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When the fire's too close to home...

The Rich Writer: When the fire's too close to home...

The Rich Writer

How to Thrive on the Writer's Road

Thursday, September 9, 2010

When the fire's too close to home...

We returned from camping this weekend--and several days out of touch with the rest of the world--to see a plume of smoke rising from the direction of home.

By the time we reached Boulder, the sky was clouded with smoke, the sidewalk peppered with ash. The smoke came from Four Mile Canyon, where a fire started Monday morning and proceeded to grow into the 6000+ acre wildfire fire fighters are still battling three days later. More than 3000 families have been evacuated from the mountains west of town.

I feel this disaster more than you might expect, given that it's not threatening my home or family. Every member of my family, though, knows people who have been evacuated: friends, teachers, other kids on the bus, other families from orchestra, fellow writers. It feels as if threads of connection run every direction, tying us to the families who have been uprooted.

I think it also hits hard because Four Mile Canyon is such a special place for me. We lived in a little cabin half a mile up the canyon for seven years and it felt like home in a way that our current "town" house never will. I wrote the book that brought me back to writing seated at a desk overlooking an immense lilac; I dreamed plot twists lying in a patch of sun on my bed, with the stream gurgling only ten feet from my window; I found inspiration in long hikes up the mountain behind the house. I still dream of this place and still hope, one day, to return. I still think of it as “my house” even though we haven’t lived there for more than eight years.

Today, some of the families are allowed to return home, although they've been warned they might have to leave again at any moment. Others' homes remain in areas considered too volatile for non-fire fighters to enter. Meanwhile, in town we can hear the steady drone of slurry bombers shuttling back and forth with their fire-fighting cargo. It makes me wonder if this is something like what people felt during war times, hyper-alert for the noise of aircraft overhead and hyper-aware of what each different sound might mean.

Our thoughts and prayers are with those fighting the fire and those whose homes are threatened and lives in disarray.




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