The fires ravaging the pristine natural beauty of the Colorado Rockies have been consuming not only the beetle kill pines, but the lifestyles of people across the state. Each day the choking black plumes of destruction dot the horizon line. The oppressive energy, pervasive among the folks looking West at their beloved homes and hide-aways returning to the earth and merging with the devastated landscape. Each hour, the concentric circles of the fire maps expand exponentially.

Chaos and anxiety hovering over the surface of the city like the oddly illuminated skies. Hundreds of people, suddenly refuges without the definition of their life’s possessions, linger in limbo. The rest pace their unfamiliar settings waiting to hear if they have a home to return to.

I have always felt blessed by the inheritance of a sunny disposition. The brighter side presents first for me, but by the end of the second week, as the fires reignited, I was exhausted. I paused and felt the heavy burden of all that has transpired fall like a shroud upon my shoulders.

The Wildflower Habitat Project had given some foreshadowing. Over Memorial Day I had gone down to assess this summer’s chores only to find that someone had heartlessly torched all of the now huge rabbit brush we rescued Earth Day 2001. It broke my heart to see the cruelty and ignorance of that action and I was having trouble finding the inner strength to go back down to nurture my beloved ones. Perhaps, sensing the edge of despair, I hopped on my bike to chase the ensuing depression out of my psyche. The smoky sunset was sure to produce the exquisite, eerie light that fascinates the on lookers, inspires the photographers and consoles the grieving. I wanted to witness once again the 3-D, blood red ball of sun penetrating the golden-orange billowing clouds rising up from the earth into the ethers.

I wanted to express the deeply personal aspect of this event. I imagined the photo statement I could make with the chard rabbit brush in the foreground, echoed by the smoldering, blackened surface of my land at Whale Rock Road, accented by the columns of smoke rising from the High Park Fire. I knew it would document the emotions evoked by this summer’s scalding.

To my delighted surprise I was amazed to witness the renewal of the earth that is inspired by the transformational energy of fire. In less than a month all of the burned plants are making a strong come back. The brim of my eyes twitching, heavy laden with tears confused by the agony and the elation. The bright green of renewal highlighted by the dramatic black of the chard earth. The Great Mother offers the deep solace of the long standing wisdom that this too shall pass.

Like the resilient Native plants, we, as a community, can use the nutrients of this tragic event to inspire our compassion and connections with others. Signs of appreciation spring up daily along Overland Trail, and people are now lining the country roads to cheer the fire crews on as they return from their long and exhausting days of protecting what we all love. The cheers lift the hearts of everyone as heroes smile and wave with the pride of acknowledgement. Local restaurants are waiving the bill for displaced citizens. Friends opening their homes, and outreach through websites that direct donations for specific needs are flourishing. People from as far away as Berthoud, Greeley and Cheyenne volunteered their trailers to rescue animals caught in harm’s way. Art benefits and local musicians putting together concerts for the volunteer firefighters are raising spirits as well as money. All are evidence of the power of renewing the spirit of concern.