It's surreal to be mentally engulfed by one particular thing, and then to look up and realize that everyone else has other things on their minds, and that they are continuing on, completely unaware that you've stopped and are just standing there staring at everyone else as they move past you at a frenetic pace. While I was stressed out about this fire (the Waldo Canyon Fire, for those just happening along), even before being evacuated, I'd go to a different part of town and no one seemed to be thinking about the fire so much. I'm sure they were, but they weren't even looking up at the mountains. No smoke stained their nostrils. Yet, you walk around in my area and all heads are tilted up, watching those mountains for any sign that danger might be on its way. We've come to a place where we can block out the smell of smoke. It's taken for granted that our chests, throats and eyes will be irritated, that we likely have our valuables and mementos stored somewhere easily accessible in case we have to flee again.
When this whole section of the city was on mandatory evacuation, I drove down the Interstate, which had become the line of demarcation. On my right side, it was a ghost town, save for fire trucks and police cars. Garden of the Gods Road was empty, a condition I've NEVER seen it in, even in the middle of the night. Helicopters and airplanes flew in circles, diving then climbing steeply after dropping their water or slurry onto the fire. Smoke rose, flames consumed, and it looked and sounded like an active war zone.
To my left, though, a shopping center was packed with cars. The regular ol' hustle and bustle went on, as if nothing astronomical had happened. Because, you see, it hadn't to them. Their lives were normal, albeit a little more acrid and stinky, probably a bit sadder and more stressed than usual. After all, these mountains belong to everyone in this town, and no matter where you stand, they are burning. It impacts everyone, but not necessarily in the same ways.
If this were a science fiction film, it would be aliens up in them thar' hills, stealing our resources, viciously zapping any living thing that dared pop up on the slopes of the mountains, possibly experimenting on the people and animals they picked up, in order to find their weaknesses.
If this were a natural disaster movie, it might be a volcanic eruption occurring in long dormant volcanoes. Or a fire. Cuz' that's a natural disaster, too. They ever made that one? Maybe they will now, considering most of the west appears to be in flames.
If this were a romance, some young couple would have been drawn together at one of the many shelters, having lost their homes. They would help each other through this tragedy, finding love along the way, though maybe the crabby, but uber-protective, big sister would disapprove.
If this were a horror film, perhaps this would be the aftermath of burning a killer sasquatch out of the mountains after a murderous carnivore spree through the foothills of Colorado Springs and Manitou Springs. He stalked his victims home from Garden of the Gods Park, ripping them to shreds and taking their heads as trophies.
If this were a sci-fi/horror mix, the fire itself might be the monster, but what controls it? After all, it has been repeatedly said that this fire is not behaving like any other fire, ever. Could it be a living creature? A declaration of war using some mutant agent?
If this were a mystery, some cocky detective would be interviewing witnesses about something unexplained, the fire background setting. Or we'd be following the fire inspector around to find out who had committed arson.
You can get story lines anywhere, in any situation. Fear and tragedy don't shut that off. Some might keep that creativity going in the midst of it, while others, like me, might see those stories a bit more once in a relatively safe place. I know one person was posting about writing about the possible sources of the fire while waiting to be evacuated. I wrote a piece of poetry while sitting at a Chick-fil-A, the smoky hills visible through the windows, as my children played in the playplace, having been stuck indoors due to the excessive amount of smoke. That was the day I came home just in time for the firestorm and subsequent evacuation. I didn't write a word while in exile, but I'm betting others wrote plenty.
Life is fodder, for those of us who write, or draw, or sing. The creative souls within us absorb all of these things that happen to us, churn them around, make them our own, and then regurgitate them in whatever fashion fits us best. In the meantime, those around us see things completely differently, even if they share our creative souls. Each person experiences each thing individually and uniquely. Sometimes it means they aren't suffering the same thing, but sometimes it means they are just suffering differently. Either way, life goes on. We make it what we want to make it, or maybe what we have to make it.
How about a writing assignment? You don't have to share it, though you are welcome, either on here or on your blog, or you can just share the experience that comes to mind. Think of an event that has had a significant impact on you. It doesn't have to be negative, just significant. Write a poem, a piece of flash, or a short story about it. Twist it if you want to, or try to write it as close to the truth as you want. It's your personal event, to do with as you please.
May you find your Muse.
This is a beautiful post. Really. Finding inspiration in the middle of disaster is not only awesomely positive but also super brave. Thank you for the inspiration. Wishing you and your family and your home safety and wellbeing!
The book Shadow Killer is close to your Horror movie idea-just flip cause and effect.
You forgot epic fantasy - the fire caused by an elemental sorceror creating the fire as an act of vengeance on the town for actively hunting down and executing his Order.
Sounds like a good writing assignment. If I get time this week I'll give it a shot :)
I think living life, the good and the bad, helps us as writers explore and create characters with depth, with pains and with joys.
After my husband and I got into a really bad car accident, writing was the furthest thing from my mind. I had a concussion and tons of confusing emotions and fears. But later, I realized that I'd gone through yet another life event that would help me connect with others, as well as create more dynamic characters. And one day, I'd like to somehow work a car accident into one of my stories.
What a wonderful post. I'm sorry for all you have been through, but thanks for the inspiration.
Jericha, that's very nice of you to say! I hope the same for you.
Saroe, I haven't heard of that one, but will go check it out now.
Jamie, you're right! I actually meant to ask people for their story lines for it, but forgot. Nicely done.
Rachel, I think you're right. I've intended to write about our car accident in a fiction sense for quite some time, but have never sat and done it. I have the desire to want people to understand what these situations are like, and we have the tools to do so.
Julie, thank you!
It makes me sad, sometimes, how little we regard the events in others' lives. I felt bad last week being on vacation while the fire was going on. Not that it's not still going on, but I'm not on vacation anymore. I don't think we're equipped to hang onto to things that aren't happening to us. I think it would paralyze us, so we just act as if nothing is happening.
Just to say it, fire scares me. Completely.
There's this artist, Eric Larsen, that used to pencil Amazing Spider-Man. He lived out here and lost his home in the 90s during the big Oakland fire (I think that was the one). He lost all of his original artwork. Everything he'd kept from when he was a kid and all the work that he had on hand. Larsen's not a great artist, but he has a distinctive style, and it made me sad that all of his art was lost.
But life does go on. And, I think, he's still doing comics.
I'm glad you're home and safe. I was thinking safety at you last week.
Andrew, I think you're right, and I should say that I wasn't upset that others weren't as obsessed with it as I was, but it's funny when you step outside yourself and realize that, as big as this may be for you, it isn't for others. Because I think sometimes we forget. For instance, if you're having a bad day because someone close to you died, I think it can be easy to forget that not everyone knows this, they aren't hurting with you. Your pain is so great that it is a surprise that everyone else can't feel it along with you.
I find fire pretty terrifying. I was lucky in that I had a few days to prepare, so I did pack away all my writing stuff in a Rubbermade tote, along with the hard drive from my computer. Not everyone gets that opportunity. I realized I had completely forgotten books that held my poetry, because that's not the main part of what I write, and I was sick to my stomach over that (and other things, of course). I can't imagine losing everything you'd made. :(
Thanks for thinking of me!
I always remember a line from one of my favorite films...THE UNTOUCHABLES..."Some part of the world still cares what color the kitchen is."
It is so so true!
I'm glad you got home safe! I think being inspired and using our imagination is a way of rationalising the world around us, even (or especially) in the most dire circumstances. It's a good way of dealing with things.
Gosh, where have I been that I missed this moving post.
Sorry for your stresses, Shannon, - I'm glad you are seeing the inspiration in this and letting it guide your writing.
This post was very visual, I could smell the smoke when I looked up at the mountain.
I'm thinking of you,
I wondered how you were doing. We could see the huge smoke plumes from here in Castle Rock. Glad you are safe but as we both know, there is still more summer ahead. We did have to evacuate three years ago. The fire did not damage any homes and was contained and this was in October. But so many friends called us from all over the country as I am sure the same happened to you. Be safe.
I kept wondering if the fires were anywhere near you. I have a friend who lives in Colorado and he just moved from Denver to Breckenridge. Not sure if that is near any of the fire zones. Hope you are safe and this post was really descriptive of the "in the trenches" point of view. Take care.
DL, definitely true! Also, I've been wanting to watch that lately. I need to see if it's on Netflix.
Nick, I agree. I think it's even true in diving into someone else's imagination, such as watching a movie or reading a book, and getting completely submerged in them.
Jenny, thank you for your thoughts and kind words!
Loverofwords, true, the same did happen. My mind was blown when a friend from Utah called me as I was still in the process of evacuating. It must have hit the news fast or something, because I hadn't had time to notify anyone. I'd be interested to see what it looked like from Castle Rock. All of that fascinates me right now.
Chuck, I think Breckenridge is in a safe area right now. Denver has been exposed to some fires, but the best I could tell was that they remained relatively minor and were put out quickly. They have been getting smoke from all these fires, though, which is unpleasant. Hopefully, the mountains (and, therefore, Breckenridge) have stayed relatively clear.
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