Thoughts for the new year

Most of my essays have been hopeful, positive, and somewhat upbeat despite setbacks and obstacles. Looking on the bright side seems to be in my nature. This time around, however, I’ve had a difficult time finding that happy place from which to launch the new year, 2022. During the last week of 2021, I reread some of my posts from last year, putting off starting to organize my thoughts, searching for inspiration.

And then, in the final days of the year, disaster struck not far from my home. A catastrophic fire ripped through suburbs north of Denver, close to Boulder, Colorado. The connecting artery between the two cities, U.S. 36, was once a toll road through grasslands and wild open spaces, became a freeway after the construction costs were recovered. Over the years, suburban communities have sprung up along that stretch, filling in around small towns with historic centers, peopled with commuters to both cities and those preferring a less urban, family-friendly place to live.

Unlike the more common stories of raging fires in forests or mountains, this blaze, dubbed the Marshall Fire, the source of which is still undetermined, gutted residential neighborhoods. Gale-force winds fueled a fire moving so quickly that residents had barely enough time to leave. Almost one thousand houses are estimated to have been destroyed. As of this morning, three people are reported missing—a low number considering the devastation, said the governor and media—but sad just the same. I grieve for those people who have lost their homes and belongings, and possibly a family member among those three, now staying in shelters trying to figure out how to rebuild their lives.

My home is perched on the side of a mountain, at the edge of town. There are a few houses above mine, but only a few. The landscape and a rocky road continue up to the peak of Saxon Mountain, with wilderness along its ridges and down the other side, connecting with miles and miles of open, green spaces, forest and mountain. Below my house is an open space where tall dry grasses provide bedding for deer at times; I can see their impressions in the lay of the grass. Bighorn sheep graze in the spring; an occasional moose, bear, fox or mountain lion wanders through; rabbits, squirrels and birds make this plot their home. Three huge evergreens hug the sides of my house, and graceful aspen trees circle the structure. Fire prevention recommendations suggest establishing a perimeter around the house that would be less flammable, but I have been reluctant to remove these beautiful living creations. But now, having spent the past few days following news updates about the Marshall Fire, I find myself thinking it may be time to make a start this spring.

Last year at this time, we looked forward to vaccines, developed at astounding speed, to tame the Covid pandemic. In my town, the locals have, for the most part, accepted the masking and distance requirements, although it’s a tourist destination and visitors are not always as respectful, preferring to flaunt their independence, as if only they were the ones who would be affected by their choices. For a while, I was feeling safer, fully vaccinated and boosted, to venture out more often and be among others carefully. I even took a few long-awaited trips to visit my son in Massachusetts and brother in Canada.

But the Omicron variant is with us now, moving almost as quickly as a wildfire. Perhaps not as severe, it’s ubiquitous, and percentage-wise the numbers are rising. In the past few weeks, several family members have caught or had brushes with the virus. As an older person, I’m shrinking back into my shell, waiting it out again. I don’t doubt the virus will be a part of life going forward; I just hope to find a balance that works for everyday life. As for holiday celebrations, I remained cautious. I reluctantly cancelled my spot at a New Year’s party. A snowshoe in the freshly fallen snow, which thankfully helped to stop the fires, will be my destination to celebrate the coming hopeful? (I hope!) new year, outdoors.

I hope this new year will be a good one for you.

Silverdale in snow

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Published by rkrontheroad

Writer, photographer, traveler

46 thoughts on “Thoughts for the new year

  1. I can understand how impossibly difficult it must be to be upbeat and cheery in the face of these devastating fires and the endless spread of Covid. I have had to stop thinking about Covid. We went to see our daughter, son in law and grandson at Christmas and we had our son, who we have not seen for two years as he lives in England, come with us . It was a small gathering and we are all vaccinated and boostered. I have given up listening to the news and I am focusing on the many positives in my life. I love the photos of the wildlife you have so near your home. I hope they have all survived the fires.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I commend you for being able to drop out of following the news, Anne. I have done so for short periods, and it’s helpful. Glad you were able to get together with your children and grandson. My time with family was regenerating! The blues will pass, I’m sure, and usually I wouldn’t share the darker side, but, going into a new year, it’s a time to assess.

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  2. 2021 has been a year of catastrophes in Canada as well. First wildfires and then winter flooding. WE must find a way to live in harmony with nature and always be aware of its power. Stay well and Happy New Year Ruth. Allan

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    1. I hope the new year is good to you, Allan. Nature gives us beauty and energy, but these can be dangerous times. The western states and provinces are especially prone to wildfires, we must always be vigilant. Be well.

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  3. I’m sorry to hear about the devastating fires, Ruth as if what’s going on in the world right now (and given that the last year Boulder County had to deal with a tragic mass shooting in the midst of ongoing pandemic woes) wasn’t enough to dampen the mood! My heart goes out to all the families.

    For a while there, it appeared we might be able to ring in New Year’s Eve in major cities across the planet with something resembling the huge celebrations of yore. Yet another Covid-19 surge and the rapid spread of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus have dashed those hopes — at least in some parts of the world. Given the growing covid cases in Ireland and Europe, we decided to cancel all our plans of seeing friends and family during the festive season. It was a hard decision to make knowing that we haven’t seen our parents and sibling in Latvia for nearly three years. Hopefully, we’ll be able to meet in 2022 🙂 Here’s to making more cherished memories in 2022! Aiva

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts as well, Aiva. Be well and I hope you are able to visit with your family this year. It’s so important for our mental health. Take good care and be ever hopeful for the new year!

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  4. A beautiful, heartfelt post. I couldn’t believe it when I read about those fires. Not again! And not in winter! I remember those few months of relative normalcy. Seems like a long time ago, now. I’m glad you’re safe and hoping for better things for us all in the year ahead.

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    1. Yes, it was especially surprising to suffer the fires in winter. It’s been an unusually dry fall and early winter though, and we’ve been concerned. A welcome, heavy snow has brought beauty and relief, and we’re expecting more later this week. Thanks for your good thoughts. Still hopeful for a turn of fates in the year ahead. Enjoy your travels!

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  5. We saw the devastation from the fires in Colorado and hoped that you and our other Colorado blogging friends were not affected. It has been a trying year yet again. We can only hope next year will improve. All the best for you in 2022. Maggie

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  6. I heard about the devastating fires in Colorado; I visited that part of the state a couple of years ago, as my friend had lived there for school. It’s terrible, as it’s such a beautiful part of the US and with it being close to home for you. I hope the land recovers and that the Omicron variant comes and goes as soon as possible as this year progresses. Wishing you a safe new year!

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  7. These are indeed times of profound events and change. Being too upbeat or pessimistic can foster disappointment. A realistic, moderate view brings more emotional stability. It’s about keeping a handle on expectations.

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  8. I’m glad to hear you’re ok (and safe) from the fires … but also sad for those who lost a house (or more devastating, a loved one). It seems the world just isn’t a great place to be in currently … but we hope and trust that 2022 will be more caring and lenient 🌸.

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  9. That fire was covered by our BBC news and looked dreadful 😦 I’m glad you at least were not affected, except perhaps indirectly if it forces you to make unwelcome changes around your home. Omicron is currently letting rip over here too, but I’m holding on to the hope that it could be the beginning of the end as the virus mutates from pandemic to endemic. I hope so for all our sakes!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sarah, thanks for your comment. Everywhere in the world is struggling with the virus – I have been reading about the spread in England and UK as well. Still hoping for a change for the better during this year.

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  10. We are both sending you a virtual hug, Ruth. I felt very emotional reading this article. We are glad that you stayed safe amidst such enormous devastation. Surely the community will come together, along with the government I hope, to help those who lost their homes. Everyone’s tired of this never-ending pandemic. We had a few normal months and finally relaxed, only to wake up to the news about Omicron. Knowing you (from your soulful writings), I feel sure you can find solace in the nature that surrounds you, along with your community and creative tendencies. I wish you a good year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Leighton, for all your good wishes. There is a well-spring of support for the fire ravaged communities. Government programs also will kick in. It’s been a positive few days into the year, catching up with blogs (I have fallen terribly behind) and thinking about some worthwhile directions for my time. A strenuous snowshoe this morning got me moving!

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  11. I was wondering if you lived close to the Marshall Fire and so glad that you are safe (and most survived). We live in tumultuous times and we sometimes wonder if we live in the right place. We have had forest fires, hurricanes and flooding in our area. Our local bylaws prevent us from cutting down trees but we do live in a forest – and the animals were there first. At least it saves us having to make a decision. Good luck with yours and best wishes for 2022.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Every place has its potential disasters. I’m high enough on the mountain not to worry about flooding, but fires and avalanches are enough. I don’t think there is anyplace safe. And we must respect the fauna that live with us, especially in more natural places. May you have good times and good health in the new year.

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      1. I was thinking about your post, Ruth, and wondered whether it might be good to clear some brush, if not the trees? Perhaps your local firefighters might be able to advise? I read an article that reminded me that London, Rome and Chicago have completely burned down at various times in history. When we lived in Cairo everyone asked us if we felt safe (terrorism, earthquakes etc.). I was only ever worried about the amount of salt in our food and Teddy’s rising blood pressure! 😉

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      2. Thanks for your suggestions. There’s really no brush near the house. It’s about the trees. I’m planning on having someone come over in the spring and consult with me about the trees.

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Ruth, good to hear from you. I was concerned and am relieved that you are okay.

    The images of the devastation are horrifying. It must be a challenging time for everyone, even more so because of the peaceful, suburban setting.
    If you decide to change your garden, I hope you can find some fire resistant plants that fit into that ecosystem. I hear that camellias and magnolias act as a good fire barrier. I once wrote about an old camellia garden that survived the devastating 2003 bushfires in our area. Unfortunately the way we live our lives needs to change. Ruth, I am sure you will meet these challenges with grace and compassion, two attributes with which I am struggling. I guess that is okay too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Tracy, for thinking of me and for your kind words. Great suggestions for a garden, but alas, I am not a gardener, and I live at 8,500 ft altitude with a very short growing season. Keeping my houseplants alive is enough! I did put a rock and shell garden in one corner near the house – my only attempt at zero-scaping. The rest is natural mountain landscape and I pretty much let it do what it wants. May you have a year of good times and good health!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I heard on the news about the Colorado wildfires that swept through the suburban areas. Glad to hear that you stayed safe and are okay. That’s unfortunate that you may have to change the space around your house. Hopefully the wildlife will continue to find some refuge there. We’ve had a bit of a rocky start to 2022 with new restrictions that were recently announced, but we remain hopeful for a better year and to find a better balance with COVID.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I can understand why you’re finding it hard too be optimistic, especially with a devastating fire so close. And yes, Omicron has halted, at least for now, what we thought was seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. It’s challenging times for sure.
    I hope the new year brings all you could wish for. Stay safe. Enjoy your snowshoeing! We’ll be doing the same.
    Alison

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Ruth. I can completely empathise with not feeling optimistic about 2022, there is so much suffering, uncertainty and profound change going on everywhere. I can only hope that as we enter the new year, things start to get better.

    Liked by 1 person

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