Villa Grove is a dot on the map, not even a stop – it’s simply a place people drive through, and while there are a few residents within the immediate township, most of the people are scattered around the San Luis Valley. The residents of the area moved there to enjoy the tranquility of the valley, while others moved there to run away from civilization. If you mind your own business and don’t get overly friendly, the area is a great place to live.
As a pawn for the USPS, I worked the Villa Grove post office quite often as they were seeking a permanent employee. The office, situated on the side of the highway, faced east towards Hayden Pass and was prime viewing ground for watching smoke plumes from a forest fire in 2016. The initial days of the fire were unnerving for people on both sides of the pass as it was unclear which direction the fire would travel. Would it remain on the east side of the pass and head towards Coaldale or would it crawl over the pass and head west towards Villa Grove?
I had a customer come in to the office and she made it clear that she was terrified of what may happen, pounding the counter and demanding that the fire be put out. She wanted to know why there weren’t more planes and helicopters dropping retardant and water, and why there weren’t more firefighters creating fire lines. She didn’t want to see the destruction. She didn’t want to see the dangerous after effects. She didn’t want people to lose homes and property. The raging fires were too much for her and she couldn’t see any good in it.
Today I was talking with one of my friends and I was trying to explain why I was taking on more than my fair share of some group work we’re doing together. And out of nowhere I started to well up with tears because I know this person is facing some big fires in their life, and that’s why I’m doing extra. The fire in their life is moving along, taking out a lot of old, dead wood and I hate that they have to face the destruction. The truth is, I’m a lot like that woman at the post office: no more pain, no more struggles, no more danger. I want the fires out!
That fire on Hayden Pass ended up moving across more than 16,000 acres of land, burning vast areas of deadfall trees and brush – things that needed to burn. In the following months after that fire, it was difficult to imagine the good that could come from it. The burn scar had no protection from the rains and there ended up being great deluges in gulches, bringing down dead and burned trees and giant boulders.
As the years have passed, the benefits of the fire are becoming clearer, with healthier trees and grasses becoming more prevalent across the landscape. The burn scar is becoming less noticeable and, if anything, it makes the unhealthy, non-burned areas more noticeable. The fire and it’s immediate aftermath were destructive, painful, and left many feeling scared, but it’s made the landscape more beautiful.
I know that my friend has to face these fires.
I know that it’s going to be difficult, painful, and destructive.
I know there’s nothing I can do to put out these fires –
they’re necessary and have to burn.
I thank God that my friend will be cleared of all the deadfall in their life
and will come out of it with fertile and healthy ground
to grow stronger, deeper, and taller than they were before.
May the fires in our lives burn where they must, and may we face the flames with strength and humility. May God bring us out of these fires and into growth…into thriving…into beauty.
much love. sheth.