Montana Wolf

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Enlightened Anguish: Goodbye Granite Mountain Hotshots

At the base of the stage at today's memorial 

Are you in danger, asked Carol... if so, come here and stay. My quick response was no, of course not. The wildfire fire was thirty miles south. And yet, I pondered, of course I was. We all were. Psychic danger. Spiritual danger. Nineteen Granite Mountain Hotshots gone, taken in a firestorm of heat on the front lines of Yarnell Hill. Nineteen of the world's finest men, the average age 27, gone as fast as the lightning bolt that struck the earth.

From the Fire Station Memorial 
Following the tragedy I climbed rock knolls to a favorite high point and gazed upon Granite Mountain, their namesake. Two weeks earlier the Hotshots had helped to extinguish a large fire on this mountain. Now, a new fire had erupted. As if in their honor, an explosion of orange erupted on the mountainside, an eternal flame, if you will, licking the underside of the cosmos. As if to remind us that winds swirl and whip, heat sears and vaporizes. Souls lose their earthly homes and continue their karmic duties. Somewhere a baby is born that will be deathly afraid of lightning; uncomfortable around a campfire and detest the taste of S'mores. Another child will know from her first glimpse of tangerine flame that she must march towards the heat... befriend and extinguish.

"Look into their eyes," pleaded Joe Biden at today's memorial. "Look into their eyes" and you'll see what kind of men these were. Poet. Mountain climber. Snowboarder. River rafter. Father. Husband. Mountain biker. Some adorned in tattoos, all with smiles that carved their way to the heart; eyes that sparkled in passion.


I slowly pulled up to home and sat quietly in my truck. Don McClean's song, American Pie sprang from the radio, the nonsensical lyrics, the perfect accompaniment to the mix of feelings that washed through my body. McClean's opus was a poetic tribute to Buddy Holly, whose death greatly affected him.

"Enlightened Anguish" 6-30-13, an original on the memorial fence
There is no sense in tragedy and when it strikes close we have no choice but to drop from heady why to heart-full yes. There is only breath and the stir of pain. The empty space of loss. The edgey reminder that all is ephemeral, but we'd rather not have it pushed down our throats.


  1. These were the knights who(like the majority of wildland firefighters)threw down their gauntlets one more time, accepting the challenge of the fire's fury, girding themselves for battle, as they did each time they went out to fight. But..This time, an inferno desended upon them almost before they could draw their swords to fight. This time the flames no quarter was drawn, fire advanced and lunged, saying you are mine and I take thee with me. Your souls will ride my smoke plumes to the heavens, into towering clouds you will now rest your brave, weary,and tortured bodies, and you will be known as heroes, forever.

  2. Thank you, Christina.
    Thank you, families.

  3. Beautifully written - thank you for crafting.