This was very bad news when we first got wind of it.  A major roadblock in our future plans with a giant price tag attached. 
Randy welcomed and gathered us around.  I liked this man the first time I met him last summer when we were petitioning to join Inter-Canyon Fire Department and be released from North Fork.  Our house was much closer to ICFD so it made practical sense.  He made a few site visits at the time.  I responded instantly to his no nonsense approach and Sam Sheppard twinkle.  This time, he was the bearer of bad news.  David and I snuggled against the wind and waited for Randy to throw down the gauntlet in this bureaucratic behemoth.
Randy began, “We know how much you are dealing with and we have decided that we don’t want to add even more to your plate.  We will be making recommendations – not requirements – for road improvement.”  An audible sob caught in my throat.  The first piece of good news since this nightmare began.  After that, all the details of filing of permits, checking easements, erosion assessments, septic requirements, well tests and such all seemed minor.  Here was a group of government employees on a Saturday morning declaring their support to us through the process.  Yes, it is still an arduous process but we saw some good from our government versus all the finger pointing and throat clearing that has been coming from our swash-buckling Sherriff and Governor.
My sass then emerged, and all I wanted to do was to ride in the fire truck.  I began in my normal way, “can I drive the fire truck?” and settled on a ride to my property a mile down the road.  I climbed into the belly of the beast and we bounced along our jeep trail of a road toward our place.  I looked for sirens I could sound or PA’s I could key to announce our approach.  I decided not to push my luck, certainly not wanting to further traumatize my already shell-shocked neighbors.  As we approached the last turns before our property, I noticed a wisp of smoke.  Poking Dan, I asked what it was.  He stopped to investigate and discovered it was the fire, still alive, still burning in the roots of a tree.  We climbed down to the source and could see the spot had worked on as there was a deep hole to dampen the area.  Yet, a whole month later, it still smoldered.  (And, again, tell me what made the forest service think that 3 days of putting out their controlled burn was enough?)  I asked Dan if I could spray the hose.  He used the lighter hose and instructed me to hold it close to my body and spray the F out of the fire.  (He didn’t say that exactly…)  I hankered to blast the F out of it; to vent my rage and fury on this destructive fiend that still breathed after devouring my home.  Instead, the hose flowed, and then trickled, yet clouds of steam filled the air as I doused it as best I could.  The water turned white and bubbly, it sizzled and smoked as it took its last breaths.  My initiation complete on my inaugural journey.
Having fought fire, I worked up quite and appetite and chose to head to Evergreen instead of to the house for a day of insurance inventory.  After benedict at Wildflower Café, we visited Evergreen Gallery.  When we bought the house, David gave me a painting called “Re-Birth” of a momma and baby elephant.  Along with most of our art (minus 2 of my mom’s original paintings), this piece went up in flames.  The Gallery was able to find this exact piece 9 years later – and discovered an original actually exists.  We only saw pictures of it and will go back when the artist is in town but in the meantime, my craving for art began to emerge.
As I shared yesterday, I am joining forces with the Aspens in our mutual healing journey.  Being a small gallery in a mountain town, there were plenty of Aspen motifs.  A vivid photograph mounted on heavy piece of slate jumped out at both of us.  A lone golden Aspen set against a forest of snow-covered pines.  I know they are pines, and it is snow, but when I gaze at it it transforms to ash covered trees, decimated by fire with the solo Aspen blazing it’s golden glory and will to survive.  It makes me happy.  Another piece grabbed my heart – a transparent photo with a view up into a thick grove of Aspen’s in all their greenery set against the blue sky.  When rested against a window, this piece is further illuminated from the sun, shining brightly with its promise of hope.
We are still being quite choosy about what we buy yet, if feels good to have a few pieces.  I stare at the lone Aspen as I write this morning.  It will be the placeholder of all those glorious trees that we lost.  They say that Aspen are the first to come back after a fire.  I hope so.  I have always loved and felt kinship with them.  Appearing to be individual trees on the surface, in truth, they are connected through the earth with a common root system.  The metaphors are obvious.  I will allow their fortitude to fortify me.  I will patiently wait for their glory to return.
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