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I went to what was once my house today. When the National Guardsman tried to stop me, I just said “No.” And he said “Okay.”

I will write more later. I am sifting through my feelings as I am sifting through the ashes. A hot spot here, a smoldering branch there. Lost love covered in clean snow. A charred ring box containing a Tibetan orb, the gentle chime it makes still as clear as it was on the long ago Christmas that my Mother gave it to me.

And most shattering, the bones of my best boy, Roscoe, in the spot in front of the fireplace where his bed always lay. I feel more like he was taken by the smoke, which is a whisper of comfort. I do not think I could survive had we found them by the front or back door. No trace of my Dusty, but he was so small that I don’t know if we will be able to find anything.

I am raw. Shocked. Enraged. Despairing. Lost.

My Roscoe, the best boy.


It can mean quiet joy or unbearable trauma. For me, right now, it’s the latter.

My little 100+ year old house by the creek, beneath the cottonwoods, concealed by ancient fragrant lilacs in the best of spring, when purple iris clustered around the chimney, is gone. Reduced to ashes, along with my elderly dog and cat, by a capricious and cruel wildfire. A wildfire that was impossible to imagine in our little suburb that used to be a mining town, along with hundreds of other houses. All in the span of a few hours.

My ex-Pat lived there, in the first house we bought together, which we still amicably owned together. I remember when I committed to buy it. We’d been married about three months and I couldn’t reach him by phone. Then I asked several co-workers, “Would you be mad if your wife bought a house without asking you?” He wasn’t, of course. It was the first house we looked at. Across the road, unpaved those 30 years ago, from a cow pasture. We lugged our first Christmas tree there home in a snowstorm from a lot where they later built the town hall.

When I left my marriage, I tried to leave the house as intact with my things as possible, trying to create the least amount of disruption for our daughter. So much of my treasured past, along with her entire childhood, vanished in the flames. My great grandmother’s china. My grandmother’s barrister bookcases housing my all-time favorite books. My Mother’s champagne glasses. Decades of my journals. Most of my photographs. My wedding dress. My daughter’s childhood artwork. Her stuffed animals. Her red dragon that was a bubble blower. Her Legos and Yu-Gi-Oh cards. The little books my Mother used to read to her, that were mine when I was a child. My grandmother’s letters to a mysterious beau during World War I that I had been saving to read. A shirt from a beau of my own that he gave me to remember him by, a beau whose heart I sadly broke many years later.

All gone.

We keep thinking of the random things we’ve lost, as we try not to think about the two furry loves that we lost. I want to die myself, and struggle to believe that they didn’t suffer, that the smoke got to them, and not the flames. I am agonizingly desperate for that reassurance. And unspeakably guilty that I could not save them. The worst kind of ‘what if’ and magical thinking.

This is not the first time my heart has been shattered. It likely, poignantly, will not be the last. But the pain is paralyzing. I don’t want to be here anymore. I go into my niece’s powder room and look for something I can cut myself with, just to try to let out the pain, to ease it into something I can bandage. I don’t, of course, and almost hate myself for not doing it, but I don’t. For my daughter. For my husband. For my ex. For my niece and her husband and her almost three-year old son, who have opened their home to her uncle. I don’t want to make them hurt more through my own selfish act.

So I plod on. Days interrupted by wracking sobs and small episodes of abject despair. Dreamless nights with a few snatched hours of sleep. Waking moments when I realize it’s real and the evil pain rushes back in to consume my soul. Nausea that has kept me from eating for two days so far. Dimly reminding myself that it will get better and just not caring. The someday when it will feel better is too far away for me to see or give a damn about.

I know I have not lost everything. But I have lost enough.

That chimney is all that is left of my house.

I sometimes think that all works of art are born somehow of fire. Words burn in a writer’s brain, unforgiving until they can spill upon page. Motion burns from the core of a dancer’s muscles. Paintings are licks of flame risen from a spirit through a brush to a canvas. Even in photography, there is a burning peaceful need to capture what is seen by one set of eyes into something that can be seen by others, a sharing of the embers of the photographer’s vision. The center of the earth that we walk on each day is made of fire, and it passes through layers of rock and soil and the skin of the soles of our feet to the center of the souls of our being, and must be expressed somehow.

In this sculpture studio, we found the purest expression of the creative fire, molten iron casually poured by men protected from its destructive power, men looking like creatures from the center of the earth themselves, men who controlled the flow of creativity, channeling it into molds and frames, containing it, shaping it, melding with it, as it fashioned itself through the sculptors hands into art, cold to the touch but still retaining that fire within. As we all do.

It reminded me that art can be dirty and primal and beautiful, full of heat and passion and practicality all at the same time, blending hotly and gently to create an artist’s ever-imperfect vision, for imperfection is the nature of art as viewed by the artist, and what makes them strive to improve always, trying to touch that fiery core with their bare hands, capture it, rejoice in it, and share it.


Shidoni, Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Quote of the day: “I used to know a sculptor… He always said that if you looked hard enough, you could see where each person carried his soul in his body. It sounds crazy, but when you saw his sculptures, it made sense. I think the same is true with those we love… Our bodies carry our memories of them, in our muscles, in our skin, in our bones. My children are right here.” She pointed to the inside curve of her elbow. “Where I held them when they were babies. Even if there comes a time when I don’t know who they are anymore. I believe I will feel them here.” — Erica Bauermeister

Daily gratitudes:
Brief flashes of clarity
Some time with Kelsea
Realizing creative necessities
Beach time soon come

In between the mountains lie the valleys. Mother Nature, perhaps egged on by man (we don’t know yet), has thrown a tantrum and is burning our Black Forest, which is about 75 miles west of where this picture was taken. This shot was from last year; at this time last year, we were confronted with the vicious and seemingly relentless Waldo Canyon fire. Now we are facing that horror again. If you are not here, you might think “horror” is a rather strong word. You might feel a certain detached sympathy for what we’re experiencing here in Colorado. But as a now longtime resident, this is horrifying and tragic. It is painful to watch on the news, painful to know it is happening just down the highway. I hurt for the people who have lost their homes, and for those who are waiting to see if theirs will go up in flames. My heart breaks for the animals, wild and domesticated, who have fallen victim to fear and flames. This fire is a monster and it is not even close to giving up. Poor Colorado Springs has had enough in the last two years, and this is just the beginning of fire season. MKL and I had talked many times about looking for a house in Black Forest. After today, I am thinking again about living in the midst of the trees. Please include Colorado in your prayers tonight.


Park County, Colorado.

Quote of the Day: “Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak..surrender to them.” — Hermann Hesse

Daily gratitudes:
Coloradoan’s generosity of spirit

It’s not the heat…oh, wait, yes, it is.

Did I complain about the heat before?  I can’t remember.  Maybe because when it’s over 100 for days in a row, my brain fries like an egg on an Arizona sidewalk.  Fortunately, we’ve had a week’s respite from the surface equivalent of hell, as the heat wave moved eastward.  But now, we here in the Rocky Mountain foothills, which everyone thinks of as cool, are back in 7-10 straight days in the 90s.  And we have humidity to boot, which is rare here, but actually made last night feel downright balmy. The kind of summer night I remember from my childhood, where we would stay out after sunset to catch fireflies in the backyard, holding them gently in Dixie cups, watching them glow.

I love warm, and I love summer, but this is the first time I’ve ever actually thought “I wish it was winter.” I quickly amended that thought to “I wish it was fall,” because I can’t ever ACTUALLY wish for cold and snow and wet and misery. But it tells you how bad things were that the thought could even cross my mind for an instant.

The 90s aren’t as bad as the 100s, but what inspired me to pen (or keyboard) my thoughts about the heat was today’s story about exploding hay bales.  When I read this, it just seemed outrageously wrong.  I immediately thought about one of my favorite bloggers, Miss C of The Kitchen’s Garden.  Heaven forbid that her hay bales, laboriously stacked in the barn, start combusting spontaneously.

As an aside, Kelsea had to do her final speech in Public Speaking on a topic about which she was passionate.  She chose spontaneous combustion as her topic.  Only my darling daughter would be passionate about spontaneous combustion.  Blood will tell.  But I learned a few things from her, as she test-drove her presentation on me.  Perhaps I’ll share them in a follow-up post.

As far as exploding hay is concerned, apparently that can happen when there is moisture in the hay when it is baled and stored in a hot barn.  Who knew?  (Well, probably New Zealand farmers knew, but I didn’t.)  The cause is well explained in a cool little blog post by Matthew Gryczan on his SciTechCommunications blog, but I’ll sum it up here for you.

After hay is cut, it still continues to breathe – perhaps I exaggerate, but the image of bales of hay, sitting quietly in a darkened loft, inhaling and exhaling, was too delicious to resist.  It still respirates, if you will, producing heat as it uses oxygen as a catalyst to turn its sugars and starches into CO2. Combine the heat it produces with molds and other biological bugs and materials, and all those life forces churning and munching together can generate heat of 180-210 degrees Farenheit, which is enough, when you add it all up, to make hay explode. While this phenomenon is not widely discussed, it has been documented as far back as 60 B.C. by the Roman philosopher Pliny.  (I wonder if Pliny was also a farmer? Or just very observant?  Or perhaps like an early Roman CSI guy, called in to investigate a murderous exploding haystack?)

As I discovered a couple of years ago, hay is not that comfortable and it is a haven for creepy things that will eat you – or eat other creepy things and leave their carcasses buried in said hay.  So this is just one more reason to squelch any inclinations you may have, on these dog days of summer, to take a snooze in one of those lovely rounded stacks of hay that dot the pastoral fields of our sweltering countryside.

Keep cool and carry on.

With any disaster, be it natural or manmade, empaths (like me) have a broad-spectrum struggle.

We take the “can’t look away from the train wreck” mentality to the extreme, studying and following the most minute details so closely that we embed the event within our souls.

I have often questioned why I do this. Who benefits? I do not outwardly share the pain I experience as a result of this empathy, so I am not doing it for any self-gratification or to attract attention from people around me. That’s not how empaths function anyway. I wouldn’t dream of comparing my empathic experience to those who are directly impacted by something like the Waldo Canyon fire – the people who have lost their homes, the firefighters who are wearily yet steadily fighting what must at times feel like an incredibly discouraging and losing battle.

Given the rampage of fires within close proximity to me and places that I love here in Colorado, you might imagine that I’ve spent some time thinking about this. I suppose I’ve come up with some vague and unconfirmed answers.

I draw energy into myself. I transform it and expend it back into the universe. It’s like breathing. Like pulling something from the air, and turning it into something more peaceful and sending it back out. The energy I pull in comes from the air itself, from the fire, from the heat, from the silent, or not so silent cries of people who are suffering, from their own energetic emissions of pain, fear, and loss. I breathe in the negative energy, I breathe out the positive energy. I absorb the negative energy and transform it into life force energy. That sounds a little uber-woo-woo, even for me. I guess it’s hard to find the words. I try to soothe others by taking on their energetic pain.

This unconscious exercise – and it is unconscious, second nature for me – is wearisome, yet rewarding.  It’s like giving a gift with no idea who the recipient will be, or how it will benefit them, just knowing that it will.  But my body and spirit exhaust themselves, even as they are enriched by the process.

I am like a sponge, absorbing the energetic pain of people I will never see, pain that I just pick up from the winds, pain that I intuit from pictures.

And at the same time, I throw psychic energy at the flames, in an attempt to stop them. This enters into the realm of magical thinking, which any therapist worth his or her salt will tell you is not beneficial in any way to anyone. But a belief in magic and the powers of the unseen world are part and parcel of being an empath. While I do not think that my thoughts alone can stop (or start) a fire, I do wonder if the collective healing energy sent directly  into the universe by people can impact something like a fire. I suppose Christians would translate that into the power of prayer. Although from the Buddhist perspective, I should know that things like this are beyond my control, and I should just be with it, doing what I can to help.

Fire, especially a wildfire, has its own unique energy, its own life force, highly connected with nature.  In many cases – such as the Flagstaff Fire in Boulder and (hopefully) the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs – such fires are sparked by nature and fed by nature, and it is a challenge for man to contain them.  Fires draw their strength from trees and brush, from wind and the heat of the air, all this natural energy that feeds it and that it in turn emits – a balance within itself.  I believe that empaths, who are sensitive to both the energy of nature and the energy of man, pick up very strongly on that entity that is a fire. We absorb some of its energy as well, and are disturbed by the very violence of its nature. Combine that with how we pick up on the energy of people who are suffering and you have a thick energetic pudding that we find ourselves swimming in.

It’s tough to keep your head above the surface when you’re swimming in pudding.

We have our own fire burning here in Boulder now, which is scary in itself, but Colorado Springs looks like the apocalypse has arrived. It is heartbreaking and terrifying.  Tonight’s sunset opened a glimpse of heaven. I wanted to share it with you. Tomorrow, I’ll share some more images of our fire.

Boulder, Colorado.

Quote of the day: “Once upon a time, man had a love affair with fire.”  —  Robert McCammon

Daily gratitudes:
All our firefighters working so very, very hard
My new protective eye
My Droid


It feels like all of Colorado is burning. I know this is a factual exaggeration, but if you are here, it seems to be true. The High Park fire, near Fort Collins, has burned over 82,000 acres. The smoke from that fire, north of here, is sometimes strong in my town, and the skies are often hazy.

Yesterday, the Waldo Canyon fire started about 30 miles from where Kelsea and I were staying in Cripple Creek. The smoke was acrid where we were, burning our noses, eyes, and throats, making us cough, making it hard to breathe. Attendance at Donkey Derby Days had dropped significantly, with people trying to figure out how to get out. The highway into Colorado Springs was closed, and the alternate routes were unfamiliar and took unseasoned travellers far out of the way of wherever their final destination may have been.

We left after the Dog Show, and decided to see how far into Woodland Park we could get, making it to the WalMart before we were turned back.

Here’s the view of the fire from the Woodland Park WalMart parking lot:

Waldo Canyon Fire from Woodland Park WalMart

We turned around and headed down Hwy. 67 towards Deckers, and had gotten just around Turtle Creek when Kelsea said, “Is that smoke?” I didn’t see it, so I thought it might be just blown over from the Waldo Canyon fire, but sure enough about a mile onward, we saw had a clear view to the south, and saw this:

Start of the Turtle Creek fire

Kelsea called 911 and was told there were already crews on the way.  Our question is, what crews?  Fully half of the NATION’s wildfire fighting resources are already deployed to existing Colorado fires, and there are huge fires burning in New Mexico, Utah, and Arizona as well. By the time we had driven another mile, and pulled over on a high spot, we saw this:

Turtle Creek Fire

Trees were starting to pop like firecrackers. And the wind was picking up and moving our direction. We were about a mile from the fire. I decided we should head on, because that just seems like a good idea when a fire is heading your way. But we stood there watching for a bit, near tears. It hurts to watch such beauty burn.

By the time we got to Pine, we heard that they had closed the road behind us. We had passed quite a few cars clearly packed with as much of their possessions as they could carry, and the atmosphere at Zola’s, where we stopped for burgers, was markedly subdued.  In fact, we were unusually quiet and pensive, both wishing there was something we could do. We are both warm bodies, and would both be willing to go toe to toe with a wildfire.

I’m home now, and the wind is high, the skies are churning and greenish, thunder is rumbling, and I just unwisely finished watching “Twister”. Fire trucks and emergency vehicles are racing past my house. To quote Puglet, no idea.

But please say a prayer for all of those who are being impacted by the combined wrath of Mother Nature and carelessness of man – who knows which is the cause of such destruction.

This map is of June 23, and is missing the Turtle Creek Fire.

As we drove home from Wyoming on Monday, I noticed a plume of smoke rising from the mountains.  “That’s not good, ” I said to Kelsea.  “It’s too windy.”  Looks like I was right.

Boulder is a good place to live.  But like anywhere else, it has its risks, and fire is one of them.  We’ve been fairly lucky this year, until now.  I recall a fire last year that glowed red in pockets in the moutainside in the darkness.  Many years ago, when Pat and I still lived in town, the Black Tiger fire burned and burned in Boulder Canyon.  It was so close to our apartment that I could see the hot spots burning on the hills as I lay in bed at night.  And that was scary.

The summer of the Hayman Fire, some years back, was our worst summer in my memory; it burned tens of thousands of acres.  The Fourmile Fire has burned less than 10,000 acres, but the same number of homes as were lost in the Hayman Fire.  The foothills of Boulder are pretty populated.  I’ve thought about living up there myself, and even these fires don’t deter me from considering that as an option.

That said, while the plumes of smoke still rise from the foothills (though yesterday’s brief rain was a godsend) and the haze still hangs in the air, it is painful to see the lands we love burn and the people we consider our neighbors lose so much.  Animals are wandering into town to escape the flames, and wildlife officials are telling the public to just leave them be – I guess they’ve gone through enough as well.

Kelsea and I took a lot of pictures on Monday – I’ll post some on MonkeyEye soon.

So say a few prayers to the weather gods to enlist their help for the firefighters; let’s put this one to rest.

January 2022


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