Safer, Smarter & Stronger—High Park Fire Update
December 27, 2012
It is not more surprising to be born twice than once; everything in nature is resurrection. —Voltaire
Motherlove was born in Rist Canyon, in the mountains west of Fort Collins. The beginnings of the company and our family beginnings are one and the same. My mother started making the products we sell today from herbs and plants she gathered around our house when she was pregnant with me. If she needed another salve or tea, she found the plants and made it. My sisters and I grew up playing in the forest and helping her gather herbs and raise the food we ate. In those days, we lived a pretty secluded life, and I joke that the reason I’m so close to nature is because those same plants were my best friends. The first Motherlove products were made in our kitchen and given to friends, then given to some of their friends and eventually sold in a few local stores. The company grew as did my sisters and I from those plants and that very special place in the canyon.
It’s been difficult to talk much about the summer of 2012. The High Park fire destroyed almost 89,000 acres, including the land where we grew up. Our family is one of the very lucky ones – the house we know as home is still there. Many families are not so lucky and are faced with rebuilding from literally nothing. When they say that fire is the ultimate test, they’re not joking. Knowing what our friends and neighbors are going through, it feels trivial to complain about the loss of our childhood haunts and the plants my mother loved.
The raw emotion and trauma the entire community faced during the fire and in the months after is difficult to verbalize. We could all see the fire and smell the smoke for weeks. From the meetings where we sat listening to damage reports, often next to someone as they learned their home was gone, to those first trips back up the canyon and assessing damage and then deciding what to do next has been devastating.
But amid all the chaos and heartbreak there has been a thread of reaching out and joining together. The annual mountain festival had exceptional importance this year. The fund raising efforts for Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department to rebuild the fire station that burned during the fire have been wildly successful. Throughout the community of Fort Collins there has been an outpouring of love to help those affected by the fire with a multitude of fund raising events and volunteer clean-up and rebuilding projects.
And in the spirit of The Rist, the rebuilding is largely focused on sustainability. From ways to make the new homes more likely to survive another fire to energy efficiency and green materials, organizations such as NoCo Rebuilding Network are providing education and grants to help the community grow and renew itself. This network has brought together building professionals, local businesses and nonprofits to help provide direct grants to survivors in the rebuilding efforts using safer, smarter, and stronger as the pillars of their organization.
It will take years to rebuild and restore a sense of new normal. The forest, streams and wildlife have been altered forever. The trees my sisters and I knew as friends will never again hide a little family member during a game of hide and seek or provide refuge during a time of turmoil. But we’re starting to feel the hope that nature brings as it renews and grows again, and the spring will bring the first signs of what’s to come. Everyone in The Rist will heal and grow and renew in their own time, and because the spirit of the earth and her renewal is strong in our community, we will all be stronger. I choose to remember The Rist as I knew it as a child, but I know that in time, there will be new life to love and slowly our friends and neighbors will create new places to call home.
As other families and communities have struggled with natural disasters recently, it reminds me all that life’s most important lessons are learned from nature and the earth. Her ability to renew and grow again after the most shattering events is not an accident. From the lessons of my mother, often the most healing herbs are really just weeds that grow in the harshest of conditions. So to use this metaphor, perhaps seeing beyond the weed to the inner strength of the plant is the greatest healer of all.