Hours before the Black Forest Fire began, local musician Jason Miller posted a quote from the Tao Te Ching to his Facebook page.
"Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes," it read. "Don't resist them — that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."
That's something easier said than done. But even though his house was destroyed that first night, the talented singer-songwriter still finds comfort in the idea.
"It's hard to wrap your mind around losing so much," he later tells me. "But losing my home has simply strengthened my approach to this life. I believe in the beauty of people, and when you witness that firsthand, it enlightens you to the present and to give everything you can."
In fact, the evidence of goodwill and support became apparent almost immediately. "My friend Scott Ross showed up without me even calling, and he had a big trailer," says Jason. "I remember welling up when he just showed up."
With their friend's assistance, Jason and his wife Alison were also able to save their pets including Tom the cat, Speedy the turtle, and their dogs Ruby and Cash, the latter an adopted stray whose coloring earned him the same surname as Johnny "The Man in Black" Cash.
"The support from our family and friends, and this community, has been mind-boggling to me," says the musician, who would later discover that a Weber grill was the only thing left standing among the ashes. "We are counting our blessings and trying hard not to sweat the small stuff."
You can check in personally with Jason when he and his band play a free 8 p.m. show this Friday at Stargazers. An ENT Federal Credit Union account has also been set up for folks who want to help out the Miller family. You can find details at jmillerband.com.
Another local musician who's counting his blessings is Charlie Milo.
"The fire initially started on the next block from my house and then spread from there," says the bassist, who was downtown at the time. "My mom was hosting a retreat for some of the Nia [non-impact aerobics] dancers out at the house. So that's what was on my mind: What was gonna happen to all those ladies there, down in the basement of the house with the music cranked?"
The musician — who'd moved back into his parents' house while juggling college classwork with constant gigging — called his mom and was relieved to find out she'd already evacuated. But the house, she said, had most likely gone up in flames.
"It was like somebody hit the reset button," says Charlie. "It was almost like I was forced to relax, you know, like just sit there and think real step-by-step: OK, I've got oxygen, I've got food, I've got coffee, you know?"
He also had Internet access, although his initial searches for information proved frustrating. "Black Forest Fire is the name of a band, by the way, so I kept getting pissed off because I would Google 'Black Forest fire' and a bunch of YouTube videos of kids with eyeliner would pop up on my screen."
Ironically, it wasn't until the family got word later in the week that their house may have been spared that panic actually set in. "I think that's just kind of how my brain works," he explains. "It's like, if there are two options, then my brain starts to try and pull in each of those directions."
As it turned out, the Milos' house was one of three on the block left standing. Meanwhile, the musician, who had three gigs booked last Saturday to celebrate his 26th birthday, was inundated by offers of assistance. "When I'd thought everything was gone, there was just an overwhelming number of people willing to loan me their bass guitars, amplifiers, kazoos, microphones. Everybody was ready to chip in and make sure that the shows could still go on."
Thankfully, no kazoos changed hands. "The kazoo offer was a math teacher of mine when I was going to high school in Durango. He's always good with spirit-lifting."
The same, he says, can be said for the community at large. "One good thing that comes out of tragedy is that the community really rallies and, you know, for a couple of months we really have this sort of family kind of buzz. It's just unfortunate that sometimes it takes a tragedy to bring the tribe together."