Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fires in Colorado Springs

Twenty-one years ago today, I married the love of my life.  
Jim on our 21st Anniversary
Colorado Fine Arts Center
We've both changed a lot since our wedding day.
Wedding Day
June 12, 1992
We've been together
in sickness
in health, 
for richer,
for poorer,
we hope we have many more years 
"death do us part."
21st Anniversary
Fine Arts Center
On Mother's Day, Jim had arranged a special brunch for the two of us at the Fine Arts Center.  Since I was in the hospital, I took a rain check.  Today, he made good on his word and took me to the Fine Arts Center for lunch.  We dined on  wonderfully prepared salmon,  risotto croquettes, and asparagus. For dessert, Jim had turtle dessert pie and I had a lemon raspberry gelato.  I wore the necklace he gave me for Mother's Day.  After lunch, we went through the Arts Center to see some of the wonderful displays.  I always love going to this treasure of a place in Colorado Springs.  There are several Chihuly  works here, a portrait of William Palmer's daughter by William Singer Sargent and some wonderful pieces of Van Briggle pottery that I never tire of seeing.  While at the cafe in FAC, I stepped out on the veranda to take a photo of my beloved Pikes Peak and the grounds surround the Art Center and part of Monument Valley Park.  This part of Colorado Springs, is one of my favorite spots.  I love the junipers and Colorado blue spruce and the ponderosa pines that dot the area.

Despite the happy occasion, the situation just north of us was heavy on our minds.  Fire was burning in the Black Forest just fifteen to twenty miles from where we celebrating our anniversary.  Family members had been evacuated from their homes, and other family members were on alert and ready to leave their homes if necessary.

After lunch, I had Jim drive us to the top of Palmer Park which was a favorite picnic spot from my youth.  I wanted to get to the top of this bluff to see the scope of the fire to the north of us.

This photo does not give one the best view of the fire, but nevertheless, as a native to this region, I was shocked at how wide the range of the fire appeared to be.  This area where I went to take these photographs used to be the northern edge of the populated area of Colorado Springs when I was a child.  This bluff, now in the more center part of the city, was where we would go to watch the fire works on the 4th of July when I was a child.  The landscape, dotted with wonderful sandstone bluffs, pine trees, scrub oak, and yucca is dry.  It served as a reminder that this region is a dry tinderbox; truly it is as Wikipedia's definition states: tinderbox refers to something that is so dry that it could catch on fire with the slightest provocation, perhaps even spontaneously like a forest fire.  

Yucca growing in Palmer Park,
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Yucca pods
A few buds are on the plant to the left
Yucca should bloom in June.  I remember so many rides to this area in the spring to see this hillside in bloom.  It was one of my favorite sights.  We are experiencing a late spring here because of cold weather, and rain.  Despite this late spring with some moisture, we are still in a drought.  You can see how dry this ground is.  Any moisture that it received did not do a lot of good.

A few yucca plants were in bloom.

 I hope to come back next week to see if the yucca are in bloom.  If so, the photo below will look different.  I remember many more yucca plants in this area when I was a child.  Now this area has limited access so that the wild flowers can be more protected.  

As many of you know, the Colorado Springs area suffered another wild fire last year in June.  You can read my blog post about that event here: Fire, Smoke and Rain.  This year's fire is north of where we live by about ten miles.  As my husband and I drove home from our lunch date, I had him stop at a church parking lot that is just two miles from our home so I could take a photo of the fire.  It is hard to imagine the scope of the size of this inferno that now seems to fill the horizon of the northward view from our part of town.   As I sit here and type, I know the air is filled with smoke because in the protection of my air conditioned house, I am beginning to have difficulty breathing.  I fear for those who suffer from asthma much worse than I do.  

As I reflect on the events of this day in my beloved Colorado Springs, Helen Hunt Jackson comes to mind.  I recalled reading her essay Bits of Travel at Home.  When I first read this essay, I tried to envision what this town must have been like when she first came here. I tried to imagine what my hometown was like when my grandfather's grandmother (or my great-great grandmother) came here in about 1894.  Thankfully, Helen Hunt Jackson recorded through her writing much of what this pristine beautiful area looked like over a hundred years ago when it was first settled.  

She described the the "Divide" north of town.  At first I had a hard time determining what she was writing about when she wrote: Looking northward over this sea-plain, one sees at the horizon a dark blue line.  Then, as I read on: This is the “Divide,” —another broad-spreading belt of table-land. lifting suddenly from the plains, running from east to west, and separating them. Its highest point is eight thousand feet above the sea, and is crossed by the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad. On its very summit lies a lake, whose shores in June are like garden-beds of flowers, and in October are blazing with the colors of rubies and carnelians.*  I realized that she was writing about The Black Forest and Monument Hill.  

This beautiful forest, the one I always loved is burning.  I can barely continue to write.  I am overcome with emotion.  Tears are falling down my face.  I always wanted to live there, but my mother, who lost her home to fire as child in Woodland Park would never even entertain the idea of living in what she called a "tinderbox."  I weep for those who will never again live in its beauty because the trees and their homes are gone.  I weep and pray.  I pray these fire stop.  I pray for rain. 

Thankfully, Jim and I just drove up into this area on Sunday and I had a chance to drink in the beauty of the Forest.  I am overcome with grief for those who have lost their homes.  I am overcome with grief for the loss of this once pristine area.  As I remember and grieve, I thank Helen Hunt Jackson for preserving the majesty and beauty of this area for us with her words:

It is a gracious and beautiful country the Divide, eight or ten miles in width and seventy long, well wooded and watered, and with countless glens and valleys full of castellated rocks and pine groves. All this one learns journeying across it; but, looking up at it from Colorado Springs, it is simply a majestic wall against the northern sky,—blue, deep. dark, unfathomable blue, as an ocean wave might be if suddenly arrested at its highest and crystallized into a changeless and eternal boundary. It is thirty or forty miles away from us; but in every view we find our eyes fastening upon it, tracing it, wondering how, not being built of lapis lazuli or clouded sapphire, it can be so blue. It is the only spot in our glorious outlook which is uniform of color. Sunsets may turn the whole north sky golden yellow, and the afterglow may stretch rosy red the entire circle round, while the plains below fade from . brilliant sunlight to soft, undistinguishable gray; but the wall of the Divide remains always of its own unchanging blue. Storms sweep over it, black and fierce, but the blue shows through. Snow covers it and the winter sky arches white above it, but still its forest ranks of pines and firs stand solid, constant blue in the horizon.*

*Bits of Travel at Home ~  Helen Hunt Jackson


Betsy Adams said...

Happy Anniversary, Sally and Jim. Looks like you two sweethearts had a beautiful lunch and day.

But--I know that the fire is heavy on your minds... I remember last year's fires ---and could just cry right along with you when thinking about this. We love Colorado ---and am just so sad that this is happening... God Bless the people in the fire's path... My prayers are definitely with Colorado.

Hugs and Prayers,

Lynilu said...

Happy, happy anniversary,to you and your love.

This week is the anniversary of our evacuation here, and all the fires in CO and NM are really cranking up the anxiety. PTSD, I suppose. I'm praying for everyone and everything in the path of these monsters. I makes me so, so sad.

Jeanie said...

The fires are just awful. The smoke has gotten as far as here. I feel so bad for everyone who is suffering and for the loss of so much beauty. I haven't heard of much progress on containment, but hopefully that happens soon. Despite the tragedy of the fires, I hope your anniversary has been a good one for you and your husband.

Meryl Baer said...

A wonderful happy anniversary to both of you.

It is scary to witness the fierce weather experienced over the past few years - tornadoes, hurricanes, wild fires, etc. Hopefully the worst is over for your area and your families.

Akannie said...

Happy Anniversary, Sally and Jim. We share the same date! Year and all...

Prayers for the safety and well being of all in the path of these fires. I lived in northern California for years, and saw this kind of thing on a regular basis. Frightening and devastating.

Thanks for the lovely post.

LC said...

Happy anniversary. I had to look through your earlier posts to find out what is going on healthwise. Despite what your papa said, I am glad you posted about your challenges. One thing I can do for others post-stroke is pray, and it is a privilege to pray for my blogging friends.
My prayers continue as you deal with so much pain of body and spirit in such a compressed timeline.

What a blessing your husband is. This also comes with prayer for your family and others affected by the fire as well as your husband and your physicians.

Jackie said...

The love shows between the two of you.
Happy anniversary to Sally and Jim.
Your anniversary celebration was lovely. Give Jim high fives from me and tell him that he did GREAT.
You live in a beautiful area. My heart is heavy regarding the fires. I pray for relief for those in that area.

#1Nana said...

Happy anniversary! We've had high winds and fires also. The small town north of us lost four houses in a brush fire that moved like lightening. I hope you get rain and the fires die down

rosaria williams said...

Hang on to what you got, and treasure every second. Happy Anniversary you two!

Jean said...

Happy Anniversary! Your husband knows how to treat you in style.

So sorry about the fire destruction in Colorado. The weather has certainly been wild and unpredictable lately. In Maine we seem to be getting rain, rain, rain.

Olga said...

Cheers to the both of you on your anniversary.
I sincerely hope that your health is recouped.

Stefania Piazzolla said...

Happy anniversary!

Jeanie said...

I just sent an email to you -- and then thought, check the blog. I'm glad you and Amy's family are safe and hope that remains. And I am so glad you have had the chance to see this beautiful spot before this tragedy and to experience a lovely time there. The words you share are poignant and so eloquently written they bring me close to tears -- were I not at work, I probably would be.

I send love, hopes this will soon stop and that no lives will be lost and property for those in the area as safe as possible.

I also send healing wishes for the grieving of the loss of this lovely place -- and celebratory ones as you share the joy of your anniversary! I am so very glad you found one another. There are smiles in this post as well.

Perpetua said...

Happy anniversary, Sally and Jim and wishing you many, many more.

I've seen the UK coverage of the Colorado Springs fire and can't imagine what it must be like to be as close to it as you are. So sad to watch such a glorious landscape burning. I do pray that people will be safe and the fire brought under control.

Arkansas Patti said...

Happy Anniversary. Sounds like you had a great day out--except for the sights you had to see on the way back.
I heard about the fires and wondered how close you were. I pray the rains come soon and relief is in sight.
It is always the most beautiful of places that suffer the fires.

Cape Cod Kitty said...

Happy Anniversary, Jim and Sally....I am so sorry for the losses you are experiencing. It is devastating. My friend, Erin, who lives in Peyton, is still evacuated as the fires are moving closer. She lives adjacent to Meridian Rd north of town. I haven't had news from her this afternoon.
My sister in Lafayette said she was awake all night from the smoke.
Sending you all much compassion and love, and may this terrible event come to an end soon.

Tom Sightings said...

I'll pray for rain, hope for rain, dance for rain ... and maybe some cooler weather too. Best of luck to you and all your friends out there. (And, happy anniverary from me too!)

dkzody said...

I am so sorry to read of your pain and loss of so much beloved territory. The drought and fires are so bad.

Kathleen McCoy said...

Happy Anniversary, Sally! Your love story is such an inspiring tale of losing each other and then finding each other again in another phase of life. May you have many, many more years of happiness together!

Barb said...

Happy Anniversary, Sally and Jim! You both look great. Glad you could finally enjoy that special lunch. I just spoke to a friend who lives on the grounds of the Air Force Academy. He said the smoke they're getting seems to be from the Canon City fire. I know air quality in Denver is very bad due to the Black Forest Fire. We were going to go down tomorrow for the weekend, but have decided to wait.

thisisme said...

Hallo dear Sally! Three times I tried to comment on this post, via my iPhone, but it just wouldn't post, so here I am now at my laptop. I now find that I'm wishing you a belated Happy Wedding Anniversary - 21 years. I love the photo of you and Jim and you are wearing your pretty necklace. I've always thought that Jim looked like such a kind man, and how wonderful that you two found each other. I was so sorry to hear about the fires, and I can imagine just how sad you must feel. I do pray that you and all your family are keeping safe and that you will have the much needed rains very soon. That looks like such a lovely spot for a meal, with wonderful views. There are 'your' mountains again! Take care.

Chatty Crone said...


And I do hope they get a handle on those fires immediately.


Mage said...

Thanks so much for the quote, for the videos, and for the news of your hospitalization. I hope you are doing evidenced by your lunch date. I had mine out in the 70's, and life has been much better ever since then. Hugs at you from here.

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Deb Shucka said...

A love story, this post. Both about your marriage and your relationship with Colorado. Both equally compelling and beautiful. I've thought of you often as the news of the fires finds its way north. Hoping you find comfort in these reflections and in knowing what can grow from ashes, both literal and figurative. Love to you, my friend.

Terri Tiffany said...

A happy Anniversary a little late to you. June 12th was my dad's birthday. I loved your pics and have been watching and reading on Facebook about the fire there. I didn't realize you had Yucca plants--it looks like a desert area.

Dee said...

Dear Sally, your grief over the burning of the Black Forest in Colorado is palpable. I've never lived anywhere close to a forest fire and so I have experienced only the videos on national television, but your words makes all of this so real.

I've been away from reading and commenting on blogs for several weeks. The last posting of yours I read was about the tests you were having done. I'm wondering if you learned from those tests just what you're dealing with physically? I so hope that happened.

Finally, happy anniversary. You and Jim have enjoyed twenty years of being one another's best friends. That is a great gift from the Universe. Peace.

troutbirder said...

Happy anniversary Sally. My son and his family lived in Evan for several years and I came to love Colorado and its nature loving people. Hoping the drought and the fires will soon end....

Pearl said...

Oh, those fires! My heart goes out to you all...


Grandma Yellow Hair said...

A Big Belated Happy Anniversary to a wonderful couple. You both look so happy and the love you share shows in your pictures.
I have been watching the fires on TV and my heart aches for all the families involved and loosing their homes. Of course the beautiful area too that will take a life time to grow back.
So glad I was able to come by tonight for a visit. My blogging has slowed down as much as I have.

Vagabonde said...

Happy anniversary to you both. My husband and I had our 46th wedding anniversary last Monday, 17 June. I have never been to Colorado but know what a beautiful state it is. Fires like these are so horrible – I think about all the wild animals that have to run away. Once, in Montana, when I visited my daughter in Helena who was writing her master’s thesis, we saw flames and smoke like this from a hill over the city, it was scary. I hope your health is getting better – thanks for coming to my blog.

Maggie May said...

Happy Anniversary.

It is terrible about the wildfires and destruction to the beauty, flora & fauna.... to say nothing of the property risk and even life.
It must be terrifying to be near such a thing.
I wish I could send you some of our rain as we get far too much!
Maggie x

Nuts in May

Friko said...

Happy Anniversary, dear Sally. I am happy for you and at the same time I am sad that your beloved Colorado is is such peril.
I hope things have calmed down by now. How long can fires go on?

The good thing is that nature always recovers and soon your hillsides will be green again. I know that that is little consolation for the people who have lost everything, but there too is hope that one day all will be well again.

Kay said...

Sally, you and Jim are so beautiful together. Sigh...