Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons – some rights reserved by USFS Region 5

You can’t go very far in Fort Collins without seeing some sort of sign thanking the firefighters #HighParkFire

Ty Brennan – via Twitter

This quote was just posted today. It reflects one of the many things I love about my community and one of the many reasons I grieve for it and its people and the losses we are experiencing as a result of the High Park Fire. Those individuals who have lost their homes have barely come to terms with this reality. And even those of us who have our homes intact will be forever changed as a result of this tragedy as well.

The nearby mountains that we drive through to get away from the heat in the summer will no longer provide the shade and scent of evergreens – at least for several decades. The hiking trails that we sought to gain solitude will be a different landscape for many months – smelling of burned wood and charred rocks. And the views will be barren of the beautiful trees that we so loved.

Even as the fire continues to burn, I’m hopeful for the future. You see, nature is at work here. One of the primary reasons this fire has been so difficult to contain is that many of our beloved pine trees were already dead. We have watched them – one by one – turn brown and drop all of their needles as the Mountain Pine Beetle destroyed their bark – and took away their life force. They have provided the kindling that the fire needed to burn so ferociously. And maybe the fire is here for a reason…

I heard recently that the Ponderosa Pine that populates much of our forests in this area can only reproduce in the presence of fire. The fire is what causes the pine cones to open and release their precious treasure – the seeds that grow the next generation.

A few years ago, I visited Yellowstone National Park and was in awe of the recovery of the forest after the devastating fire that hit that beautiful part of the world in 1988. Young, bright green trees covered the landscape, growing up between the remains of the burned stumps. Twenty years later, the new trees had already reached close to twenty feet. And I couldn’t help but smile at the new forest that grew from the ashes of the old one.

So today, I’m grateful for the efforts of all of those working to contain this fire. But I’m also grateful for the wisdom of our planet and the beauty and even sometimes of the ferocity of nature. I am not glad that this happened, and I do not wish for anyone to lose their home. But I will look forward to the rebuilding – of people’s lives, of homes and of the forest. And I will smile at our new forest as she grows from the ashes of the old.

With Love,


©CathyUlrich and LargeSelf, 2012

8 comments on “Gratitude

  1. Gina's Professions for PEACE says:

    Wow… beautifully written. My husband and I called our (his) aunt and uncle in Denver today, long overdue and a welcome visit, motivated by my concern for you and the realization that Denver’s not that far. Auntie mentioned the Pine Beetle problem and it got me thinking along your eloquently written lines here. But it takes a brave and deeply spiritual soul as yourself, when so close to this problem, to sift through those still smouldering ashes and find the diamond. Incredible post Cathy. Thank you. Hugs, Gina


    • Cathy Ulrich says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Gina. It means so much to get your wonderful feedback. I didn’t know you had relatives in the area! When I realized that, I had a quick vision of getting to meet you one day when you came to visit them. Who knows? It’s cloudy today and we’re hoping for some rain! 🙂




      • Gina's Professions for PEACE says:

        Hello Cathy, I am so happy to read that the fire is at 45% containment.
        And, yes I have a feeling you and I shall get to enjoy a visit in person someday! Denver is an easy drive away. And another amazing thing? My brother lives in the southwestern US but as a helicopter pilot, he is called where the need is. HE IS THERE helping! How small our world really is.


      • Cathy Ulrich says:

        Gina, I shed a few tears of gratitude when I read this. How amazing that your brother is helping here! If you speak to him, please pass this message: that we are tremendously grateful or his work! And also if he needs anything while he’s here, to let us know…I can arrange to get my contact information to him through you, if you’re willing! Love, Cathy


  2. athenabrady1 says:

    What a lovely a compassionate post Cathy, it is obvious from your words the love you have for your enviroment and neighbours. Thank you for sharing you thoughts with us all.


    • Cathy Ulrich says:

      Thank you, Athena. You’re right, I love these people and this place. And the news is getting better every day. 20% containment now and I just heard that the house owned by one of my friends/clients is still standing! It was in one of the worst areas of the the fire, but fires, like tornadoes tend to skip around. Very good news!


  3. I lost a home in the October 2003 fires here, and another one in the October 2007 fires here. I did not rebuild in those areas and when I go by them now, it’s amazing how Mother and Father Nature have taken control of a place that I once called my own. Of course, all I did was attempt to steal them from the Natures.


  4. Cathy Ulrich says:

    Boy, Russel, those must have been challenging times (to say the least!). I do think that we are simply borrowing from the Natures – as you put it. We call it Mother Nature, but I agree that there is also a masculine component – for instance fire has that quality. I get images of Shiva at work here…


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