Aspen Princess: Moving on from the fire and it’s back to Trump’s antics
July 18, 2018
"So, what do you think about Helsinki?" my dad asked on the phone the other day.
I knew he wasn't asking about the city, but about President Donald Trump's latest antics. Dad gets fired up about politics. It's not unusual for him to be following news stories on three devices simultaneously, at least one of them at an irritatingly high volume.
"Honestly, I can't even waste my energy thinking about Trump anymore," I said, doing nothing to hide the irritation in my voice. "It doesn't seem to matter what I think, and it's exhausting."
"Yeah, but this is really bad," Dad said. "Really bad. People are outraged."
"How many times have we said those exact words before? We've been saying them since before he was even elected," I said, letting out a heavy sigh. "Nothing ever happens."
I wasn't in the mood for a political debate, still feeling off balance only two weeks after our town almost burned to the ground. Smoke continues to choke the midvalley, especially in the late afternoons when the wind picks up so Basalt Mountain looks like the mouth of an active volcano, swirling with smoke and ash and heat.
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Still, it's funny how quickly people move on. I knew we were over the fire when my social media feed returned to the usual, people bitching about Trump and flaunting their busy Aspen summer social calendars, another day, another party, another dress.
I get it; we are no longer in any danger. The fire is 60 percent contained. We have total faith in the firefighters who saved our town from total destruction. Our homes are still standing. No one died. It's a miracle, really.
I guess I am more sensitive than most people. Sometimes it feels as though I am missing a protective layer, leaving my raw emotions exposed, nerves at the surface. Once my feelings get stirred up, it takes forever for them to settle down again. This is further exacerbated by the fact that I have incredibly intense and vivid dreams that feel so real it often takes me half the day to shake them off, whatever distressed thoughts that arose in my subconscious still percolating in my brain long after I wake up.
Maybe that's why I'm still having nightmares about fires. It's always the same — the fire crests the ridge and races toward the Seven Castles so we have to get out, fast. I race around, looking for things I can't find, panicked about my baby and my dog, worried it's too late and I won't be able to get to them. I always wake with a start, heart pounding in my chest. The crazy thing is Levi almost always wakes up within seconds of when I do, calling for me. I can find some comfort in that, in shifting my focus to him and that incredible bond of mother and son.
I don't know why the anxiety remains long after the danger is gone. Even in the moment, I knew we would not sustain any bodily harm from this fire. I wasn't even that worried about our house. We desperately want to remodel, if not tear it down and start over but can't afford to. I would be lying if I said we didn't have that discussion in the car on the way to Steamboat, looking to the bright side of a big insurance check.
But still, I feel off center. Worse, I find myself thinking deeply about the young couple who started the fire. I wonder what they are feeling. I wonder what their parents must be going through. I think about the girl, Allison, who just finished culinary school. I can imagine she is in a relationship with the wrong guy, the bad guy, the kind of guy who smiles in his mugshot. I imagine their interaction that morning, when he suggested the gun range as something to do that day. I remember being 22 and loving bad men and the thrill of doing bad things with them. That's not to say I would burn down 6,000 acres and three homes, but I might shoot a gun. I wonder what it feels like to realize you are in deep, deep trouble, staring down a felony charge that would ruin your life.
I also find myself tensing up every time I hear a helicopter or feel those strong afternoon winds. I conjure up all kinds of scenarios in my head, including a scene where the fire ends up coming up the Frying Pan after all, and we end up losing everything because this time I'm not able to pack up all my valuables, those things that can't be replaced with a check from the insurance company.
Then there is the matter of the heat; the unrelenting, dry heat that grows more intense throughout the day, often reaching the high 90s by late afternoon. Combined with wind and smoke, it's not the Colorado of my youth, or even a decade ago, a place where you had to be prepared for cold, not heat, when a late afternoon storm brought fast, heavy rain and a sudden drop in temperature. What happened to the rain?
I think this fire and the anxiety it's triggered is more about what this fire represents: global warming, environmental chaos, the destruction of our land, and an overall loss of control. Danger feels too near and yet I am not sure what, if anything, I can do about it. Then there's the pace at which we shift our gaze from one dramatic story unfolding to the next. Remember those migrant children we were all so worried about a few short weeks ago?
My mother in law always says, "Let it go, Louie. It's time to move on." I know she's right. It will rain again, summer will end, the fire will die. Let's just hope Trump doesn't get re-elected.
The Princess is a little grumpy because she's on a cleanse. Email your love to firstname.lastname@example.org.