What is newsworthy? Local heroism!

It is obvious from watching the national news since our county almost burned down, that kids in a cave in northern Thailand are all that matters to us. Listen, I do get it. Between listening to our president berate everything and everybody and watching a human interest story about some kids in a cave, I would choose that too. But the fact is, we don’t need to go as far as Thailand to find the highest level of bravery and heroics in this world. I have never been the witness to a more newsworthy story than what happened here last week.

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The mountain behind our house…

Our nation missed  an uplifting and encouraging news story of bravery and selflessness when our own firefighters and their support teams saved this small rural county in southern Colorado from total destruction. More than half of our county was burned or at least affected by the Spring Fire, started by some Danish idiot in the county west of us. And even if the national news chose to ignore us, the entire western part of our country is on fire right now. In response to this national emergency we get a big fat “Who cares!” from the national news media.

The local TV stations have at least attempted to cover this third largest wildfire in Colorado history. KOAA in Colorado Springs had a great piece called “Saving Cuchara” on recently.

I would at least like more Americans to know that thousands of government employees risk life and limb everyday, breathing in toxic smoke constantly, with little sleep or any other creature comforts on 12 plus hour shifts, so that you and I can still go home to our house tonight.

Heroism is everywhere this summer, not just in Chiang Rai Thailand!

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HOME again! All’s right with my world!

I will never take home for granted again! We got back into our house on Saturday afternoon, completely frazzled but so PLEASED to be back home! Even though we have no Internet there and probably won’t have it for weeks, nobody appreciates home more than we do now!

morning sun on comanche drive

We saw smoke up behind our house as we drove up to it, which freaked me out, so I called 911 one more time, and it was a controlled back burning to secure and contain all fires around us.

The STRESS of this past week of wildfire evacuation can be felt all over my body. I felt almost incoherent the day we got into our house, with body aches everywhere. Since I finally felt safe and secure for the first time in over a week, I took a little THC and drank a rum drink, which I rarely do…you have to go crazy sometimes or you might go crazy! I’ve been sleeping so much in the past few days.

How strange to be let into your own area by a blockade of National Guard troops! They were checking picture IDs and “re-entry” passes for everyone on the way in. Luckily today that is over and we are completely off evacuation status!

What would you take in a wildfire evacuation?

Being evacuated from our lovely new home in southern Colorado last Saturday, as the “Spring Fire” raged west of us, was a first for me. What should I take? What would I really miss if I never saw it again?

The irony was not lost on me. Four years ago we got rid of most of our personal belongings to move down here from Fort Collins. At that point I felt like half of the selection at the local Goodwill was mine! We moved from a 2,000 square foot house up north, into a 1,000 square foot rental in Walsenburg for a year, while building a 1,400 square foot passive solar retirement home in the foothills.

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We have been in our new home less than three years now. Within that process I have learned so much about non-attachment. It is true. Clearing out the space around you does help you to clear your mind. We usually choose to keep things around that remind us of our past loves, trips, and lives.

So what did I quickly pack into my car last week? All of my pictures and journals going back decades, my books, an ink painting I picked up at the Great Wall of China, my cloisonne ginger jar from China, clothes I like to wear, my entire desktop computer, a big Chinese lacquer box and quilts my Mom made. I wanted to load up my Mom’s hope chest, built by her in 1950, but it was just too heavy for us to lift.

Driving away from our new home was devastating. We had struggled and suffered so hard to put this new home here in the Colorado outback. Were we really going to just leave it here to burn?

morning sun on comanche drive

As you can probably imagine, this week has provided gigantic ups and downs for me. Just a few days ago I watched as tremendous plumes of smoke rose up near our new home. Ask Mike. I was one hot mess!

Now that the smoke has cleared, literally, I can feel nothing but supremely fortunate to live in a country that takes care of us when we are so terribly vulnerable.

We spoke to one of those great Forest Service men in Walsenburg yesterday. He was explaining where the fire is now and then my friend ask him how we might make donations to help their cause. He said, “We can’t take tips, this is our job.” His partner came over and said, “Just keep paying your taxes…”

Hallelujah! Our home is saved!

Great News today! We are now certain that the area around our home is safe from fire! Last night we even got a tiny bit of rain here in La Veta. We had our own 4th of July celebration on Cheryle’s back porch in the dark!

This little town now has 1805 firefighting personnel in it, much more than its residents. We still have no sense of when we can return to our home. A new source of anxiety, waiting and wondering, but feeling so much thanks for our amazing federal government and its dedicated employees, who give all everyday to save other peoples’ lives and homes!

Almost no smoke around us this morning in La Veta! Cheryle has been a WONDERFUL HOST, but we are still tiring of this strange version of an emergency slumber party. At least it is much cooler this morning with a good chance of rain tonight. Now we wait to see if we get flash flooding up in the burn areas.

Once again I am reminded of what a wonderful person my husband is. He has been cleaning and fixing everything in sight at Cheryle’s home, just as he does when he’s at home.

How lucky am I? Feeling tremendously fortunate today!

Day 5 of Evacuation for the North Spring Fire in Huerfano County Colorado

It has certainly been a wild ride for us here in southern Colorado since June 28th! We live north of Highway 160 not too far west of Walsenburg, and were evacuated to a friend’s home in La Veta on June the 30th.

The greatest challenges for us have been worrying too much and finding very little good government information to reassure us. Yesterday I learned that our part of the fire has its own name (North Spring Fire) and finally this morning we got some solid information on structure protection west of our home. It seems they are finally getting the resources they need here to truly do their jobs right. I feel so much better about everything now.

I’m beginning to truly appreciate the level of organization, and the number of men, machines, and planning involved in mounting an operation like this. Multiply that times the number of fires in the West right now and that is the BEST EXAMPLE I CAN THINK OF OUR TAX DOLLARS AT WORK.

Next time you think you can go it alone, consider situations like this.

I’ve been locked out of my e-mail accounts for now, but I am posting relevant information on my Facebook page. Thanks so much for your interest and concern.

Spring Fire near La Veta CO: Monday July 2nd

What we are now calling the June Full Moon Fire (because it started on the Thursday of the full moon) in Huerfano County is basically burning out of control over much of this county now. We were evacuated from Navajo Ranch on Saturday afternoon because the fire crossed north of Highway 160 on Friday night into Mount Mestas and Sheep Mountain territory. We are staying with a wonderful friend in La Veta, waiting to see if this small town gets evacuated today or tomorrow.

We went to the big meeting at the high school yesterday, and were astounded at the size and power of this terrible fire. It’s basically a big circle of fire west of here, growing in all directions at once with bone dry, beetle-kill forests everywhere. It’s seems to be growing at around 10,000 acres a day!

We also went in to get our “reentry” badge from the feds in hopes that we would not be out of our home for too long, but I am hearing from firefighters that this one will be days if not weeks before it is completely contained. Many have already lost homes up in the mountains south of Highway 160. The people I know who have lost everything are in their 70s and cannot bear this kind of devastation!

At the meeting I observed hundreds of older (over 60) locals who moved here to live a quiet, relatively isolated life, all brought together over this terrible event. Shock and disbelief is on everyone’s face. To lose everything so late in life… Most of us are truly speechless in horror. And to think some illegal alien from Denmark started this because he could not wait to burn his trash!!! Ah Bartlebee, ah humanity!

I cannot access either one of my e-mail addresses because they are jerking me around between them for a new password! My Facebook page is the only private account I can access for now: https://www.facebook.com/LauraLeeCarter

The future of elder care in our country

In response to an apparent turn towards meanness in our country, I have heard lately a call for a return to civility and compassion. In addition, I have been studying trends in generational relationships and don’t like what I’m seeing.

In my recent piece on Boomer Cafe I asked, what responsibilities do baby boomers have toward younger generations? Now I begin to wonder, what responsibilities do younger generations have toward their elders who have worked hard and paid their way their whole life? A quick look through the articles in the June 2018 AARP Bulletin is instructional in this regard.

social-security-nest-eggFirst I came to an article called “Social Security and the Elections” which warns, depending on the makeup of the new U.S. Senate and House, “Congress might look to make cuts to programs such as Social Security and Medicare” to reduce a ballooning deficit caused by Trump’s gigantic corporate tax cuts.

Reality check: The Social Security Administration estimates that 21% of married couples and 43% of single seniors rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income. According to a 2015 Gallup poll, 36% of near-retirees say they expect Social Security to be a major source of income once they retire.

A few pages later in the new AARP Bulletin I found a lovely article about how the Japanese respect and love their elders, a population where 28% are already over 65, and 30,000 Japanese turn 100 every year. At every bank, post office or hotel counter they provide reading glasses of three strengths for elder customers. With the highest percentage of senior citizens and among the world’s highest life expectancy rates, it seems natural for them to show concern for elders’ special needs. They also provide special buttons for extra walk time at crosswalks for senior pedestrians, and special elevators for those in wheelchairs!

I found a final article from AARP particularly reassuring as it complimented my state, Colorado, for being the first to establish a plan for the needs of an ever growing elder population. Within twelve years, one in five Coloradoans will be 65 or older, so our forward thinking governor recently appointed a Senior Advisor on Aging. The purpose of this position is to “Coordinate policies that affect older residents and work with state and local governments and health care providers on better ways to deal with the needs of an aging population.”

My sister, Diane Carter, who has been active in providing long-term care solutions and one of our nation’s top advocates for the rights of the elderly, warns of the coming tsunami of needs we will face soon including affordable housing, transportation and access to health care for our seniors.

This is not the time to cut funds to support our aging citizens. It is instead time to prepare for a future with many more of them. Colorado’s new Advisor on Aging, Wade Buchanan warns:

“Most of the structures we have in place now, from our transportation systems to our housing stock to our health care systems, are designed for a society that will never exist again – a society where most of us are under 40.”