Tucson Tale: Wildfires, Spirituality & Symbolism

Arizona’s heat sizzles in so many dimensions. The sad debates of human rights and guns, the legislative bickering, the rising temps as the monsoon struggles to form…and the wildfires. Nationally the news reports on the war for containment. Locally our hearts tear as we listen to personal stories of loss to the fires, of heroic rescues by ranchers of their horses and livestock. We pray in our own ways for firefighter strength, wise management of firefighting resources and most importantly for those now in shelters or feeling affects of the smoke and persistent blaze.
Deeply impacted by the Monument Fire is Our Lady of the Sierras shrine. Just off Highway 92, west of Bisbee and immediately in the wildfire past is this shrine, which I visited just a year ago. No matter what your belief, it is hard not to feel inspiration as you climbed 600 feet to the shrine, passing religious symbols and magnificent vistas along the way. The chapel itself contained river rocks washed down from the Huachuca Mountains and hand-hewed oak beams from a Dutch barn in Michigan. When I was there last the chapel was overflowing with locals attending a Catholic mass. The scene at the chapel now as a result of the wildfire fury is a mix of inspiration and devastation: The chapel is destroyed, but a smoked monument cross and statue eerily remain and gaze out onto more devastation across the Sierra Vista valley.

Today the Monument fire is under 20% contained, the Wallow fire further north is under 37% contained. Both continue to tear through local communities, impacting wildlife, native plants and environment, people, structures and business. Neighbors continue to support each other and firefighters. And, again in our own way, we all pray for humans to do their part in terms of respecting our land, and, in turn, for nature to calm her fury. May the monsoons this year be early and strong.

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