04 July, 2012

cinders and smoke

The pines were roaring on the heights.
The winds were moaning in the night.
The fire was red.
It flaming spread.
The trees like torches blazed with light.

I used to have this image on a pink (!) t-shirt when I was... five. Or six.

So a week ago Saturday, my parents called. This is unusual because they don't call me on Saturdays. We have an orderly, habitual relationship. I call them, and it's usually on Sundays. My father is the exception; he called twice the previous week to check on the colors for the matte for Nous's PhD diploma.

The point is, when one has, well, not elderly parents, but at least not young ones, one worries when they deviate from pattern...even if your first impulse is to ignore the phone because it's Date Night and you hate-hate-hate cell phones in restaurants (and you know your mother would agree with your decision).

The moment I got outside, I checked the voicemail.

Don't panic, Dad said (which is a guarantee that I should be freaking out, and that Mom probably is). But there's a fire just a little ways west of here, in Waldo Canyon, and we're under voluntary evacuation orders. We're not leaving, but we're packing. Just so you know.

This was a WTF moment. My parents do not live in the Colorado foothills. They live in a subdivision miles and miles from actual forests. There's a little wild-ish park across the street, laced with trails and paths, in which one sees coyotes and foxes and deer and bobcats, with rumors of bigger predators. But it's very much city. If you know my mother, you will understand why the very idea of living in the boonies is laughable.

Mom claimed to be unworried. Dad, too. And then the fire just...kept...growing. Manitou Springs was evacuated (and allowed to come home). Dry devil winds pushed the flames along the canyons, and over the fire lines. I watched the news on Facebook. I watched the live streams from C-Springs TV online. I knew, maybe 5 minutes before my parents called, that their section of Rockrimmon had been evacuated.

That was Tuesday.

It's a little creepy, and a lot awful, to see photographs of a place you know pretty well on international news, and to recognize landmarks, and to know just how close that glowing line is to your parents' house. To realize just how far into the actual city--a big city!--the fire had gotten. My best friend called daily to check on my parents. My friends on Facebook kept a constant stream of updates. And my parents and I talked daily, too--Mom convinced of the worst, Dad taking the wait-and-see position.

I came back from yoga on Wednesday and saw a big red ice-rune on the altar. Nous, it seemed, was getting into the fire-fighting business.

Mountain Shadows, a mere 350 yards as-the-crow-flies from my parents' house, burned. The little park across the street remained unburnt, but the subdivision on the other side--that I had seen being built, that I had looked at, as I hiked the park with my parents' dog--that burned flat.

And then the weather shifted, the winds died a little, the clouds came back, and the firefighters started winning.

By Saturday, my parents were back home. A little spoiled food, a little smoke-smell, that was all. Mom imagines that there's damage from falling cinders on the roof, but that inspection has not happened yet. Dad reported three sprinkler heads in need of repair. Life returned to normal, just like that.

Except for the ash-black hills behind them, where the mountains used to be.