In Colorado Springs it has been hot and dry this spring and summer. The grass in the city was brown and the sun was like a relentless furnace on our heads. Many trees have not come back to life from winter and their dry silhouettes are like dead ghosts all over town. Now the landscape has greened with the rains of July and August and wild sunflowers pop their radiant heads everywhere.
When the Black Forest fire hit, I was returning to town with my husband and the huge column of smoke towered over us and could be seen from far away; I approached the town with apprehension wondering where it was. Smoke was everywhere and as we got closer we knew that a fire had erupted nearby.
The next day, it was all over the news. It even made national news and emails began pouring in from concerned friends and family. The result of all this after a week of evacuation, pre-evacuation, and a huge amount of bravery from all the firefighters and care from all the city officials and the army, was five hundred and nine home burned and many more partially touched by the fires. I was just floored. I think that the fires have left a profound mark on the collective psyche of the town.
My heart went to all the people that lost it all. Lost their home and were homeless in shelters, with family or with friends. Worst of all, the family that watched their home burned on TV.
It was a painful reminder of last year with the Waldo Canyon fires that devastated the mountains and hills, came to town and burned more than three hundred homes. I felt vulnerable and helpless.
It prompted me to think about the meaning of a home. What is it to lose it and what is it to see it go along with the flames of the forest around it? It never happened to me so I can only guess and imagine what it would be like to see it all go to ash.
My home now of 20 years is like an oasis where I can breathe happily and that over time I have filled with so many memories. I have the silver goblet that my grandmother used everyday when brushing her teeth and old black and white portraits of my grand uncle who was a poet and so very good looking. Old french books published in limited editions in the island with the verses of talented poets of my family who felt every word and put them on paper for us to assimilate and inspire us.
My mother and father's photo is still in my studio looking at me from their grave. So are my old friends and my much loved mother-in-law. My studio is full of old writings of mine sleeping between the sheets of paper. Lots of jewelry supplies and art supplies fill my shelves and closets. Then there are the photos of all the grandchildren and my son and daughter and my great daughter-in-law. And of course books. Filling shelves, cabinets, guest room and even the garage and storage room. I read a lot.
On my walls are so many art works of mine and of artist friends here and from other countries where I lived, and many artful objects that I collected over the years. The greenery... I have twenty one house plants that grow and bloom under my care. Plus, I will not list all the dear objects that fill me with delight. My house is the center of my life, the place where I have my studio and where I dream each night and share my hopes and desires with my husband.
Should all of that burn I would be devastated. I had lost a great part of my home to Hurricane Andrew in Miami and lost many precious books and art work and art supply that looked as if they had been put in a huge blender .
I imagine what would it be to lose my home completely. To see everything turned to ash. Maybe if I walked out with my husband, untouched, I would feel so very thankful; but the loss of what is so dear to both of us would be a unique, powerful and painful experience that opens my heart to all the ones who are now homeless and with them, I grieve.