… and Out.

big dead trees


Another big one goes down.

Two more logs for a wall.

Finding the bright side does not make the dark go away.

So, you learn to see in the dark.  And laugh. We definitely manage to laugh.

It lightens our tendency of taking it all too seriously. Taking ourselves too seriously.  Yeah, lighten up.


bob and dog and log


From across river looking back at where we work, with the dead knocked down, burned up and dragged out, it begins to look fresh and young and alive.  Green. The blue spruce are blue.

We are not fooled. This is Round One of our work.  The smaller ones will be next. We see the signs. They already bleed.

At times I’d rather look at the surface and see only the remaining green.  Not deeper through the branches at the slipping bark, pin holes, dripping sap, and first of the yellow needles down along the base, but I am here, and I do see.


Out of curiosity, I’ve started amassing before and after pictures. Here, before and during.  Starvation Gulch.  Twelve miles up the mountain. Maybe my favorite place in the world.  The first picture, three years ago. The second, last year.  What do you think this summer will reveal?


starvation gulch


starvation gulch 2


Maybe it will stop.  Just like that.  Maybe the devastation will end at the boundaries of the Weminuche or the Upper Rio Grande or… wherever the damage has now spread to.

Maybe it won’t continue.  Maybe all the trees that still look alive will remain alive.

Maybe I’m wrong, there is no real problem,  it’s all just me and my over active imagination and my sense of drama.

Maybe the trees will all survive and beat the beetles, the drought will end, the climate will cool, and we’ll all wake up next week and the hills will be alive with deep, dark timber once again and our children and their children will run through the big beautiful old trees and celebrate… life.

But I don’t think so.

We’re not going backwards.

Even if we don’t go any further.  Look at what we lost.

Me, I’ll have a new house.  Cheap.

Cleaning up our little pin prick of a piece of land in this big wide wild expanse is all we need to build with.  What do we do about the other half million acres around us?


cold morning


This affects us all.  If you don’t see it, you’re denying it, or you just haven’t been down (or up) to these mountains in southern Colorado where it slaps you in the face.

I hear from readers who have survived the fires. Their scars are deep. They still cry.

I have dead trees.  I am awaiting whatever is next. Will life return quicker in an area cleared and cleansed by fire?


starvation ridge


Maybe that’s the big lesson in all this:  Learning to believe in, if nothing else, the Great Mystery.

The big picture.

Little things like hundreds of thousands of acres of dying trees help you open your eyes, which in turn, may help you open your heart and mind.

There’s much more to it than my trees.  This is just a little window.  I guess I’m lucky to have this chance to see.


last night 2


One night last week, I tried.

I tried to see the aurora borealis.  Rumor had it, and science confirmed: they were going to make a showing this far south into Colorado.

So that night around midnight I bundled up in a fat coat and mittens and chunky boots and wool hat, and headed out with the barking dog.  Bob was in town; the nearest human being was probably eighteen miles down a closed road and I’m out there running around looking like the Michelin Man in the middle of the night with my camera and it’s okay to let the dog bark all he wants for a change.  Who the hell is gonna hear?

Have at it, I say. And he does.

I’m safe.  In fact, I rarely see any wildlife any more, day or night.

I’ve got the wide angle lens on the camera, a tripod already attached, and the settings set for night photography.  I’m gonna get me some amazing pictures of the aurora borealis.

But a snowstorm blew in and stayed in and here we are three days later and only this morning did it really blow out.  No, I didn’t see the aurora borealis.  I could barely see the moon.

Now I see, it wasn’t just me.  Even if there were no clouds…. Would there have been no show?  Depends on what you were looking for.  No, I wouldn’t have seen the northern lights. But what of the light of the moon and stars across the deep winter sugar snow of the southern San Juans and the wonder of the winter sky?

Plenty of magic for me.


When was the last time Forrest saw a star?  Forget the big events of the northern lights or even a shooting star.  Just a star, up there, twinkling.


last night


So, there we are.

The Great Mystery. The Big Picture.

I want to figure out why, not why me.

I am here.  I can not turn my back and close my eyes and tell you it’s all okay and pretend it is natural.

The last count I saw said our loss of trees was over ten times greater than what Mother Nature has ever done in the Lower 48. And that’s before the latest figures, which are remarkably hard to find.  Maybe it’s morbid, but I need to know. The death toll in my back yard.  Southern Colorado.  The Weminuche Wilderness. The high end edge of the Southwest and Four Corners. The beginning of the Rio Grande.

Finally, I’m getting warmer (not just me).  Getting some answers.  I’m not surprised what I’m finding.

Here’s the secret to bark beetles.

They only get the weak ones.

Weak trees.

Tell me, what does that say about the nearly half a million acres of Wilderness that spreads from my front door?


Rather than blame the beetles, let’s start thinking about what’s making these trees so weak.


cinquefoil in snow


I know, I know.  I’ve spent too long on this.  Let’s move on.  Think of my poor husband.  How many hours have I spent on the web searching in vain for current facts and figures?

Take a break, he tells me.  Let’s go fell a big one.  Take out your anger by burning the slash.


At least in the burned areas, recovery can begin. The past is gone and there is room for the future to take hold.  A clean slate.  If it does not wash away.

What will it take for the rest of the forest to recover?  Rot is not really an option. We’re high and dry here. This is not a rain forest.  This is the edge of the arid southwest.

There’s a log we sit on at camp. Rainy Day Camp, we call this place.  At the Forks of the Utes, maybe three hours in by horseback if all goes well. Bob tells us the story of how this log was already dead and down when he and his buddy Doug were camped here on a rainy family pack trip when they were maybe ten.  They hacked at that log as boys will do and finally cut it in half.  That was forty-five years ago.  The log is still very much there, and no, nothing is growing out of it yet.

Things don’t happen that fast here.


nap time


Can you say, “There is nothing we can do,” accept those words and walk away?


I walk away from the work site today.  A growing pile of timber for my new home.  For a moment I look back to the other side. It’s a green hillside.  Green as I remember it, only without the big trees.

Before we finish felling the big ones, the next group of browning trees appears.

It’s the bigger picture.  We’re trying to make the most of a bad situation.

That’s great, you say, but that’s not enough.  Take my trees and build my house and pretend it is all okay and not look beyond my little bit of paradise to the big wide world beyond.

Felling our trees is not the answer, only a small solution to a bigger problem that most aren’t seeing, and those that see, deny or do nothing.  I don’t know what to do either, so I fell my trees, plan my house, stomp my feet and raise my voice. What else can I do?

It’s not about my logs on my hill for my house. It’s not even about a half million acres of dying trees, in this part of the state alone. It’s about what caused that.


our trees


Is she beautiful now that she is a mountain of dying trees?  Yes, she really is, she always will be. Will she be beautiful after she burns or rots or whatever will be her fate?  Yes, I believe she will be.  But can we not see beyond her surface beauty to her silent cry as tears flow like dried sap down the last of her old wise ones, and her pained wail is in the dry wind which strips her bare of needles on even her young trees?

Can we not be wise (or is it compassionate?) enough to wonder WHY and realize our answers so far are superficial, the questions deeper, the truth still out of reach, and we should be reaching if we care?

Needless to say, I’m not done. But that’s all for now.  Enough food for thought, or what ever you want to call it.  I might just call it fuel for the fire.


11 thoughts on “… and Out.

  1. Sigh…I am usually at a loss for words when it comes to the tremendous loss of life and destruction. Will we ever know the answers??? I don’t know. I just hope (like the conversation you had with the chickadee) that the animals will adapt and find a way to stay. That is one of my big concerns…where will they find shelter?

    • Yesterday we watched a tree squirrel munching on spruce seeds, and of course you have to wonder what will happen, to his trees, to him, to the coyote and hawk that feed on him. But then you remember the Pika that we were all so worried for, and see how adaptable they have proven. Shocking us by moving to lower ground. Go figure. We are – and they are – remarkably adaptable. We all will adjust. Most will survive. Interesting years to watch these changes. The thing is balancing understanding and acceptance, with true knowledge and responsibility. We can’t just accept and say it’s all going to be okay. If we are in any way responsible for this mess (and with seven billion people on the planet, do we really think we have no global impact?), then we have to accept that responsibility. What we choose to do is the question.

  2. Hi Gin, Although I don’t get on very often to read all your posts I do enjoy them. I enjoy reading about your life, up there on the mountain with Bob and your pets. Personally I would go stir crazy:-) I also love the photos. Bob and kitty look so cozy and so cute. Thanks Gin for sharing your life with us.

  3. Gin, it’s difficult enough for anyone loving all that our planet does for us having to see and know there’s such devastation. But experiencing it right under one’s nose, totally decimating areas so familiar and loved, is enough to make anyone rant.

    I don’t know if this is welcome. If it’s not, please don’t “approve” it – delete it. You see, I asked my Beloveds if they had anything to say about this situation. Here’s what they said,

    “First, we want to reassure your friend that she is well-loved and never alone. Her success as a loving human being has been underway from her breath. She has been feeling a sense of betrayal, from humans – not nature – but she is well aware of the planet surviving many phases of natural devastation. Her anger towards others who seem ignorant and uncaring is fueled by her feeling of helplessness. She grieves over being unable to do something for the forests and is angry because there seems no effort or attempt for responsible parties to take action. She currently sees the greed of human nature. Comfort exists in the focus on the beauty of her beloveds.

    A sense of abandonment and helplessness give rise to her feeling victimized. This condition adds greatly to her discomfort.

    She needn’t take on that role. It’s not to be her nature. It would help if she is willing to change her question. “Why” is the question of victimhood. She can take back her sense of power by changing her thinking and speaking from “why” questions to “What, How, Who, When or How Much” questions. This would set out a path of new openings. It will help unveil the door to new strategies. She will see she can formulate excellent questions – ones that capture attention. She can create true stories with questions embedded that strike at the heart of her concern.

    This also means directing herself and her creations appropriately.

    Putting “why” questions to various others, means they become defensive. Defensiveness dampens the desire to respond. It initiates responses that are, or seem to be, reactions, justifications and excuses. That is not what is needed.

    When she uses her gifts to ask the *other* questions, in a spirit of seasoned, first-hand stewardship and concern, responses will be different and will include information not considered by her. The responses may not mean the devastation will suddenly stop; however, she can be assured the impact of her creative question/story will bear great weight and penetration. Her voice will be heard. Her heart can be heard by hearts. Using the mind creates arguments.

    Explanations will appear that she has not considered. These would come from individuals having no reason to justify, ignore or placate. She will be assured she is far less alone than believed. There are others who have been where she stands today. Their wisdom is of value.

    She will recoup her power by presenting clear, creatively crafted questions directed at people who have already built audiences. She will put to use the power of a story in its ability to profoundly embed the vital question.”
    So Gin…I don’t know if that speaks to you, but it was delivered with a resonance that smacks of dire sincerity.

    Remember, don’t post this if it’s too…too anything. I love you and *pray* you will occasionally find a modicum of relief from having this continuously “in your face”. XO

    • Thank you, Amy, and thank you to your Beloved Ones. It is welcome. It does ring true. There is much I can learn from this, work with this, first I must re-read, let it soak in, and absorb the message more completely. I know there is the direction I’ve been seeking in here, answers to questions I ask only myself. Thank you… I will respond more in time as I better understand. Thank you…

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