AFTER THE FIRE…The Power of the Pen

(Public mural painted on the entire brick side of a building in Old Colorado City by talented artist Allen Burton in 1999 and enjoyed by tourists and locals.  Photo by Marylin Warner)

Dear Mom,

Until the last decade or so, you were always writing. Maybe you don’t remember, but I do. You wrote articles and essays; you wrote children’s stories and often illustrated them.

And you wrote poetry. All kinds of poetry expressing happy occasions, interesting people you watched, places you and Dad traveled, and narrative poems that told stories. Some of the story poems were about nature and animals, and some were were lessons about life. Your poems covered real life, joys and sorrows.

This summer, Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region suffered a horrible fire that began in Waldo Canyon and spread quickly, out of control. It was the state’s most destructive wildfire, destroying nearly 350 homes and killing two people. It’s over now, but the cleanup continues. When we finally had a long-needed rain last week, the Colorado air was crisp and clean for awhile, but the burnt areas were flooded, black soot overflowing across roads and damaging more homes.

Colorado Poet Laureate David Mason wrote a poem about what happened here. I want to share it with you because he is a fellow poet, experiencing life fully, watching and recording, sharing the details through his poetry. When I come to Kansas to visit you this month, I’ll bring some of your poems along and read them to you again. Maybe, if we talk about ideas, we’ll try writing a poem together.

We love you, Mom. You’ll always be our family’s Poet Laureate.     Marylin

~      ~     ~

The Fires: A Poem by David Mason, Colorado’s Poet Laureate

Here is a house, here is a neighborhood.

Here is a street, a door, a window, a room.

Here is a drought, here a beetled pine.

Here is a wildfire leaping from limb to roof.

There is a law of lightning, law of wood.

There is a need to burn, to lose, to grow.

There is the charred scar, there the flying ash.

To dwell is not to shelter, we should know.

Here are the people packing their cars to flee.

Here are the photos in frames, the pets on leashes.

Here are the children bewildered, coughing smoke.

Here are the firemen climbing the hills in the heat.

We are the street, we are the neighborhood.

We are the garden living and dying to bloom.

We are the parched yards, we are the trembling deer.

We are the long walk looking to find our home.

(Practice-stitch sampler, used by owner’s permission. Photograph by
Marylin Warner.)


Filed under art, Dementia/Alzheimer's, lessons about life, making a difference, memories for great-grandchildren

36 responses to “AFTER THE FIRE…The Power of the Pen

  1. juliabarrett

    I know how bad your fires were. So awful. Writing about an event like this, especially poetry, seems to help.

    • I’m in awe of you and all poets, Julia. You have a way of saying much, beautifully, in a few words. Even though I’m not a poet, I love reading poetry, and at times like this, yes, it helps.

  2. Kana Tyler

    I spent all my childhood summers in Colorado, and my heart is aching over the destruction… Thank you for sharing this (with us as well as Mom)!

  3. Thanks, Kana. We had heroic firefighters, police, volunteers and strangers helping. Visit Colorado again; there’s still so much beauty here.

  4. Thanks for sharing David’s beautiful poem with us, Marylin. I hope you and your mom will enjoy reading her poetry together on your next visit. Creative expression, whether poetry, prose, art, music, dance, etc., helps us share our feelings and thoughts…especially important when there are traumatic experiences like the Waldo Canyon Fire.

    • I’ll tread carefully about the fire; I haven’t told her how close it was to us, or that the Garden of the Gods was in danger, Vivian. Much will also depend on how interested she is in poetry when I visit her. Sometimes she falls asleep, and other times she listens and says how nice it is, and then she asks who wrote it.
      But it’s always worth the try.

      • I agree…if not for her, then for you…you will know you did what you could. 🙂 Maybe like when our children are infants and sleeping and we stand by the crib, happy and content to watch them and know they are ours, not needing their interaction. 🙂

  5. The painting looks much like the textural work of local artist Deb Komitor, although I don’t know if it is one of hers or not. Her art can be seen on the net @ I appreciate that you included another Colorado artist’s poem. My subconscious must wrap around that event and write its own thoughts as memories. I hope you and your mom are able to write some poetry together soon. That sounds wonderful. Gracie and Gannon can add illustrations! Have fun!

  6. Molly

    Mom, this blog is awesome in how it takes the horrible, nasty and scary fire and puts it into something a little easier to deal with. Perhaps it is because the fire is over now! Even when Grandma was more with it, she would have been heartbroken for all the loss (of homes, life, beauty, nature, etc). But, she also would whole heartedly believe in two things: 1. God would stay in control and 2. That Colorado would be strong enough to come back fully from it.

    How smart my Grandma is!!!!

  7. My daughter and her husband live in Colorado Springs, but thankfully missed much of the fire getting married here in Tucson and then going on their honeymoon. We had an awful fire in the mountains north of town in 2003, with similar devastating results; the scars will be visible for decades. Your mother sounds like an awesome woman!

    • The dementia has taken its toll, but yes, she is still awesome.
      I’m glad your daughter and her husband missed the fire; at the very least, the smoke was awful and caused a lot of illness. Like Tucson, we’ll have the scars for decades. But also grateful hearts for the firefighters, police, volunteers, and even the kindness of strangers who helped out. Thanks for stopping by the blog.

  8. Cindy Speas

    I read every entry–you are a lovely and gracious writer. And I especially appreciate that these letters are all written to your mom. I’ve been heartbroken about the fires–but thrilled you did not lose your home. I am so grateful that I had time with you both last summer in that glorious place. Thank you for sharing the poem…and I hope all who lost their homes or their health find healing and renewal in some way.

    • Thanks, Cindy. We had such a good time last summer, didn’t we!?! It was a cross-country trip for you, but we were so glad you stayed with us.
      The Westside in Colorado Springs still has signs posted along 31st street, thanking the firefighters and police, and people are cleaning things up and planting, hoping again.

  9. Lovely! Marilyn, you write so well. 🙂 thank you for sharing the poem…too much heat and too great a change. Wait til spring when all the new appears! Transformation almost always feels devastating…sometimes it is. Be well!

    • Thank you for the kind words. Ah, spring…sounds so fresh and cool and new. My dad always said to live each day as it comes, and not to wish life away hoping for better days, so I’ll try to do that.

  10. Beautiful poem. And that’s really what wildfires do to us. I’ve had my share of wildfires in San Diego in the past 10 years (think over 1500 homes burned down in just a few days) and I still see the results of the devastation every day. It’s not something you can ever get used to.

  11. life in clear perspective again Marylin and a great poem from your very own state laureate, I’m sure your mother while not able to show her appreciation always when you visit but will, like the beginnings of a fire, will have a spark there that will be ignited by the love and tenderness that you and your family continue to give her

    Thanks for sharing

    • Thank you very much, Tom. Your comments are important to me; I feel we have a bond through our mothers, our blogs and the stories about our grandchildren. We’re in different countries, but we have much in common, and it’s always so good to hear from you.

  12. I have only visited Colorado one time, and I went up to Pike’s Peak. So beautiful up there. We have horrible wild fires here too in the Sierra Nevadas. Awful. At least there is something beautiful (poetry) that comes out of it. 🙂

  13. If you drove up to Pike’s Peak, you were a brave tourist, Pamela, but the view from the top is spectacular. You’re right about the poetry that grows out of disasters, creating something beautiful.

  14. Almost unimagineable and poignant on so many levels. The fires–your mother’s disease. Hard to imagine how dementia strikes, or this type of devastation. I lived in downtown NYC through all the 9/11 stuff – terrible smells and soot and clogged air. k.

    • I can’t imagine NYC on 9/11, so much worse and much more loss. But one thing we have in common is that both were “caused by humans.” Other smaller fires suddenly broke out in the days after the Waldo Canyon fire began. Maybe copy cats, maybe the same arsonist who started the big one. In the mountains, it’s hard to ever actually determine who started the first, but officials are still trying. Thanks for visiting this blog; I hope to hear from you again.

      • Sure- the idea of arson is so terrible. Of course, terrorism is terrible. But something about destroying trees like that – so many – whole forests – on top of the humans = is an additional horror. k.

  15. you have a really lovely way with words Marylin!

  16. And you will love her blog, too, Molly. Especially the post “Music in Pictures. The Story.” (Grace and Gannon will love the art and colors.) Gilly has posted some lovely comments on our posts–go visit hers–click on her picture above.

  17. TBM

    Very touching. I was so sad to hear about the fires in Colorado. I lived in Fort Collins for many years and it is one of my favorite places. I hope the land in the rebounds quickly.

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