Last Labor Day, the mountains west of Boulder were set ablaze by a fellow who didn’t keep a close eye on an outdoor firepit (a volunteer fire fighter, no less). Called the FourMile Canyon Fire, it destroyed 166 homes and burned 6500 acres. Luckily, nobody was killed.
Today I spent the day up FourMile Canyon with a hundred other volunteers. We were there to seed a section of the area with grass to keep it from eroding. It was a fantastic day of people giving back to the mountain and the forest, showing our love for the Rockies. It was hard work – cold and windy in the morning; dusty and sooty in the afternoon. Some people threw seeds, the rest of us raked the seeds into the dirt.
The team leaders were young members of AmeriCorps. One of them, Vinny, was a twenty-something man who just got his degree in finance. Instead of heading for Wall Street, he decided to spend a year in AmeriCorps. Another team leader was 18-year-old Scott from New York City. Before coming to Colorado to spend two months working in the FourMile burn area, their team was in New Orleans.
These young people are smart, inquisitive, and dedicated. They get paid about $11 a day, plus room and board. They give me hope for the future. They also aren’t sure if they’re going to be finishing up their stints since the proposed House GOP budget completely eliminates AmeriCorps. However, according to Vinny, Obama’s budget increases funding for the group. Hopefully, the reliably short-sighted Republicans will lose this battle.
One particularly pleasant part of the day came when our congressman, Jared Polis, showed up. Polis is a hard-working, openly-gay, liberal democrat who cares a lot about environmental issues and who went to bat for the Public Option during the HCR debate. I’m quite proud to have him as my congressman. A friend and I got to chat with him and he hammed it up a bit for our cameras. I am very pleased to say I managed to get in a jab at the Huffington Post. I thanked him for his work on behalf of the Public Option and told him I now had insurance because of the democrats’ work on HCR. We asked him how he liked living in D.C. and dealing with all the Republicans in the House. He was very diplomatic in his response and mentioned that he gets on the elevator every day with a certain wild-eyed congresswoman (my words, not his).
Perhaps the most encouraging thing about the day – and something that made me think of our friends in Japan — was that, here and there, through all the chunks of burnt trees and bushes, and all the grime and soot, we spotted tiny wildflowers making their way up into the sun.