For a while, it looked like we might have to delay this summer’s visit to Colorado Springs. The Waldo Canyon fire started spreading towards the city about a week before we were scheduled to arrive. Our family here was forced to evacuate to the home of friends on the other side of town. But the fire was receding and the evacuees back home in time. When we got in, the fire was about 50% contained, and still very much on people’s minds.
The smell of smoke came and went, depending on the direction of the wind. The haze that hung over the mountain may have been smoke from the local fires, or it may have blown south from Wyoming.
One day we watched new plume rise from the center of a green patch high in the hills. S kept watching it. J said that after seeing flames rising from the mountains, one plume of smoke didn’t concern him. Plumes like that had been rising here and there for days.
He said he’d felt calm throughout the ordeal, but after they had returned home and finished a lunch of scrambled eggs, he was suddenly jittery. Not physically shaking. More like psychological jitters, he said. And when he was driving around town and turned on the jazz CDs he likes to listen to when he’s alone in the car, he found himself turning them right off again. Too much noise.
After she came home, S looked around her home, where everything was safe, exactly as she’d left it. She had taken a Buddha that has been in the family a long time, and the little stuffed squirrel she has had since she was little. It’s all just stuff, she said. But if she had to do it again, she would take her grandmother’s drawing of a horse.
Meanwhile, the fires kept burning. The day we arrived, more than a thousand firefighters were still engaged. Every morning and evening, when they changed shifts, grateful neighbors stood at designated intersections cheering and waving signs. You could still see some of the signs when you drove by, taped to trees and fences. “God Bless the Fire Fighters.” “We Love The Fire Fighters.” “Fire Fighters Are Super Heroes.”
One night, the friends who hosted our family during their evacuation came to dinner. It had been in the 90s most of the day, but by evening it was cool enough to sit outside. We ate kabobs and corn on the cob, appreciating each hint of breeze. As we were finishing up, we started feeling the slightest suggestion of rain drops. No one moved from their chairs. After a few minutes it stopped. It hadn’t even been enough to register as a trace on a weather report.