Sunday, July 8, 2018

Heartbreak and Gratitude

I write this on Monday, July 2nd, Day 6 of the Spring Fire in southern Colorado which has now burned over 60,000 acres, destroyed numerous human dwellings, and killed wildlife in numbers impossible to tally.

We have watched, helpless, as our beloved mountains burn, checking weather forecasts often, hoping for rain and dreading high wind predictions. Our eyes are ever pulled to the west, alert for changes in the pattern of smoke. The air is often so thick with it that breathing is labored. Ash falls at times from the sky.

Those of us who’ve been on pre~evacuation status for days find ourselves disoriented, not knowing what to do as we wait, households and psyches turned upside down. But as we learn of community members who’ve lost everything, our own disruption is brought into perspective even while our heartbreak grows.

We live in a state of preparedness. Anxiety embraces us. We are bereft. And the fact that such widespread devastation was caused by a single human being adds another horrific layer to it all.

Spiritual traditions urge us to cope with tragedies such as these by connecting with something infinitely larger and more enduring than this temporal reality. But when fear sparks frequently, much like the fire itself, that counsel is easily forgotten. As we re~member ourselves into that larger awareness, though, the churning calms and we can better see beyond the destruction. Given high levels of agitation, this is not easy and requires conscious, sustained focus.

Whether or not we find soothing, another spiritual truth is quite apparent: we are all in this together. An individual cannot fight a wildfire, nor can a single town. We need a vast network of assistance~~a host of talented and committed strangers, governmental resources, neighbors, and loved ones near and far. During a crisis of this magnitude, political and religious affiliations, personalities that appeal or repel, categories of race, age, sexual preference…all these fall away. And as divisiveness melts into the background, love shines out. 

Love is all. Love and gratitude overflowing…for those who save our lives through risking their own, for those who reach out to say they care, for these hearts of ours that keep on pumping, offering this opportunity for life.

Pain is a given in this realm we occupy, and nothing can obliterate that hard fact. Our task is to learn to live well with that reality, to grow wiser and to love better, while experiencing fully what it means to be human. 

I took advantage of Sunday morning’s clear air to walk to the lake. Fresh plumes of smoke rose from places hitherto untouched by fire. The winds, though, were calm and free of the smell of smoke. 

This valley I love so dearly spread itself out before me. Oh, but this world is precious and so very, very beautiful!


Note: As of Monday morning, July 9th, the Spring Fire has grown significantly north to south, and now covers over 107,000 acres and is the 3rd largest fire Colorado has ever seen. It is, however, 70% contained and though we remain on pre~evacuation status, we have been fortunate enough to still be in our home...and to have a home to still be in. There have been a total of 1811 firefighters on the job. And I was pleased to learn that, despite the fears I shared above, not a SINGLE dead or injured animal was found. As Shane Greer, Incident Commander of the South Spring Fire said, "They're a lot smarter than we are. They sense these things and they get out." He also assured us that, were they to see an injured animal, standard policy is to take them to rehab.

For those who wish to do so, donations can be made to the fire department of our town at or county Also, Team Rubicon, a non~profit disaster relief agency is on the scene, offering free home cleanup services to homeowners who now have dead trees blocking their drive or other hazards that they need help with. Not only have they have been praised by the fire response folks, but I just read a portion of their website and their secondary purpose is to give purpose to veterans, their organization's primary base. Here's their site with a Donate button in the upper right~~

If you would like further information, you can check out the fire's facebook page at