When fires roar through our lives leaving destruction in their wake, those of us who have walked through this type of loss are often asked how it was to deal with such an event.  I responded by writing this blog and I share it knowing we...

“Whether we are conscious of it or not, the ground is always shifting. Nothing lasts, including us. there are probably very few people who, at any given time, are consumed with the idea ‘I’m going to die,’ but there is plenty of evidence that this...

To those affected by wildfires – those who have lost loved ones, animals and homes, or still wonder what you lost as you attempt to gather the fragments of information that are beginning to surface – our thoughts are with you. There are no words that are adequate. I am sorry. It sucks. It’s horrific. It’s confusing and overwhelming. It’s all of that and more.IMG_0070 We who lost homes in the horrible fire season last year are with you. We feel your pain. We know the anguish. We wince as we read the news, see the pictures and smell the smoke that drifts into our burned up hills. We understand. We were there – and now we are further down this life-altering path. We aren’t far enough along to have forgotten anything – and truthfully – none of us will ever forget. We will remember that day forever. We will remember the sounds, smells and how it felt. The chaotic moments of evacuation – or of not being able to return to collect anything – will be etched in our minds forever. We remember the terror, the bewilderment, the not knowing, then the knowing. We wish with all our hearts that you didn’t have to go through any of this.
Twenty-three years ago today, I said ‘yes’ to a life of recovery and ‘no’ to the addictive mess of a life I had been living. Twenty-three years ago, I had no idea my path would twist and turn in so many fascinating directions. Every year at this time, I reflect, yet this year I see my reflection in shards of broken glass. I can’t quite get a grasp on what I see. It changes from moment to moment and day to day. The deep anguish has passed, yet what remains is more confusing, less definite and in many ways, less comfortable. It’s a new stage of grief called “hiding” or “shut down” or “I don’t like who I have been being very much”… This stage lacks clarity, is full of doubts and questions and feels more tiring. In the early days after the fire, the pain was raw and ragged. Now, it has buried itself in my system. My new companion seems to be a knot in my chest and a very very very (did I mention very?) busy mind. My mind has always erred on the side of busyness but now the loops are endless as I try to figure things out –where will we live, what should I eat, and what is the meaning of life, after all.
On the anniversary of 9/11 many of us unite and reflect on that devastating event that changed lives in a flash and altered how we view the world. The range of reactions to today will be as wide as the range of personalities on this planet. Many will stop and honor the dead, remember and reflect. Some will weep and mourn. Some will merely go on with their day. Some never have stopped weeping. Some haven’t missed a beat this whole time. In this big, wide, wacky world there is a plethora of reactions to this event, to other events, to how we handle grief and anger and uncomfortable emotions. Today, I will stop and reflect. I will have gratitude that my slice of tragedy pales in comparison to this enormous event. Yet, I will also mourn my own and continue to gently find my way through something that doesn’t make sense, that came out of the blue and turned my world upside down, leaving life hardly resembling what it was before. I will think of my neighbors who lost loved ones and know their pain is not any less than those who lost loved ones in 9/11. Across the world, people will stop and grieve those lost in 9/11. Who will stop today to remember those lost in the North Fork fire? Or the High Park fire? Or the Waldo Canyon fire? Or any fire? I will.
All good things must come to an end. Not just good things, ALL things - good, bad and indifferent. In this case, it’s a good (a very very very good) thing that is ending in the form of our almost month-long vacation. Ahhhhh. So, here I sit, enjoying a cup of coffee, lubricating my brain and my finger tips and watching the waves on the Isle of Wight Bay at our friends Monty & Sara’s. It seems the weather changed over night from hot and somewhat muggy to cool and glorious. The breeze is perfection, the color of the sky just right, the feel in the air is early autumn. Fall has officially regained it’s position as my favorite season. It was bumped temporarily as I grew to crave summers in Colorado but after this wildfire season, fall is back on top. So thanks, fall, for showing up. I hear the final percolating exhale of the coffee pot signaling the arrival of more magma. I will rise for that right now but not much else. With mug in hand, I am ready. For something. For the next moment, at least. So, what am I really ready for? Thoughts swirl through my head. We return to Colorado still without a plan. Things are brewing and plans are emerging but now the layers upon which other layers depend are not clear still and our plans remain without definition.
On an island, far far away from any mountains that remind me of anything to do with the awful forest fires that consumed our state and turned my life upside down, I received an email from a kindred spirit. She wrote, “I stumbled upon your blog when I was researching PTSD and forest fires. I was looking for anything that would tell me I was somewhat normal in what I was experiencing.” She goes on to tell me she lost her home in the Waldo Canyon fire and thanked me for letting me know she wasn’t alone in her devastation. This many miles away, I was compelled to write and tell you - I needed to hear this. I send my words into the stratosphere and wonder whose hearts I might be reaching. I keep writing anyway as it is my therapy and expression. I risk writing the same things over and over and boring my readers. I risk my heart and soul as I bare both. I feel my feelings and question if I am “normal”. I still have some (not many, but some) people in my life who think I should be moving on by now and that the depth of my emotions are concerning. I internalize their judgment (and, yes I know, it is born out of love and concern) and judge myself. Not that I needed any more judgmental voices to model as I have plenty of my own. I should be... I shouldn’t be... should should should. Here I am in paradise and I shouldn’t shed a tear. Being in paradise I should always, every moment of every second, be grateful. I should realize that this too is my life and I should marvel at the wonder of it all. Always.
A-funk-a-fied. That is a word. Don’t test me by telling me it isn’t. Two days of serious funk and no writing. Hmmmm. Help me do the math here. The plan was to work on my book when I am not blogging and that plan has been thwarted. Drats foiled yet again. This is a scientific experiment: how will I feel this afternoon after writing compared to my mood over the past 2 days with no writing... we shall see. I will not factor in the fact that we are seeing Face tonight in Boulder. No, I will determine my post-writing mood independent of that extraneous event. Should be a simple equation. As previously stated, this moodiness t feels like a bad case of PMS. And, it could be “that time” coupled with the fact that on the 50 side of my mid-40’s I may be entering peri-menopause which I have heard carries many many joys. Especially the “Urine leakage while coughing or sneezing.” Not. I have been agro to the max; short on patience, long on reactivity, thin-skinned and excessively tired. Overcast with only small glimpses of occasional sun to remind me it still exists. Although, these days in Colorado we no longer celebrate the sun. We now do rain dances across the state and pray for Seattle slop. And, the rain gods have been kind to us recently. The metro area is cooler than it’s been and our foothills have been getting somewhat regular baths. Of course, these baths bring lightening strikes which have started a few brush fires and caused panic among my neighbors but so far so good. No new fires in our backyard.
Good morning blank page that is staring me down threatening to stay blank and thwart my efforts. Good morning crazy mind that rambles away down the path of dissatisfaction and concern. Good morning cool basement that is an oasis from continuing heat in the Denver area. Good morning happy dogs who sprawl out on the floor after a somewhat satisfying w-a-l-k down the Highline Canal trail (still marveling at this trail system in suburbia! It’s amazing). The interesting thing about writing my blog has been that I don’t know where I am going. It’s like wandering in a car. Sometimes I head down peaceful country roads. Other times, I buzz down a highway at 90 miles an hour in a convertible eating bugs. Still others, I honk and swear as I am stuck in gridlock in sweltering city heat. I never quite know where I will go, how it will end up or how it will all come back together (or if it will). I have been willing to trust and to keep my fingers clicking away. 91,000+ words later, I have developed a small amount of faith that I will keep writing about this journey – for a while anyway. The new plan of one morning of blogging and the next dedicated to my re-write hasn’t quite launched as planned. Yesterday, I took the day off from all writing and celebrated the 4th with David by going to IKEA to plan our kitchen. I am so happy that he enjoys the design process as I do not. It is daunting and I don’t have strong opinions about the kitchen not being the gourmet chef and all. Does it have a coffee pot? Then we are good.
As another wildfire rages out of control near Fort Collins, my heart breaks for those who lost homes and particularly those who lost loved ones.  At 36,930 acres and zero percent containment, this fire is a nasty one.  An ‘act of God’ sparked this blaze in the form of a random lightning bolt.  Extreme dryness coupled with high winds is the perfect breeding ground for fire.  I didn’t sleep well, thoughts of these poor folks filling my mind, knowing some of what they are experiencing, only imagining more.  Tossing and turning throughout the night, I thought of what I want to say to them and those who love them.  I wish I could shield them from the inevitable roller coaster ride that results from life chewing us up and spitting us out.   Here is what I want to say: