FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: As the world continues to be a chaotic place, we celebrate some heroes at home: the Wildland Firefighters. Salida resident and author Kristen Moeller lost her home in a wildfire in 2012. Her latest book Phoenix Rising: Stories of Remarkable Women Walking through Fire...

At 5:30 on September 14th, it looked unlikely. Gasping for breath with pain in my chest, I watched my friends seem to skip up the trail and wondered if I had it in me. Panic set in. Only once before had that happened. Climbing a smaller mountain with my husband last summer, I couldn’t catch my breath and began to panic. I have always been able to count on my conditioning. Athletic all my life, I have maintained a fitness level without a ton of effort. Even after periods of laziness, I could get back in shape quickly. Accepting the invitation to climb a 14ner with dear friends, I threw myself into a month long training after a period of sporadic hiking during our build. Between that and my natural conditioning, I knew it would be tough but I figured I could do it. Of course occasionally, I wanted to bow out from laziness and some trepidation – maybe I will come down with a cold, maybe the weather will stop us, maybe my friends will cancel… The night before I tossed and turned for hours. When the wake up came at 3:40am, I was beyond groggy. Starting on the trail at dark was magical, the stars were our guide and I kept my headlamp off to feel the dark around me. Starting fast felt fine – for a minute – and then before I could say anything the shortness of breath and pain in my chest began. Immediately I did what any good perfectionist will do, I made myself wrong lamenting how it used to be, worrying about disappointing my friends, being embarrassed about my lack of conditioning compared to theirs mixed in with panic at not being able to breathe. I let them know of my struggles and we slowed our pace but at barely past the trailhead, I wondered how I would make the ascent.  
It’s fall in New England. A blustery, overcast day down by the shore carries the vow of a new season, along with remnants of the old drifting by, sprinkled on raindrops trying to make up their mind as to whom they might be. In this mostly summer community, houses are readied for winter, shutters firmly placed, outdoor furniture stowed, boats hauled to dry dockages. It gets quiet, although down here it is always quiet. The biggest sounds of a bustling summer are screen doors slamming, lawnmowers droning and children laughing. It’s that kind of place. Special beyond words, beautiful beyond description. Idyllic with rolling pastures, old clapboard houses, and rocky shorelines. This place is a hope chest of memories for my life. For 41 years, my family owned this house, and even before, we visited my grandparents and I toddled around their rolling lawn and tumbled down to the beach. Here I sit in this house, for the last time, with alternating waves of anticipation for our next step in this wacky life we are living and devastation that burps to the surface threatening to block out the light. Yes, of course saying goodbye to such a constant in my life would be complicated at this moment when we are still officially homeless. And, yes, the sale of this home will allow us to no longer be homeless. An “artisans bungalow” (as it is described in the MLS) near the lake in downtown Evergreen is readying itself for us and our ragtag of possessions. I came here, to Rhode Island, to carry out the sale of this house as well as to disperse of its contents. 41 years worth of stuff crammed into nooks and crannies, a lot ruined after years of humidity and mouse habitation, and many treasures found.
How can I mourn my loss when people across Colorado are mourning much bigger losses? This is the question that has been plaguing me for the past few days. How dare I feel sad? Why don’t I simply feel grateful for all I have? Doesn’t something like the Aurora shooting put everything else into perspective? Over the weekend, on lovely San Juan island, I had a moment where I thought I might get there. Maybe I could be done with mourning. I don’t spend every hour of every waking day mourning, certainly. But when it gets me, it gets me. My brief possibility of something else came to a halt yesterday. After traveling, a lovely weekend, the build up to my 2nd big performance on the stand-up comedy stage, and the actual performance (which was a blast and well attended by my lovelies), I woke up yesterday flat and flattened. I got to cry, then laugh with my women’s group yesterday, then continued to randomly shed tears off and on. Then today I awoke with the funk alive and well and camped out in my brain. Yes, I absolutely adore my new car and get quite happy every time I drive it. Yes, I love my dogs and take comfort when I smell their sweet heads. Yes, sleeping next to Tigger leaves me content even when he twitches for most the night. Yes, I love my husband and my friends. Yes, I am healthy. Yes, I need to mention that fabulous new car again! And, yes, we are a short time away from 2 plus weeks on our sailboat - thank God.
The longest day of the year. I think I have had others that have felt longer. But the sun promises to shine longer today than any other day. Maybe I will rise to the challenge and join it. Maybe not. Two sips of coffee in without enough cream to make it just right, I say, it's too soon to tell. I will certainly enjoy the last few flushes of a modern toilet as I return to Flame whose toilet is, once again, on the fritz. Thank God for Shirley Septic and my now semi-permanent portapotty. I don't mind it so much during the day (when no workmen are milling around) but those middle of the night pee times that have become status quo of my mid 40's, well, that's another story. Pledging to keep the leaking tank empty for our next professional opinion, I will stumble through the dark to my plastic throne - or I may just squat along the way. It's hard to imagine all of that as I sit on my plush hotel bed a mere eight feet from a fabulous flush. And, yes, one more standup shower for this girl before I return to the seated bird bath. How different tomorrow will be from today. Did you just say 'at least you are writing regularly again'? I think I heard you say that...
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:
I have found God and his name is Michael Franti.  I have found heaven and it is called Red Rocks.  I speak the truth, my people.  Let it be known.  Shout it from the mountaintops.   The lost have been found.  In the form of a 6’6” dreadlocked artist, Franti reminds us simultaneously of the darkness in the world, the depth of human emotions, and the glory of true joy.  He seems to hold all spaces equally without judgment. There is room for the love-struck teenybopper, the 89-year-old fan, the first date, the wheelchair bound, the pot smoking hippies culture par duex and more.  We are all welcome.  The bad day, good day, high on life or in the trenches, we stood shoulder to shoulder through the 3-hour show and danced our butts off, following his decree to raise our hands, jump, and make some noise.  Smiles glued to faces, knowing looks as we passed each other in the crowded aisles, joy was found at Red Rocks last night.  Franti sang simple odes of understanding the human condition:
And when the rain falls down
You know the flowers are gonna bloom
And when the hard times come
You know the teacher’s in the room
And when the sun comes up
You know that I’ll be there for you
Don’t let it go, oh no
He spoke directly to those going through struggles and pleaded with us to not give up.  I think we all agreed last night.  Red Rocks is a magical place.  My first experience there was in the mid 80’s as a college student.  It’s a blur for sure as drinking and drugging were my companions at any concert but the magical venue left it’s mark.  If you have never been to a concert there, you must at least do it once in your lifetime.  Musicians love it.  The natural rock formations create a perfect amplification of sound.  Many claim it as their favorite venue.  For most Coloradans, and those lucky enough to visit our fine state, it is definitely our favorite.