Thursday, June 28, 2012

Facing the Fire

It's 3 a.m. and I still can't sleep. The smell of burning wafts through the window at the foot of my bed and brings a whiff of ash and death with it. It's no wonder I cannot sleep.

The fire marches ever closer, a dim glow on the western horizon that flares against the clouds of smoke obscuring my usually clear view of Pikes Peak. There are no clouds in the sky, except for a few mare's tails and ghosts of smoke traveling on the winds. There will be no rain today. At least yesterday was a bit cooler.

We are urged to stay inside because the air quality is bad outside and yet I am drawn outside to breathe in a whiff of a cool breeze that dies as quickly as it came before the stench of burning fills my nostrils again. I have to go outside to look over the hedge and past the rooftops to see whether the glow is bigger, if the fire is marching relentlessly closer. The wind changes and the stench is back. I retreat into the house where fans keep the warm air flowing, offering little relief unless I am still dripping cold water from the shower. Another day of work and waiting, the western slopes of the mountain ever on my mind, the glow a demon of devouring fire that could run the ridge and sweep down on the town to sweep over me and past me and on to the rest of the city. And I just paid to have the honeysuckle bush ripped out and 4 years of growth chipped and shredded and carted away with the leafy debris and muck that hid beneath the flowing skirts of old canes and new leaves sporting burgeoning red berries that will sow the fertile ground and breed more canes and leaves.

I will miss the moths that arrive around sundown to dip into the fading trumpet flowers and sip nectar turning the honeysuckle bush into a living tableau of green, yellow, gold, and purple surrounded by the shadow tinted moths and their dangling bits dipping and hovering and soaring to the top of the bush that nearly obscures the living room window.  I will miss the nightly show but not the messy honeysuckle bush and its sweet fragrance that fills the night with sweet perfume that lasts a month and then is gone. At least there will still be lilac even when the 3/4 block hedge is trimmed and neatened to within an inch of its vibrant life. A month of lilac scent and then the green hedge that glistens darkly with rain when the rains finally come.

There is still the fire chewing, breeding, snarling, and growling its way through the valleys and canyons of the mountain, relentless in its pursuit of food and air and more territory to reduce to ash. Someone once asked if fire was a living thing. Anyone who has stared into the heart of the fire knows that it is. It eats, breeds, and thinks, moving left and up a brittle limb, sneaking around its opponents to encircle and devour him when the opponent is careful enough, doesn't have enough respect for the fire. Of course fire lives. It's what keeps the sun shining and the uncountable billions of suns alive and spreading warmth and even destruction in its wake. Fire keeps the hearts of planets churning and moving the fragile mantle of earth and rock of its skin while it creates more rock, energizes more life, and spawns disasters with fiery hearts and molten streams that devour everything in its path.

And the fire waits beyond the ridge of hills, glowing in its ferocity in the darkness, and devouring, always devouring, day and night without cease until the rains come or firefighters gain the upper hand. The fire waits until hot, dry winds stoke its blazing heart and it moves onward, upward, forward, and down into the city where I wait and hope and fight the burning edge of fear, waking in the night to smell smoke and ash and the hot breath of destruction.

Today will be a better day.

Or it won't.