Andrew Polk

The Aspen Fire

This past summer, I, along with everyone else in Tucson, watched with dismay and helplessness as the Aspen Fire scorched the top of our mountain, Mt. Lemon. Though not the first, this was by far the worst forest fire we had witnessed on our dear mountain. An entire town, not to mention hundreds of years of growth, was burned to the ground. It burned for weeks. During the day, the smoke filled the town, and at night, the fire line stretched across the northern sky. To me, it was like having one of my organs being slowly taken from my body.

As horrific and awesome as it was, it was just another of the countless acts of nature. Like floods, tidal waves, hurricanes, tornados, volcanic eruptions, and earthquakes, the Aspen Fire was just another natural disaster and actually, it was not nearly as devastating as other disasters have been. On several occasions, I have been able to look at the aftermath of a disaster, but this was different because I watched it from a distance every day for the weeks that it burned.

As horrible as disasters may be, they are also positive. Creating havoc, loss and devastation on one hand, the disaster also prompts rebirth, change, improvement, renewal on the other. (Many years ago, while going through a personal tragedy, I was told that good things come out of tragedies. For me this turned out to be true, because my tragedy forced me to confront difficult issues, and to actively decide to rise above them. In the process, I re-evaluated my life and I moved forward as a wiser and stronger person.) True, everyone doesn't emerge from tragedies or disasters. Those that do emerge are not only lucky to have survived, but richer from the experience.

For me, the Aspen Fire and its lessons, demonstrates the cyclic interweaving of good and bad, beginning and end, and life and death, and it is dramatic reminder of triviality of the individual in the larger scheme of things. My desire is to use my art to embody the forces of nature complete with the drama, irony and complexity.