You see signs like this all over Colorado.
But because it’s already wildfire season here in Colorado, I’d like to point out to Mother Nature, while black is certainly a color, it’s not the one we want covering the landscape.
As I write this, there are four wildfires raging (do fires do anything else?) around the state. One is in a remote area of Rocky Mountain National Park, one is near Canon City threatening the historic Royal Gorge Bridge, one is contained and almost out near La Veta.
But the one that concerns me most is in Black Forest, just north of Colorado Springs. (The irony of the name breaks my heart.) The weather is not cooperating — too dry, too hot, too windy. It’s only about 10% contained and has already destroyed almost 16,000 acres and 379 homes. It threatens thousands more.
Some of them belong to my friends, many of whom have been evacuated for days.
The Colorado Springs area is still reeling from the huge Waldo Canyon fire of last summer, until a few days ago the most destructive in Colorado history. In fact, Barb, a writer friend of mine who lost her house last year was moving into their new house just as the inferno in Black Forest got started. Everyone is having stressful flashbacks, some more so than others.
Barb spoke eloquently at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference about her journey from fire victim to survivor, reducing most of us to tears. She talked about not being able to get off the floor for days after her husband and kids resumed their normal lives. They returned to work and school. But Barb’s ‘normal life’ — like many writers — is spent at home. She had nothing normal in her life any longer.
People often say, “It’s just stuff.” And it is. Kinda.
But you have it because you need it: eyeglasses, prescriptions, clothes, phone chargers, shoes, file folders of writing ideas.
And because you want it: photographs, piano music, your Dad’s pipes, signed copies of books, the carved roadrunner wearing sneakers you got in Santa Fe that Christmas.
George Carlin has a funny stand-up routine about ‘stuff.’
Sometimes we feel overwhelmed by our stuff, think “Hoarders” and clearing the paperwork from our desks. Sometimes we get tired of our stuff and haul it to Goodwill. Sometimes we’re forced to get new stuff because we’ve used it up, worn it out, or made it do for too long.
I’ve been thinking about ‘stuff’ more than usual, even before these new fires, because I was involved a bit in the cleaning out of my father-in-law’s house after he died. It made me wonder about the, ahem, legacy I was leaving for my kids. Most of my treasures will be their junk. And that’s fine.
Every year the news reminds me to go through the house photographing everything for the insurance company. But now I’ll do it for my kids too. I’ll tell them the story of where I got my stuff and why it’s important to me. If my stuff is important to them after I die they can add it to their stuff and pass down the story, adding their particular insights.
But if my stuff is not important to them they have my blessing to haul it to Goodwill. As George Carlin says, “Ain’t nobody interested in your 4th grade arithmetic papers.”
There’s a helplessness that has settled over me like so much ash, but I guess if Barb can get up off the floor and start writing again, certainly I can pick up the camera and a trash bag. (If there’s no reason to photograph it, at least I can get rid of it so nobody else has to.)
I’m sure there’s a writerly metaphor hiding in there but right now it’s obscured by the smoke.
Stay safe, peeps, and good luck with your stuff.