The smoke rolled in through the dense pine forest that surrounds our home. A steady wind powered the devilish Waldo Canyon flames north and east toward us. It was Saturday and we feared we might have to leave. It was time to gather our most important things.
Monday morning, on the third day of the terrible fire, my SUV sat quietly in the driveway as the sun burned orange through the gray haze. In a box inside the Suburban were vehicle title papers and insurance papers. Passports. Birth certificates. Photos. Things normal people grab when the world seems to be on fire.
And then there were other things.
A stack of fly-fishing rods, for example. My wife and I love fly fishing. We just spent a week in Montana, drifting the Missouri River near Great Falls. And you can't fly fish without fly-fishing reels, so there was a bag full of those, too.
And you can replace a house but you can't replace my golf clubs. I've played the game for 45 years and just recently bought my first set of really good clubs. Two weeks ago I hit a ball so far and straight that it almost didn't go into the $%@*&# lake in front of the green.
And you can't play golf without golf shoes so in they went, along with a bag of golf tees worth approximately 50 cents in case the loss of thousands of trees in the fire might lead to golf tee rationing.
An hour after I put my golf clubs into the Suburban, my wife asked if I'd packed her clubs, too. I said of course I had, and later I snuck out and actually did it. Then she handed me a bag and said, "Put this in. It wouldn't make sense to save the golf clubs and not have any golf clothes."
Susie put together a bag of makeup, too. Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Oil. I don't know what that is, but the oil could explain her youngish skin. And the dead ducks I occasionally find on her pillow.
In went a compact of Laura Mercier matte powder, too. She says it takes the shine off her nose. Because there's nothing worse than a shiny nose. Unless you're a beagle. Or leading a sleigh.
Trish McEvoy foundation, blush and eye makeup went in also, because what you don't want is meeting new people in the shelter while looking like you don't care anymore.
Then we began packing clothing. I tried to ease her fire anxiety by saying we had room for all of her clothes but that was a lie, of course, and she knew it. All of her clothes would not fit into the Suburban but might, if packed carefully, squeeze into Rhode Island.
I countered with three T-shirts, a pair of jeans and some socks. I threw in an extra pair of underwear, too, in case we were displaced for more than a month.
Then, as the smoke drifted in through an open door, Susie emerged from our basement with bottles of wine. There was a fantastic Robert Hunter Chardonnay 2011 Reserve and a Miner Vineyard Napa Valley Chardonnay. We were now fully prepared if the shelter served fish or Cornish game hen.
There were red wines, too, including a Four Sons 2007 Cabernet from the Baldacci vineyard in Napa and a bottle of Italian Ruffino Riserva Ducali Chianti Classico that I was fully prepared to share with other evacuees over a simple plate of pasta Bolognese.
There wasn't much room left in the Suburban now, and I said the small remaining space would have to be saved for only the most important things.
Susie trotted briskly into her gigantic closet and emerged with several purses, including a breathtaking Chanel shoulder bag and a Prada everyday purse, neither of which cost any more than a used Toyota with low miles. There was also a stunning Lieber-brand, crystal-encrusted evening bag that she wanted to bring in case the shelter hosted some sort of a big, formal function.
We stood on our porch and talked about the choices we had made, about the stuff we thought was important. And we laughed.
And then we watched the smoke drift overhead and smelled the terrible scorched earth, and we talked about losing our home. And we cried.