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Fiery Finish to Holy Week 2012
by Tessa Bielecki

This is not Mt. Calvary on the day Jesus was crucified. But this crucified landscape conveys the feeling of Good Friday and our own existential Holy Week.

If you access this link to the Crestone Eagle, you will see a dramatic photo of the dangerous wildfire that ravaged the land next door to us on Holy Monday and came less than a mile away from our hermitages. You will also see the huge dust storm that arose simultaneously from the alarmingly high desert winds. Our houses were two of the three residences evacuated.

(Miraculously, just two days before, anticipating the danger of our upcoming summer drought, I had written out an evacuation plan.)

The day after the fire, Fr. Dave and I view the devastation up close. With the acrid smell of lingering smoke in our nostrils, we walk through layers of black ash, crisscrossing San Isabel Creek, mercifully flowing clear and cold through charred skeletons of cottonwood and piñon pine. The only signs of over eighty-five heroic firefighters battling the conflagration are tire tracks in the barren earth and one water bottle. We pour it on a still smoldering pine stump and stomp on it till the sizzle and smoking stop.

We walk to the eastern end of the burn where the fire was finally contained and see the back of my hermitage. We know we are safe now, but my stomach still turns over.

We call our webmaster, Lisa Micklin, to explain why we cannot do the lovely Easter greeting we'd planned for the web site. She tells us she couldn't have done it anyway. In the high winds the day of the fire, a thirty-foot cottonwood tree fell on her house in Crestone and crushed the northern side. Life in the high desert is life on the edge.

As we make our way home after walking the lunar landscape, we hear a meadowlark singing in one of the scorched trees. We watch a mother goose build her nest near our neighbor's small pond, created with water from the ditch irrigating his burned hay field.

The huge herd of elk we often see here begins to roam over the land once more, close to the edge of the burn. And that evening at dusk, the first mountain lion we have ever seen casually walks past my hermitage.

Now the grass will grow greener and more lush. The trees will re-seed out of the surrounding ash. The land will grow again. Hope grows, too, as we revel in the blue sky above the blackened limbs. Life goes on. Resurrection! The passover from death to new life on the earth and in our hearts. Happy Easter!

Responses from Our Readers

Wow! Didn't realize the fire was that close to you. Huge prayers of thanks fill this valley, for the hard work of all those firefighters, for the wind coming strangely from the east that day, for the snow that night, for God's hand in all of it. And the prayers continue – for snow and rain and for safety in this fire season that's starting too early.
GF, Crestone, CO

So thankful that both of you and your homesteads are safe! And that the winds quieted down. You will probably be numb and in shock for days to come. I hope you can take it slow and easy. Good for Tessa and her evacuation plan!
GH, Boulder, CO

Wow--Thank you for posting this. Your pictures make the situation too close for comfort, so I'm glad the news was good: that your houses were spared and you're okay. But to be evacuated--I can't even think what I'd take with me if I were in such straits. I mean, besides my Medicare card and the bottle of wine on the kitchen counter...
JH, Wichita, KS

Glad it wasn't worse! Nice job being prepared for the evacuation. That's crucial for terrain like yours. On the bright side, fire can be so good for the land.
MB, Flagstaff, AZ

May the fireweed grow and bloom soon!
CL, Denver, CO

Your message is one of hope and confidence, and surely there is a "phoenix" aspect to all of this. You are correct to project that the area of devastation will be replaced by a profusion of lush green grass and new shrubs and trees. Nature has such a vibrant way of reconstituting itself. All these revitalizing aspects of ecology we wish for you.
JO, Nova Scotia, Canada

I was reading about the fire on Facebook from people in Crestone and about to call you to see if you were safe. Good planning! It's going to be a tough year, since we didn't get our March snows.
SF, Longmont, CO

a mountain lion !
the moving line of quiet fire,
smokeless and breathtaking, massive WOW;
(I feel a song/painting coming on!)
All these years and she/he arrives in the wake of a big char -
The relief outcome sigh is big - the hermitages stand!
TL, Crestone, CO

It must have been very scary! I hope this ending brought you into the joy of Easter, even if it was a little early. I remember one of your earlier articles talking about Easter alleluias coming early, but whenever they came was right! So your Easter celebration was truly blessed!
MM, Nova Scotia, Canada


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