I was generator challenged this morning. Attempting to conserve power by starting our small generator, my brain found it’s well worn groove and executed the same maneuver 3 separate times even walking away between each try so as not to “flood” the poor machine. Finally, dejected, I called David and asked why the generator might choose today of all days to cease functioning. His usual reply, “user error, perhaps?” Convinced I followed the proper protocol, this did not seem likely. Having no choice but to try another approach, I switched the choke button to the opposite position and it started right up. Only thing is, I continued to let it run on choke... At this point in time, I have started this generator on a multitude of occasions. My brain doesn’t feel especially foggy this morning – not any foggier than usual I should say. But I now have scrambled eggs for brains when I attempt to think about where the choke button should be…
After two days of clouds, snow, rain and mist, the sun is shining brightly today. We have had June weather in March, and now March weather in May. Seems Mother Nature cannot make up her mind. This is the joy of Colorado living.
Yesterday, my neighbors and I took our third trip to the Capitol. This time to testify in front of a Senate committee about the future of what has now become two bills to assist victims of the fire. After pressure from the press (primarily Channel 7), the Governor, Attorney General and legislators from both sides of the aisle came together in a press conference to declare their desire to work together. Our testimonies last week in front of the house were very different than last night in front of the senate. Something was shifting in big government and we could sense it in the room. Hardened lawmakers were softening up and actually wiping away tears as they listened to our words. The senators that sponsored the bill both got choked up as they presented their case. All of us were more emotional too. Yes we are tired and yes it’s hard to tell the story over and over but it seemed we were even rawer and tears flowed from most of us as we shared in front of this strangely sympathetic group.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. Margaret Mead
What will this day hold? More letters to the Governor? Sifting through emotional ashes? Meetings with attorneys? Writing insurance inventory? Maybe a walk with the dogs? Then falling into bed at the end of the day exhausted yet waking up before the sun far from rested? I wonder.
Except for a few precious things, my life is unrecognizable from before. Fortunately, I do have the same friends – and even more than before, I must say. My friends carry me when I want to stop. Two of my dearest have shared their letters they wrote to the Governor they both voted for yet now are dismayed to watch him shrug his shoulders and shirk his responsibility. I am beyond touched by their words.
Yesterday, around 30 neighbors and families attended a hearing at the Capitol on proposed House Bill 32 152, which would raise caps for compensation for fire victims. Representative Cheri Gerou (a mountain area resident) co-sponsored the bill with Representative Bob Gardner.
I haven’t been to the Capital since college. The building is beautiful and Gerou and Gardner chose to have the hearing held in the old Supreme Court chambers, an elegant vaulted room with towering stain glass images of original Colorado settlers. The room was perfect as we discussed our fine state and what it stood for: the Wild West tamed for habitation infused with the spirit of independence formed by a community of like-minded people.
The words “by the people for the people” emerge from the fog of my formative years. I googled this to recall the source: Lincoln’s famous quote from the Gettysburg address. “…this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom; and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
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.
Yesterday was dark. I never managed to emerge from the clouds. I saw brief rays of sunshine but they passed quickly and disappeared back into the muck. As I sat down to write yesterday, all I could feel was a deep exhaustion. Hoping the day would bring some lightness to my mood, I chose to write later. Instead, by the end of the day, I couldn’t focus. Until Dusty came over and lifted my spirits, that is.
On Sunday night, we had the first meeting of the homeowners who lost homes. Putting faces to names and coming together as a group was good. Seeing the devastation in their faces was heart breaking. We are now bonded in ways that will sustain. We may drift out of each others lives, but we will never forget our connection. Having survived a fire and now dealing with the agony of putting our lives back together; we are part of a club that no one ever wanted to join. Grown men who were strangers a few weeks ago now openly share their tears. Women meet for the first time with open arms and deep sobs. We look knowingly into each others eyes. One neighbor shared her struggle with merely buying a bra – I understand. I haven’t been able to purchase my teakettle yet. I know I want it but can’t quite pull the trigger. For a shopper, this is weird. The joy is gone from shopping. It now resides in the column of overwhelming tasks.
I did it.I read the report.And, now I feel sick. I smell my own sweat in my stress reaction. I will share some of what I read.And, some of what I heard at the Town Hall meeting last night.
But first, I must say that there are those who are already saying we mountain residents should buck up.We chose to live in a fire zone so what are we whining about.I have actually seen comments such as these.To that I say, when it’s an act of God, a fire is still devastating – and yes, we live here knowing this is a possibility.We, like many of our neighbors had a “defensible space” around our home.And, ironically, we received a grant from the Forest Service to preform this work.They approved the thinning and marked trees that needed to go.We also had a metal roof, fire resistant decking and metal siding on 1/3 of our house.This fire was not an act of God.It was an act of human error - and bureaucracy at it’s finest.So yes, we are a little mad.
I must remember, it’s always the ignorant that spout off at the mouth and are critical of a victim’s response.We are all familiar with the “blame the rape victim” reaction.“Well, she shouldn’t have been wearing such a short skirt and walking the streets by herself…”These morons are to be expected.When they turn up in our government, it is a little more disturbing.