Saturday, April 14, 2012
This morning begins the second clean up with another crew of angels. Today, I also am running a virtual writing day with my author clients. I will lead a conference call at 9am, then head out to the site. Today, I won’t write with them. They understand.
Last night, I attended a gathering of the Four Mile Canyon fire survivors. They opened their meeting – and their arms - to us North Fork folks, welcoming us into the club that no one ever would choose to join. Being so early in our process, I was the only North Forker to attend. Fortunately, I brought my friend Jessica with me.
They are a lovely, close-knit group of people who have grown and seasoned in ways they never wanted to over the past 19 months. And, in a room full of 40 people, only a few have re-built. A couple others bought somewhere else, but the majority is still on the long journey back to “home”. They are dealing with insurance issues, a flood over their ravaged land that threatened to wash away all the soil and a myriad of other delays. One shared with me about his PTSD, his ongoing fear and how he still hasn’t returned to a feeling of “normal”. It was enlightening, sobering and at times too much for me to process. I would give Jessica a signal, and we would take a breather outside under the cool Boulder sky.
These seasoned folks know the ropes. They have systems – a “free” store where many of them re-built a wardrobe, a network of community based businesses that offer discounts when shown the fire survivor ID that they all carry, free counseling from the United Way. Their representative from the County, Garry Sanfacon, was a kind man who has been with them since the beginning. He is reaching out to Jefferson County people, knowing where they are at this point and wanting to offer their hard-learned expertise. We didn’t even know we had a County representative… We are very early in this game.
This group offered hugs and support with tears in their eyes. They know. They know the shock, disbelief, anger, confusion, grief, lack of sleep, anxiety, overwhelm and more that plagues us now and will continue for a while. Over and over they say, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint”. We can’t even begin to grasp that yet. 22 months and they are still dealing with this. Still unsettled, still exhausted – of course, they have seen gifts – but they warn me with love and care in their words. Warnings, warnings, warnings… advice and more advice. I can’t take it all in. I can’t process it all. The discussion of erosion prevention keeps emerging and I can’t stand the thought of cutting down my scorched trees after seeing the remnants of some neighbors’ trees after the utility company went in. Bright white of a once alive tree against the stark black of our new landscape. It is jarring. I know we must, but we need to do that slowly. Gently. With care. With a plan.
David said someone offered to start cutting down trees today – “nooooooooo”, I wailed. He said, “ok baby, only the few that are a hazard right now and have been tagged by the fire department”. “Promise me”, I said, “only that few”. We need a tree expert to come up – make a plan. I can’t butcher that land any more than it is already. It is too raw. I am too raw.