This is the first blog post I’ve written that my mama won’t read in her inbox. But before she died, she told me she’d always know me and I could always talk to her. So here you go, Mama. Thanks for listening.
We live where the boundary between Lafayette and Louisville blurs, right on the cusp of the evacuation zone for the Boulder County fires yesterday. In the early afternoon, our neighborhood smelled like a campfire. The distinct odor of burnt wood that reminds you of summer cookouts. As the evening progressed, the scent became stronger and more pungent, like the unmistakable spike of charred fireworks. Watching flames rise in the distance, we heard thunder-like claps as cars, houses, and their fuel sources exploded.
So we prepared to evacuate, just in case. One bag per person, saving most of the room in our car for our pets. Walking around the house yesterday, we realized there’s not much we absolutely need besides each other. Even our clothes and books can be replaced.
We had friends about forty-five minutes away ready to take us in, along with our dog, our cat, our neighbor’s cat, and our youngest kid’s two classroom guinea pigs we’re watching over winter break. Just like other times in the past when calamities strike, I am filled with gratitude for the overwhelming sense of community that surrounds us. Our neighbors formed an unofficial notification system, everyone agreeing to bang on doors and make sure we were all woken up should we need to evacuate overnight. Friends texted links to the latest news and resources to updated evacuation maps. Family, friends, and colleagues from around the country sent messages of love and concern. We reached out to check in on those we know in Louisville and Superior, offering help to anyone needing it. Strangers offered strangers a place to stay or a ride out of town. Highways became one-way affairs, all lanes leading out of town. And we are brought closer together as a community.
Sometimes mamas die. Sometimes bad or scary things happen. We can’t control these things.
We can only control our own responses, our own actions. While it may feel like we are powerless, we have more power than we know. And when we remember that, we remember that we still live in a safe and beautiful world filled with connection and love.
Mr. Rogers reminded us to look for the helpers when bad things happen. So I did last night and saw volunteers delivering food and pillows to evacuation centers on the news. I read about mental health resources provided by our local schools for students, families, and staff.
But I also know that I am impacted more powerfully when I can be the helper instead of just looking for one. So this morning, my husband picked up flowers and a fruit tray from the grocery store, and the kids and I colored pictures and wrote cards for our local fire and police departments. Words to say we appreciate you. Words to say we’re so grateful for you. Words to say we know you’re tired and sad and scared just like the rest of us. Words to support. Words to connect. Words to bring hope. Words to lift spirits.
We drove across town to hand-deliver them and arrived just as the fire truck pulled away from the station. So we walked across the street and handed over our gifts to the police. When we asked what we should do with the gifts for the fire department, one officer looked at my kids and joked, “Oh, you can just wait there. They just left, so they should be back in a few hours.” And no joke, my teenager rolled her eyes at this officer with an expression I’ve only ever seen reserved for me. I almost died laughing. Then the officers kindly accepted our gifts for the fire department, offering to deliver them when they return.
We’re safely home again now. Snuggled warm inside with those we love—our family, our pets, and our house all safe. We feel lighter, more in control in a powerless situation, and more connected. We have power. We have food to eat. We have full hearts. We have an acute awareness of our great fortune.
And outside the snow falls.