Sunday, July 8, 2012

A River Runs Black

This morning K and I walked five miles along the paved path that meanders along the Cache La Poudre River north of Fort Collins. It was busy with the usual bicyclists, runners, dogs, kids, inline skaters, power walkers, horseback riders and coffee-toting strollers. But one group was conspicuously missing. Usually that route offers at least a few fisherman wielding their fly rods in elegant battle with the wily trout.

This summer the weather outside has indeed been frightful, to some degree, for folks across the country and across the world. Here in Colorado it’s been multiple, uber-destructive fires, followed by heavy rains. The precipitation is welcome, no, glorious but resulted in flash flooding in the areas where fire so recently burned, even as the rain damped the blazes still burning.

Pausing in the cool humidity, K and I watched as the Cache La Poudre, black with ash, splashed darkly over rocks like something in the heart of Mordor. The fish are dying. I cringed to see someone throwing sticks for his golden Labradors to retrieve from the sooty water. The dogs emerged with a dirty sheen to their fur, blinking rapidly, but game for another go. The breeze carried a sour smell up the banks and across the fields.

Still, it’s a relief from the relentless sun cutting through days thick with wood smoke, one record breaking high temperature after another, battening the house against “fresh” air from outside (we even taped around the fireplace doors), and the weird orange cast to the light that angled through windows and skylight and airbrushed the bottoms of clouds with a disturbing, apricot-colored tinge.

For the last month there has been a kind of generalized anxiety around town, punctuated by very specific losses of property, animals, and even human life suffered by those affected directly by the fires. Friends were forced to evacuate, and some only allowed back into their houses last week. Others lost homes, outbuildings, vehicles.

So let’s be clear: the angst the rest of us felt was nothing in comparison. Yet feeling helpless and trapped and out of control has had a deleterious effect on so many people I’ve talked to. They’ve had a hard time working, given up exercise routines and camping trips because of poor air quality, even left town altogether.

But today it’s in the 70s, and more rain will probably fall later. It’s still welcome, though with some mixed feelings. Tonight will be cool enough to cook indoors, a treat since we haven’t done so for a month. Spaghetti, I’m thinking. Comfort food.

On another note – sort of – I’ve haven’t posted for a while. But I’m back, if not on quite the rigid MWF schedule that HC started with. See, it started to feel stressful and onerous, and that was never my intention. None of the rest of my life is particularly regimented, and I think that’s one of the reasons I can get stuff done and still have fun. I’ve discovered, oddly enough, that I work better managing my time almost intuitively. Plus, I’ve decided I don’t want to pre-post or focus on promoting my books.

Over time Hearth Cricket – and you readers – have become more important to me than that, and so has the way I’ve chosen to live an integrated life full of hard work and freedom. So I’ll post at least once a week – or five if I have enough to say – in real time. If I have pictures I’ll put them up but I’m not going to put off posting just because I don’t have half an hour to find just the right image. Expect more of the same about food, gardening, books, various projects, recipes, domesticity and musings about the writing life and how it works into the rest of life. Information about book releases, etc. will likely flow from the last.

It’s good to be back.


  1. Glad to see you back, I'd wondered if everything was okay (and hoping it was). I have to tell you, I loved Brownies and Broomsticks, and that peanut butter swirl brownie recipe from the back has quickly become a family favorite (and really, who's going to tell the pregnant lady *not* to make the batch of PB brownies I'm craving? :) ).

  2. Welcome Back, Cricket. I also was concerned. Missed my periodic infusions of all things warm and tasty.

  3. Glad you enjoyed B&B, Helena. I'm working on revisions for the next in the series and thought of you when referring to the copy editor's style sheet. ; ) And big congrats on your impending addition! Happy to contribute to your food cravings. Ha.

    Jerry, thanks for the welcome. Will endeavor to tasty things up, but for now things seem to be plenty warm...

  4. Nice post. Good for you for finding a rhythm for your blog that works for you.

    I have yet to see the Poudre and what has happened to my favorite fishing haunts... I think I am still in denial.

  5. I'm glad you're back, Cricket. Posting spontaneously and not so often sounds like a good plan. And those who don't want to miss your posts can sign up for e-mail notices as I'm about to do.

    I haven't gone to look at the river yet but the photos I've seen look pretty bad. I just keep worrying about what might be getting into our drinking water...

  6. Thanks for starting up again. Your posts have always been refreshing. JP

  7. Looks like the Poudre is starting to clear, Kerrie -- though the national news finally showed a video of it from a couple weeks ago. Sheesh.

    Pat, glad to be back. I'm worried about the drinking water, too. The ash is one thing, but what about all the fire retardant the helicopters had to drop?

    John Paul, thanks for your kind words!