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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
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 www.msnbc.com 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.
Quote of the day: “Once upon a time, man had a love affair with fire.” – Robert McCammon
All our firefighters working so very, very hard
My new protective eye
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.