Monday, August 27, 2012

I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain

The summer of 2012 will certainly go down as one of the most exciting that our family has ever experienced. Oh, but it started out so normally. Well, at least it was normal for Jane and me. You see, we seem to have the ability to bite off more than we can chew often. This summer was no different. Back in January we had purchased a second cabin. I've written about that before so won't bore you with it again. The thing is, it needed lots of TLC and when we arrived home from our interim assignment in Houston the first week of May we started on the remodel. Lot's of work but also very gratifying.

We wanted to have it done by the second week of June so that our kids could stay there while visiting from California. That way we could have all of our kids and grandkids here on the "compound." Oh, and did I mention that my mother....?

Let me back up. The end of May or the first of June, I can't remember which, we flew to California with the express purpose of picking up three little ones and bringing them home with us for 12 days without their mom and dad. But BEFORE going to get them we had a child's playhouse (we call it the bunkhouse cause of so many grandsons) built at the end of our driveway. We wanted it here to surprise them when they arrived.

Going to get them was in the middle of the rental remodel. So now we have three little ones ages 17 months to 5 years to look after and more work to do.

Remodel finished, their mom and dad arrived as did Jamie and Andy from up in Denver with their two boys. PLUS we flew my mom in from Topeka so she could be with all her great grandkids here.

Great fun. Good food. Evenings around the fire pit roasting marshmallows and telling ghost stories and all too soon it was over.  All the kids went back to Denver and holed up at Jamie's house. Just mom, Jane and me left at the cabin.

It's Saturday morning and I'm doing my Earl Pike act at a church conference in Colorado Springs. It's about noon. Someone says there's a forest fire burning up highway 24. I look out the door of the church and see the smoke. After I finish the comedy gig I get back in my little truck and begin to drive toward home all the while wondering if Highway 24 will be closed. I call Jane and she's alright so my main concern was getting home.

Upon arrival I am made aware that Green Mountain Falls is under voluntary evacuation. No big deal, though smoke is certainly visible from our front yard.
View from our front yard on that Saturday afternoon

The next morning. Sunday. I awaken, turn on the TV and hear "Green Mountain Falls is under MANDATORY evacuation." We wake up mom and start throwing stuff in the car. What do you take? We grab some pictures and a few papers like car titles and real estate documents and head down the pass. We are almost the only car. It's a lonely feeling. We are driving by herds of fire fighters and their equipment. Jamie, in Denver, is notified that we are on our way. Once again the entire family is together. Jane, me, mom, two daughters, two sons-in-law and five grandchildren. Gratefully, Jamie and Andy have a large home. Everyone had a place to sleep.

For the next WEEK Jane and I camp there. Mom flew home on Tuesday and Staci's family went on Wednesday. I watch TV constantly monitoring the progress of the fire and realizing that if it jumps Highway 24 the chances are pretty good that it will get to our little home.  Thank God, it didn't. But I watched in horror as it crested the hill in Colorado Springs and destroyed over 350 homes. I realized that only the direction of the wind kept it away from ours.
Arrow on right is location of our cabin home
Manitou during the evacuation

The following Sunday we were permitted to go home. Now I wondered if looters might have broken in.

When we pulled into the drive, everything was in place. Doors locked, windows closed and not even the smell of smoke in the house. Not even any ash in the yard. It never felt better to be home.

And then the rains came. July and early August are known as the monsoon season in Colorado. It had been so dry that we had prayed for rain. Now it came and the little creek in our back yard that usually runs so clear and lazily became a hungry monster the color of chocolate milk. It cascaded through the yard and up the banks carrying with it anything that got in it's way. Beneath the water you could hear the boulders crashing together like marbles.
Above is how our stream normally looks.
And below is after a hard rain.

Again, we were spared. Though the water was high, I've seen it higher. The problem now was due to the fact that the fire had stripped the landscape just one mile from us, of all vegetation.  Flash floods meant mudslides.

Highway 24 was once again closed as mud and debris washed down the mountainsides and onto the pavement.  Three homes just 3/4 of a mile to our east were almost buried by the sludge that ran through their yard and pounded the front of their houses. It was a mess. As I write these words, that mud slide was at least three weeks ago and those poor folks are still trying to get their lives and houses put back in order.

Now there's the aroma of fall in the air. Snow fell on Pike's Peak a week ago and just last week when we stepped out into our yard we could tell that someone had their fireplace going on a chilly evening.

I pause this afternoon to thank God for our little mountain home, for our family and for the joy we experienced being together here and making memories.  And I pray for those who lost homes as they are in the process of dealing with bureaucracy and trying to put their lives back together. And I remember that they didn't lose their homes, just their houses. Fire doesn't destroy a home, nor does flash flood or mud slide. Home is that place where family gathers and stories are exchanged and memories are made, whether that be in an old homestead or a hotel room while experiencing evacuation. HOWEVER, it is awesome to get back to that dwelling, wherever it might be, that you refer to as home.

Today it's cool in the mountains. Jane's flowers are blooming beautifully and the little creek is it's normal self again. Humming birds are visiting the feeder and my heart is filled with memories of a summer I'll never forget.