A couple of years ago, we found ourselves in the uncomfortable situation of needing to rebuild a home from scratch-zero, zilch, nada… From the ground up, we needed to figure out every single detail. Under normal circumstances, I may have viewed a project like this as fun. Rebuilding after a total loss fire-not so much.

After we moved into our new home one of my favorite house warming gifts (given to me by a close friend who knows me quite well) was a pair of adorable kitchen hand towels that say, “My Kitchen is for Dancing” and “I Only Have A Kitchen Because It Came With the House”.

So how come I to be singing the praises of such a thing as a ‘prep kitchen’??? Hear me out.

As a general rule, I don’t particularly care to cook. However, I love to have people over to visit and basic hospitality requires feeding friends if they stay for any length of time. Hence, loving people visiting=cooking.

Our cozy cabin in the woods (pre-fire) sported an efficient 11’ x 11’ kitchen. It was really quite effective and if it had a pair of saloon doors across the entry, it could have almost been a prep kitchen on its own. Silly me, I didn’t even know what a prep kitchen was in those days.

As in many homes, our old dining room and kitchen were side by side and it seemed to me that nothing ruined the effect of a beautifully set table, as the background view of the kitchen mess created during the preparations of the edible portions of the event.

Although I had developed quite efficient habits of washing and cleaning as I went, invariably there would be some unsightly clutter lingering in the kitchen in spite of my best efforts.

During a visit to a friend’s Open House I discovered the prep kitchen. Having also lost their home in the Black Forest Fire of 2013, a local builder/designer team, All About Home, had taken the challenge to rebuild their home for whatever the insurance settlement was and they made it into the multiple award winning Field of Dreams, for the 2014 Colorado Springs Parade of Homes. Somehow, I had missed those details of their story but had gone to the open house and toured their new home. All of it was lovely and exactly reflected the French country charm which embodies my friend. But one element in particular stood out to me as being an innovative, practical, and a ‘really should have if at all possible’ feature: the prep kitchen.

Check it out, what is not to love!


All About Home ‘Field of Dreams’ prep kitchen

The window over the sink made this one perfect to me but really it was the general concept which struck me as genius.

Extra sink and additional counter top for food prep. Shelves and cabinets, bright lights, and cold storage. Honestly, this prep kitchen felt like most everything needed was right here-and when you walk out, the door closes behind you. Image having friends over and sitting down to dinner while the kitchen looks fantastic and your prep mess is hidden behind the door of your prep kitchen!

Our rebuild was in the framing stage at this point and the original plan did not include a prep kitchen. Fortunately, it did include a good size pantry which shared a wall with an oversized laundry room.

After stopping by the construction site to see if alterations looked possible, to my optimistic eye, it looked as though no supporting walls would be affected and only one vent would need to be moved. Our contractor confirmed my assessment and said the prep kitchen was a great change in the plan. Bless him! A contractor intent on a happy costumer is a huge bonus in life.

img_3709Our prep kitchen at approximate 7’6” X 5’6” ended up being perhaps a quarter of the size of the one in our friend’s house but – I LOVE IT!

The basic concept of a dedicated, organized pantry/work space, enabling the best possible entertainment experience and providing personal peace, is worth the additional square footage and expense it might require.

Since our prep kitchen is relatively small, the cost seemed rather reasonable. Kitchen cabinets were ordered from Lowe’s (to match the ones in the regular kitchen), left over bathroom tile was used for counter tops (after we discovered that a pre-cut counter would not fit through our sliding pocket pantry doorway), and the kitchen flooring simply extended into it as had been planned for the pantry. Cabinets, counters, sink (with disposal), and mini-fridge, are the main features of our prep kitchen. Besides groceries and other storeroom items, it conveniently stows other often used (but unsightly) kitchen appliances including a microwave, toaster, popcorn popper and more. A bread box and knife block stay on the counter and a shelf above the sink holds handy items and knick-knacks.

Our builder wisely advised us to install a large flush mount ceiling light fixture which provides plenty of illumination no matter where you are standing, and ensures clear visibility while you are working.

If you like your kitchen organized and beautiful, and your workspaces convenient and accessible, do yourself a favor and see if there might be room in your home for a prep kitchen!

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Sleeping Beauty principle cast: L-R Anastasha Williams (Gold Fairy), Kira Walton (Princess Florine), Josie Hawkins (Sapphire Fairy), Christopher Moulton Guest Artist of Colorado Ballet appearing as (Prince Désiré), Natatia Warzabluk (Princess Aurora), SarahRose Lorrig (Topaz Fairy), Brianna Kline (Lilac Fairy), and Julia Goodrich (Diamond Fairy) Photo courtesy of Ballet Society

Award Winning dancers of Ballet Society of Colorado Springs and the Colorado Youth Ballet, will be featured in leading roles of the upcoming production of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at 3:00PM on April 16, 2016 at Mitchell HS theater.

2016 Natatia Sleeping Beauty rehearsal with Christopher and PR pics with Jewel Fairies 198

Christopher Moulton (Prince Désiré) guest artist of Colorado Ballet and Natatia Warzabluk (Aurora) Photo courtesy of Ballet Society

Sixteen-year-old, Natatia Warzabluk, is cast as Aurora in this classic telling of the timeless tale of the enchanted princess who is awakened from a sleeping spell by true love’s kiss.

“Natatia has been featured in many lead roles over the years in local productions,” says Ballet Society and Colorado Youth Ballet founder and director, Patricia Hoffman. “We are thrilled that her hard work and dedication is paying off, not only as the star of this show, but also by way of top awards and company offers she is receiving this spring.”

Natatia is a multiple time award winner in both Denver Ballet Guild and Colorado Springs Dance Theatre’s scholarship competitions. She has been a student at Ballet Society and a Youth Ballet company member for the past seven years. Partnering her as Prince Désiré, is Christopher Moulton, of Colorado Ballet.

When asked what she attributes her success to, Natatia responds, “The training I have received and my natural self-discipline. At Ballet Society my motivation has increased and I am much more knowledgeable about the professional dance world than I feel I would be if I attended another studio,” she explains. “Especially Ms. Patty’s understanding and passion for each dancer. Although she teaches us to take our art seriously, the joy of dancing is also experienced and promoted.”

Natatia has already been offered a studio company contract with Colorado Ballet in Denver and a trainee position with Oklahoma City Ballet, which she performed with in 2014 as the lead Angel in the Colorado Springs Philharmonic Nutcracker. Earlier this month, Natatia was awarded the 2nd place in Senior Division and a $1,500 cash award from the 2016 Denver Ballet Guild’s Young Dancer’s Competition. She also received the 2nd place and $250 cash award from the 2015 Colorado Springs Dance Theatre’s Jazz Competition. Next year she will be attending either John Cranko school in Stuttgart, Germany, or Princess Grace Academy in Monte Carlo, Monaco. She has also been pre-selected to audition at companies including: International Ballet of Munich; Hamburg Ballet School; Palooka University in Dresden, Germany; Ballet Dortmund Jr. Company; and the Ecole Supe’rieure de Danse de Cannes.

“It is literally unbelievable,” says Natatia when asked how she feels about being offered contracts to professional companies at the age of sixteen. “It still always shocks me when I get an offer. I can barely believe it is true.”

Kira Walton PR pic 2016

Kira Walton Photo by: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography

Another rising star of the Youth Ballet is seventeen-year-old, Kira Walton, who will be featured as Princess Florine, and will be partnering with Ballet Society graduate, Colton West, who is appearing as The Blue Bird. West is currently under contract with Ballet Idaho and is a recurring guest artist in Ballet Society and Youth Ballet productions.

Kira starred in the 2015 production of La Sylphide, and also has a long history of lead roles and scholarship competition awards.

Although her hands literally touched a ballet barre for the first time at age 12, Kira is currently in the UK auditioning for post-secondary programs at the professional schools of Royal Birmingham Ballet and English National Ballet in London; and Northern Ballet in Leeds.

In January, Kira had surgery on her foot and after only three weeks of returning to dance, she participated in the 2016 Denver Ballet Guild’s Young Dancers Competition and earned a 4th place award and an $800 scholarship in the senior category. She was also one of the special award recipients and was given a full scholarship to the Goh Ballet Academy and Youth Company Canada in Vancouver, for the summer. In 2015 she was awarded 1st place at the Colorado Springs Dance Theatre scholarship competition and a $500 cash prize.


Colton West and Josie Hawkins Photo courtesy of Ballet Society

Fourteen-year-old, Josie Hawkins, will be featured as the Sapphire Fairy. Josie won a 6th-10th place finalist award at the 2016 Denver Ballet Guild’s competition and tied for 2nd place at the CSDT’s competition in 2015. She has enjoyed being featured in several ballet productions including the role of Clara in The Nutcracker at the Pikes Peak Center this past December.

“We are really blessed to have so many talented students at Ballet Society,” says Hoffman. “We are especially thrilled for those whose dance dreams are becoming a reality. However, our production will have eighty student performers and four guest artists. Students have been rehearsing for months and making sure their roles will be executed to perfection. That is what it takes to make the magic happen on stage; a team effort by well-trained young artists, working together to bring the story to life. I know this will be a great show because these dancers inspire me every day.”

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L-R: Anastatia Williams, Josie Hawkins, Brianna Kline, Christopher Moulton, Natatia Warzabluk, Kira Walton, SarahRose Lorrig, and Julia Goodrich

2016 Natatia Sleeping Beauty rehearsal with Christopher and PR pics with Jewel Fairies 139

Natatia Warzabluk as ‘Aurora’ The Sleeping Beauty

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L-R: Anastatia Williams, Josie Hawkins, Brianna Kline, Natatia Warzabluk, SarahRose Lorrig, Kira Walton, and Julia Goodrich


Sleeping Beauty 2016 poster

General information Ballet Society of Colorado Springs and the Youth Ballet available online at: coloradoyouthballet.com  danceinthesprings.com

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Ballet Society of Colorado Springs       Colorado Youth Ballet       Praise Dance Ensemble


Who: Colorado Youth Ballet and Ballet Society of Colorado Springs Pre Professional division dancers

What: Sleeping Beauty – Enjoy this classic story ballet with award winning dancers of Colorado Youth Ballet and Ballet Society’s Pre Professional level dancers. Fully staged and costumed and set to Tchaikovsky’s beloved score. The whole family will delight in this version featuring: Aurora, the Prince, Carabosse, Lilac and other Fairies, Puss-n-Boots, Red Riding Hood and the Wolf, with a cast eighty-four!

Where: Mitchell High School Theater 1205 Potter Drive; C/S
When: 3:00pm; April 16th
Tickets: $15 Adults; $11 Children (12 & under) and Seniors. Pay with cc over the phone by calling: 719.272.7078; purchase at Ballet Society’s Front Desk; at the theater on show day; or order tickets online: https://on.spingo.com/e/sleeping_beauty

Jerusalem Palm Sunday depiction

Jerusalem Palm Sunday depiction

Over 200 local cast and crew will be part of opening tour season of The Thorn at the Pikes Peak Center in downtown Colorado Springs on Friday, February 19th at 7pm. Four shows will take place over the weekend including two on Saturday (3pm & 7pm); and a 3pm show on Sunday.

Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday are past. Christians across the world are observing the 40 days of Lent, which culminates in the triumphant celebration of the risen Christ on Easter Sunday. In Colorado Springs that means it is time for The Thorn.

“This is our 20th season here in Colorado Springs,” says executive producer, Sarah Bolin. “And we are excited to begin our tour this year in our hometown.”

The Thorn is an historically accurate portrayal of the gospel story-known for being realistically graphic in depicting Roman times, especially in regards to crucifixion practices.

But don’t expect it to be the ‘same old show’.

Scourging of Jesus

Scourging of Jesus

Also known for being “Cirque”-esque, with martial artists, aerial acrobatics, dancers, and emotionally powerful dramatic performances joining forces to engage audiences across the United States while bringing the timeless story to life.

Roman Centurions

Roman Centurions

“Over half of the show features all new music this year,” says Bolin. “And we are thrilled that the downtown location will give us the opportunity to use a theater space to tell the traditional story in a different way.”

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden

Over a million people have witnessed the production in person to date, and countless others have seen the production via broadcast by Daystar television in 2012.

Originally created as a visual account of the story of Jesus for a youth group at New Life Church which John Bolin was leading in 1996, The Thorn has grown into a nationally traveling production, a non-profit ministry, and a nine-month internship program (The Thorn Conservatory) for young people with a passion for sharing the gospel message through dramatic performance.

Following the Pikes Peak Center performances, the production will travel to four other cities in three different states, including: Fort Worth, TX, March 4-6; Denver, CO, March 11-13; Dallas, TX, March 18-19; and Lenexa, KS.

General information on The Thorn available online at: http://thethorn.net/

Find The Thorn on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/TheThornLive



Who: The Thorn

What: Dramatic presentation of the passion of the Christ – cast and crew

Where: Pikes Peak Center 190 South Cascade, Colorado Springs, CO (downtown)
When: Friday, February 19, 7pm; Saturday, February 20, 3pm & 7pm; and Sunday, February 21, 3pm
Tickets: $15-$55 are available online at thethorn.net; the Pikes Peak Center Box Office; all TicketsWest locations and over the phone at: 719-520-SHOW

Palm Sunday Celebration in Jerusalem

Palm Sunday Celebration in Jerusalem





As the story is told by Doubting Thomas

Roman Centurion

Roman Centurion


cruise sunrise 2014

Ocean sunrise 2014

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9 (NIV)



Take courage. For destiny smiles on the bold.
Take courage wherever you find it,
For when you take courage-
It’s yours to hold.

If you find courage in your heritage
Wield it deftly and generously share.
But many sons of cowards
Have found courage where they dare.

Reaching into ridicule,
There is courage to be found.
The mocking voice of failure,
Can be followed by victorious sound.

Have friends or foes despised you?
Take the courage that they give.
Reminders that you are different,
You have a destiny to live.

Courage-take courage,
Wherever you find the source.
Because courage begets courage,
Be brave without remorse.

COURAGE-take courage. For destiny smiles on the bold.
Take courage wherever you find it,
For when you take courage-
It’s yours to hold.

Judy cookbook pic 2015

Savoring Today food blogger, Judy Purcell, with newly released cookbook Serve and Savor. Purcell will be at the Venice Olive Oil Company from 11am-3pm on Saturday, December 12, 2015. Books will be available for purchase at the event.

General release date of the publication on Amazon and at Barnes & Noble will be December 17.

Get a jump start on holiday shopping for all the foodies on your Christmas list this Saturday, at the Venice Olive Oil Company at University Village Colorado, shopping center at 5214 North Nevada Avenue near Costco. You’ll be able to browse the specialty store while sampling choice recipes from the new cookbook.


Serve and Savor is the title of Judy Purcell’s new book which will be released later this month at Barnes & Noble and Amazon; but advance copies can be purchased and autographed at the store this Saturday, December 12, between 11am and 3pm.


Sharing her heart and practical knowledge of serving healthy, delicious meals for more than 25 years, Purcell is an author and recipe developer dedicated to making dinnertime nourishing and relational. Her passion for authentic connection at the table has withstood the various stages of her life which has included times of working, homeschooling, and throughout the countless phases of raising her family.


“People I know avoid whole food cooking because it seems intimidating,” says Purcell. “And they are afraid their results won’t really be tasty.” But her own specific passion for developing a healthy food philosophy was greatly influenced by the impact of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, gluten intolerance, and inflammatory diseases among family and friends. Her blog has long reflected this journey and now key aspects of the ideas surrounding a whole food diet are documented in print.


This unique cookbook is arranged based on your specific goal or need rather than food type. The first chapter ‘Simplicity’ features easy and straightforward recipes and the book concludes with ‘Adventure’ which highlights more complicated processes including grilling and baking. If you need a foolproof dish for a party or potluck, look for the ‘Gathering’ chapter. There is also a ‘Convenient Slow Food’ section for those ready to kick the habit of grab-and-go processed foods, and stock their freezer with convenient wholesome meals.

Thai Chile Sesame Chicken Wings-24

Thai Chile Sesame Chicken Wings


Each recipe includes helpful suggestions for gluten-free conversion, make-ahead tips, ingredient substitutions, enhancements for entertaining, as well as making the most of leftovers. Helpful meal planning tips and techniques for saving time and money are also spread throughout the volume.


“I enjoy whole food recipes which anyone can follow,” shares Purcell. “Even if you have never cooked before, you’ll find something in this book that will become a standard favorite for your family.”

Serve and Savor Collage

Serve and Savor collage

Purcell’s interest in cooking began at a young age in the kitchen of her family’s Missouri farmhouse, learning the traditions of gardening and preparing animals. Her observations have led her to believe that beyond the farm, modern living has introduced processed and convenience foods which directly impact a variety of health issues.


“But you don’t have to live on a farm to get the benefits of whole foods,” shares Purcell, who lives in the Mountain Shadows neighborhood. “While gardening can provide healthy produce and be a relaxing pastime, all of my recipes can be recreated with items you can purchase at the grocery store even if you live in the city, like I do.”


Early release of Serve and Savor at the Venice Olive Oil Company, Saturday, December 12, 2015 at 11am-3pm. Author Judy Purcell, will be on hand to sign books and share samples of some of her favorite recipes. Pre-orders online at www.savoringtoday.com/cookbooks is recommended.

Online resources for Savoring Today include:

Read   | www.savoringtoday.com Tweet | www.twitter.com/SavoringToday Like     | www.facebook.com/SavoringToday Pin     | www.pinterest.com/savoringtoday





Who:            See local Author and Food Blogger, Judy Purcell, at early release book event at the Venice Olive Oil Company


What:           Serve and Savor – Enjoy browsing the store while sampling some of the choice recipes from the new cookbook. Early release editions will be available for purchase and autographs (online pre-sales recommended).


Where:         Venice Olive Oil Company, 5214 North Nevada Avenue; C/S, CO

When:            Saturday, December 12, 2015 from 11am-3pm

Portabella Mushrooms with Blue Cheese & Veg Stuffing-40

Portabella Mushrooms with Blue Cheese & Vegetable stuffing

SarahRose Nutcracker nightgown Clara 2013

SarahRose as Clara for the Colorado Youth Ballet’s 2013 Nutcracker at the Pikes Peak Center Photo by: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography

Holiday traditions have been a source of joy in our family for over 35 years. Some carefully crafted, others evolving over time, but all seeming to add delight and happiness to the season. Nutcracker performances will be attended, cookies baked, ornaments handcrafted, candles lit and devotions read by the advent log… actually, there have been almost too many traditions in our household to list. But one thing was sure, the Colorado Lorrig family (usually including 20+ extended family members and friends) would gather at our little red log cabin in Black Forest for Christmas.

But on June 11, 2013, ‘Whispering Pines’ our home of twenty-seven years vanished in the Black Forest Fire. We were fortunate to be able to gather the children, pets, some photos, computers, and important documents before we evacuated ahead of the flames. We gathered at the Comfort Inn in the north part of Colorado Springs, which also happened to be the headquarters for the firefighters who had come from all across the country to help battle that ferocious and consuming blaze.

After the official word arrived that our home was among those listed as a total loss with nearly 500 others, our youngest child, SarahRose, was understandably distraught. This young carefree bundle of life and energy, whose grandfather had often teased by commenting as she waltzed through the room, “Someone should really teach that girl to walk,” was overwhelmed with grief and seemed nearly paralyzed. Her cheeks were still wet with the relentless deluge of tears which had followed the great waves of breathless heaves which seemed to engulf her twelve year old frame and steal her voice. She finally managed to whisper, “I’ll never dance again.”

Lorrig House adjusted 2011

Little red cabin in the woods

In the midst of the sorrow and in spite of summer month, all of a sudden, Christmas came to her mind. “This will be the worst Christmas ever!” she exclaimed. The idea of celebrating Christmas anywhere else seemed – impossible – and improbable as well. Many of her family, friends, and neighbors had lost their homes in the fire too. Including her grandparents who had built and lived in the house next door. She knew that Christmas would not be at Grandma’s house or at any of her Aunt’s and Uncle’s who were also evacuated because of the fire. Yes, the rest of the world might celebrate Christmas this year, but it seemed that there would be no joy in this holiday season for SarahRose.

In the following days we navigated insurance agencies, looking for someplace to live, and dealing with family issues as best as possible, I encouraged SarahRose to attend her regularly scheduled summer dance programs at Ballet Society of Colorado Springs. “It will do you good to focus on something else,” I told her. But she was reluctant. “Maybe it will help,” I said. Expectations were low, emotions were volatile, and stress levels high. We knew moving forward was our best option but, we were unsure of what ‘moving forward’ meant. However, it did seem logical that spending all day with her friends doing what she had always loved, would be the best first step in the right direction.
By the time her summer programs were over and the fall semester began, she was excited to be dancing again. There had been days and times when grief was overwhelming and the tears came at awkward moments, but there were also flashes of comfort, hope and slowly peeking its way back into her life, joy seemed to be just around the bend.

Stockings hung by the chimney with care...

Stockings were hung by the chimney with care…

Nutcracker was on the horizon and as a family with three dancing girls, this is a greatly anticipated season. Our girls have been toy mice, soldiers, toy dolls, sugar babes, party girls, sugarplums, garland girls, angels, marzipan, flower, and probably some parts we can’t even remember. Yes, The Nutcracker is a huge part of our family’s traditional holiday celebration. And one of the few traditions which could be recreated by our family that year.

By now, although we were renting a lovely house in town, there was no chimney to hang stockings on, and our homemade stockings with the children’s names carefully embroidered on the satin topped edge had literally gone up in smoke. Although a friend made us a new advent log, we had no mantel on which to place it. So many traditions were changing for us, whether we wanted them to or not. Feeling a bit apprehensive, SarahRose decided she would dance only in the Colorado Youth Ballet‘s Nutcracker that year. It’s sometimes fun to be part of two or three Nutcracker productions in the same year, but this year she thought it best to attempt to manage her time and stress levels.

In September the chatter around the studio was all about Nutcracker casting. Everyone wanted to know what parts they’d be cast in and what everyone’s roles would be. A few people had commented to SarahRose, “I bet you’ll be Clara this year.” or “I hope you get to be Clara this year.” She thought they were all being especially kind and encouraging because she was still recovering from the fire. Although she received their words as compliments, she didn’t anticipate being cast in that leading role. The year before she had auditioned in the age/height group in which the Clara’s are usually chosen from and hadn’t been selected. This year, she figured she would have been too tall for the part.

But by way of taking a tragically anticipated holiday and turning it into the best Christmas ever, SarahRose was cast in the coveted role of Clara for the Colorado Youth Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker which took place at the Pikes Peak Center in downtown Colorado Springs. Tears had turned to laughter, and mourning into the oil of joy for this little girl who had experienced such tremendous highs and lows in recent months.

SarahRose Clara Nutcracker performance pic 2013

SarahRose on stage in The Nutcracker at the Pikes Peak Center Photo by: Ted Mehl of A Better Image Photography

This year, two Christmases later, SarahRose will spend her first Christmas in her new home back in Black Forest. Her little part of the forest is without trees and although the rebuild is on the same lot, everything is much different from the day she left the cozy little cabin in the woods in a fire evacuation. She’s learned that life is filled with ups and downs. Change is inevitable and difficult, but sometimes good.

The production this year will feature her in Winter and Italian numbers, which she is very excited about, but she will always remember with a smile the year she was Clara-in THE NUTCRACKER!

You can see SarahRose and her friends from Ballet Society and the Colorado Youth Ballet in The Nutcracker this holiday season at the Pikes Peak Center in downtown Colorado Springs on Monday, December 21 at 7pm and Tuesday, December 22, at 4pm and 7pm.

Click the link on the performance times above to purchase Nutcracker tickets online.

June 11, 2013

The Little House in the Big Woods

The Little House in the Big Woods

One year ago today was June 11, 2013. Like most days, I woke early and I found my way to the kitchen. The sun was rising in the east. I started a small pot of oatmeal on the stove and began to unload the dishwasher, pausing to admire the golden beams of sunlight which streamed through the Ponderosa pine trees of Black Forest.
We had out of town guests visiting and there was laundry to do and a busy day full of activities to plan. As I started to head into chores, I felt a pause in my spirit. Somehow, it seemed as though God was speaking to me to stop a moment and enjoy THIS sunrise.
I’m not always obedient to what I tend to think are prompts of the Holy Spirit but pausing to enjoy a sunrise, moonbeams, or gentle breezes are easy for me. These are all the things I loved most about living in a forest. Soft breezes brought delightful pine smells to envelop me, whispering what seemed to be delightful secrets along the way. In the evening trees interrupted the moonbeams on their way to shine on me, creating delightful moon shadows that always brought to mind an old folk song-which the only part I could ever remember was ‘moon shadows’. “Da, da, da, da, moon shadows” I would sing to myself.
But sunrises in the forest are a masterpiece of creation. Morning has broken, like the first morning… (OK-I was born in the 60s and grew up with all these catchy tunes!)
Anyway, this particular morning was brand new, glorious, and filled with promise and hope. We had recently returned from a delightful vacation to Disney World with some of our children and our 3 year old granddaughter. Happy memories still brought smiles and giggles, however, this day-as most-was beckoning with all that needed to be accomplished. But, in happy obedience to the stirring within me, I paused to enjoy THIS sunrise. It seemed that I was almost inhaling the warmth and glow of the far off star that our solar system revolves around. Easily coming to mind were the words of Keats’ famous line, “A thing of beauty is a joy for ever”.
Standing at the kitchen sink, looking out the window, I gazed at the beautiful sunrise that opened THIS day. Golden beams with silvery highlights streamed through the trees. Usually the sunbeams seem either gold or white, but this one was spectacular with the combination and then came the pinks! I had never noticed pink hues in morning sunbeams before and felt that I had truly witnessed something beautiful and unique. It reminded me of the beautiful rose alpine glow that we often see on the mountains but this was more of a rose hue permeating the air filtering everything with an invisible lens of peacefulness.
Turning the burner to the stove off, and leaving the oatmeal to sit in the pot, I enjoyed every moment of that beautiful sunrise. What a gift! It felt like an honor to be standing there at the window watching this majestic yet serene scene unfold around me. ‘How I love living in the forest!’, I thought to myself. ‘There is no place I’d rather live.’
As the dogs began to stir, I opened the door to let the miniature Australian Shepherd, Tia, outside to eat her breakfast, and walked contemplatively over to the old fashioned hand pump to fill the water bowls. As I walked the 25 feet or so to the spigot, I noticed that the grass was very dry. Not the gray-green color-dry of Colorado grasses when they need to be refreshed by rain or sprinklers, but a yellowed curled and crunchy dry that was so intense it seemed that the grass beneath my feet crunched and disintegrated into nothingness beneath my Mickey Mouse flip-flops.
It actually occurred to me on that short walk to get water for the dogs, that the only time I ever remembered it being this dry in the forest over the 27 years we had lived in the little log-sided cabin on Brentwood Drive, was the summer before-when the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire consumed 340 homes on the west-side of Colorado Springs.
We have friends who lost their home in that fire in 2012, so we were keenly aware of fire danger. After all, we did live in a forest, in a semi-arid climate. It was a very dry hot day. I wondered if my husband had packed his computer backups in the trunk of his car as he was in the habit of doing when the fire danger was particularly elevated.
After filling up the dogs water dishes, I headed back into the house to continue planning for the day. Laundry was at the top of the mental list-not because of any special need but just because it was one of those chores which never seemed to end. Folding the load in the dryer and starting the fresh load in the washer early would keep the house from getting too hot in the middle of the day. As I made my way through the rooms of our home accomplishing the little chores that caught my attention, I received a phone call from a dear friend. She had been admitted to the hospital and the doctors were running a lot of tests but they thought she may have had a stroke, could I please pray? Of course I could pray. We had prayed for each other many times over the past 30 years. Sometimes in person but many times over the phone, just like this day.
After hanging up the phone I began to think about visiting my friend in the hospital. She hadn’t sounded over worried, maybe a little out of it but she had been able to make the call. She might appreciate me visiting and I would certainly like to see her for myself, so I called my daughter who lives in town and asked if there was any way she could make it out to the forest to babysit while I made a quick run to the hospital. She said she could come as soon as she got off work and would be out at our place by 1pm. No problem she assured me, she was planning to come out to see the relatives anyway.

Last family gathering at Whispering Pines

Last family gathering at Whispering Pines

Arriving just before 1pm the first thing Diana asked me was, “Is there a fire somewhere? I didn’t see any smoke on the way out, but I can smell smoke.” Diana has keen senses so I told her that although I hadn’t heard of a fire, and couldn’t check on the computer since it was in process of receiving some updates. I assured her that I would look as soon as possible once I drove out of the trees and would let her know if I saw anything.
Gathering up keys, purse and phone, I headed out the door hoping that a quick trip to the hospital would reassure me of my friend’s condition. Heading south on Black Forest Road, just as I turned west on to Woodmen Road, I remembered to look north to the forest in search of evidence of any fire.
And there it was. It was just a thin stream of smoke which looked as though it might be a garbage burn, rising up from the west side of the forest. Not looking very menacing but knowing the conditions were ripe for a forest fire it was a bit unsettling.
Calling Diana on the cell phone, I told her that she was right. There did appear to be a small fire which looked to me to be near HWY 83 and Shoup-about 5 miles west of our home. I told her I would keep an eye on it and let her know if it looked like it was growing, but that she should keep a home phone hand set nearby in case there was a reverse 911 call to evacuate and reminded her of all that we had planned if we ever actually needed to evacuate. “Just like we rehearsed last summer,” I said to her.
In the 5 or so minutes it took me to arrive at the King Soopers grocery near Woodmen and Rangewood I couldn’t really see any discernible change in the size of the smoke pillar rising above the trees and dissipating into the sky, so I continued into the store and purchased flowers to take to my friend. Exiting the building in short order, not particularly anxious about the fire-but realizing that there was still plenty that needed to be accomplished that day-I climbed in the car. As I pulled out from around the building I looked toward the north again and was amazed to see that in the less than 10 minutes I had been in the store, the smoke from the fire had grown dramatically from the thin lazy look of an overgrown campfire to a real menacing inferno.
Calling Diana again, I informed her that the fire was growing fast and to have the children prepare to evacuate. I reminded her to collect the important papers folder from the filing cabinet in the basement with everyone’s passports, social security numbers, and birth certificates.
My in-laws lived next door and the out-of-town relatives were visiting between the two houses so I told her to let everyone know that I thought it was a good idea to prepare to evacuate.
Sitting at the intersection at Woodmen and Rangewood I wondered if I should head back to the forest myself. Torn between taking the flowers to my friend and heading back to the forest, when the light turned green I made the split second decision to head toward the hospital rather than home. Diana was 25 years old, I rationalized to myself. We’ve rehearsed this scenario and she knows what to do.

But in the 10 minutes it took to arrive at the hospital from the grocery store I had already begun receiving phone calls from frantic friends. “Did I know there was a fire in the forest?” they all asked. “Did we need a place to evacuate to?”
Rushing into the hospital I was a bit relieved to find my friend sleeping peacefully. I left her flowers on the bedside tray and returned to the car.

View from the corner of Burgess Road and Black Forest Road intersection on 6/11/13 at about 2:30pm

View from the corner of Burgess Road and Black Forest Road intersection on 6/11/13 at about 2:30pm

As I headed north on Black Forest Road, I was able to snap a photo (at the stop light where Black Forest Road intersects with Burgess Road) of the smoke from the fire as it headed east-toward Brentwood Drive.