colorado fires: disaster and delight

by rebecca on July 17, 2012

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The Colorado Fires snuck into the most normal moments of people’s lives. I was taking pictures of my son’s 4H archery practice located about 30 minutes from our home when I saw a slurry bomber fly overhead and snapped a photo.

I found out later that plane was just returning from dumping bright orange retardant on the woods behind our home.

My daughter was home and received the evacuation phone call. She located the dog, my photo albums, and her dad’s toolbelt, when the owner of that belt walked in the door. He’d driven over to look at the fire.

He watched as a tiny plane traced circles above the flames. Then the slurry bomber dropped in line, playing follow the leader, diving lower and lower, daring the flames to lick the bottom of their engines. Suddenly, bright orange powder filled the air.

Plane after plane arrived. Drop after drop of slurry managed to extinguish the bolt of lightning that instantly flamed into a roaring fire a week ago.

Now the rain has come. We are drenched in relief and gratitude for people who perform a hero’s job as a daily task.

This photo reminds me of the moment in which I live. Unbeknownst to me a fire burns, but I am with my son as he shoots his bow. Delight and tragedy are constant cousins.

There was a time that I spent fire season making lists and plans. I was more prepared for disaster than joy. I looked at the people who rented storage units and filled them with treasured albums and mementos with envy. “They are so much more organized than I am,” I lamented.

Then I watched the reaction of my husband’s aunt as her house burned to the ground this spring while she was miles away, preparing to board a plane bound for France. She and her husband laughed, “Well, we wanted to downsize,” they said, “I guess this will help.”

Of course they were sad when they thought of the children’s handmade gifts, but I’ve never heard them talk about their fire as a tragedy. They’ve spoken only with gratitude about how good their insurance coverage is, how helpful people have been, and how change is good.

Our aunt has started drawing/writing in a book. Each time she thinks of a treasured item she misses, she lists it in her book. Perhaps she draws it, maybe she writes about why she misses it. She has found the memories are still very much in tact. The thing itself is not necessary to illicit the love she felt from her granddaughter’s leather tooling or her grandson’s handwriting. Feelings do not melt.

Freedom reigns as I enjoy my son. He shoots his bow and I am here with him. I am not home packing boxes to send to a storage unit so I can enjoy photos of him later. Life is the razor thin line drawn in the sky by a slurry bomber returning to the airport to refuel. My focus is equally thin. I’m learning to store up delight.

What would you put in the storage unit? Are you better at delight or disaster? Do you take pictures of random airplanes only to discover they’ve been at your house?

I love the emotion of this YouTube video. People who have encountered firefighters overflow with gratitude.

I’m participating in Heather’s Just Write blog series. Join the fun and read great stories.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

pamela July 18, 2012 at 12:10 am

So beautiful! “feelings do not melt.” And this: “Delight and tragedy are constant cousins.” So true.

I am so grateful you escaped unscathed, if you can call living so close to tragedy unscathed.


rebecca July 18, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Thank you, Pamela, for your heartfelt sentiments. But truly, we were in no real danger. When I think of what so many in Colorado have been through this month….well, the rain has been welcome. We got pretty dried out. And many were parched. My family merely flirted with danger and got a glimpse of this amazing firefighters and the tremendous job they do.


suzicate July 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm

Lovely, so many wonderful lines of truth in this.
There is so much here right now, better to enjoy it now than let it slip by only to see what we missed (right in front of us) in photographs.
I have a problem letting objects go when they are attached to memory, but your aunt is correct…the memory remains without said object. Perhaps, it’s time for me to continue with the decluttering I started (and stopped) last year.


rebecca July 25, 2012 at 2:13 pm

I understand your desire to return to decluttering after reading about the fires. I, too, have a similar response.


denise July 29, 2012 at 6:03 pm

rebecca, this piece resonates with me so much. i love taking photos and often find myself missing the moment i wish to capture. tomorrow, i will put away my camera.

sending much safety and love to you and yours.


rebecca July 31, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Denise, it’s interesting to me that this piece had this effect on you. “Missing the moment I wish to capture.” I know that feeling. Trying so hard to preserve a moment that we never actually inhabit it to begin with.


If your love is taking photos, is that HOW you live your moments? I really love photos too, and often find my joy increases with a camera in my hands. It all has to do with my attitude, I guess. When I can shake free of that frantic feeling I’m OK.


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