Thursday, June 28, 2012

Watching and Wondering

I grew up just up the road from Waldo Canyon, and hiked it for the first time last summer. Last time I hiked it was about 3 1/2 weeks ago.  

The Waldo Canyon fire began on Saturday around noon. Right around the time I returned from jumping.

On my way home Saturday afternoon, I had no idea I should have been watching for anything out of the ordinary. The skies were not yet unveiling the devastation that had begun.

By that evening, this is what I saw outside my front door.

I wasn't worried. There's a 4-lane highway between me and the fire. I didn't think it could possibly jump it.

At 3:00am the next morning I found out we were under mandatory evacuation.  I packed slowly. I went methodically through drawers and closets. I decided what I really did want to take with me. I pulled out of town about 6:00am and headed to my parents' house, about 45 minutes south.

Amazingly enough, we were allowed back into town 14 hours later, although I slept at my parents' house with the boys that night and returned Monday morning.

Since then, life has been full of watching and wondering.

Since then the fire has grown to over 18,000 acres. Many have lost homes. Facebook has exploded with childhood friends communicating back and forth, exchanging information, tales of our school-age haunts, and expressions of sadness over what we are losing.

I watch every fire truck that races down Manitou Avenue in front of my apartment building, wondering if it means the fire has jumped the highway. Wondering if we'll have to evacuate again.

I watch the press conferences, wondering if this time I'll hear that my hometown, cut off from the Springs for the first time in my memory, has been devastated.

I watch the skies, wondering if the aircraft (passing by my place literally every 5 minutes) dropping fire-retardant could possibly please move any faster? (I've since learned they've dropped 128,000 gallons of water/retardant since Saturday).

I must admit, I feel like I am on the "lucky" side of Colorado Springs. While most of the city is blanketed under a cloud of thick smoke that chokes the lungs and stings the eyes, Manitou has remained sunny and clear. The only tangible reminder we have that there is a fire burning just a few ridges over is the occasional smokey smell (that my boys love because it reminds them of camping).  I have not had any nights that I've not been able to sleep with my windows flung open.

Usually there is an abundance of blue sky. 

These images from my front porch are not the typical images coming out of the Springs.

Even looking in the direction of Colorado Springs, from here you'd have no idea what's happening, the hell so many are experiencing:

So life in Manitou returned to semi-normal after Sunday. I say semi-normal, because even though there isn't a visual reminder, there is the visceral, gut-wrenching knowing that this is a huge, as-of-now unstoppable, very destructive problem. That people have lost homes. That people can't breathe. That people are fighting 24/7 to try to stop this living, breathing monster.

As for my confidence that the fire would not jump the highway, I've since heard in press conferences that it has. Fortunately they have a good patrol on the highway and have been able to squelch those fires quickly. It keeps me watching and wondering. 

Despite this "pocket" Manitou seems to be in, I will be forever impacted. I wrote on Facebook that, "I feel very bad for all those who have lost/are losing their homes. However, with many, many places I love being affected or destroyed (Waldo, WP, Queen's Canyon, Flying W, RR Reservoir) I am experiencing a whole lot of my own mourning. I feel like my childhood is going up in smoke."

My friend Christina responded: I'm grateful that someone else is having that experience, too. I find myself feeling like I've been punched in the gut at times, or tears springing to my eyes for no reason. Very evocative places ~ Flying W, Garden of the Gods, Waldo canyon...just feels like a part of childhood/teen-hood has entered a realm that only exists in memories now...

How many of those places will we lose? Watching and wondering. 

And right now, finally, at 1:30pm on Thursday, the skies are beginning to pour. Will it be a normal quick Colorado afternoon shower, or something bigger, that will have a definite impact on the fire? We'll see. 

Watching and wondering. 

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