Andi Pitcher Davis, is an artist and musician who lives in Orem, Utah. She is the Art Editor for Dialogue and a member of the Dialogue Foundation Board.

The truth is, this is my place, no matter how dark. I love hearing the familiar tick of the baseboard heaters and feeling crisp frost on my bare toes in a mid-August dawn.

I love all 9,000 feet of my childhood, blurred with time and soaked in hazy winds from my own fires. The mist off the lake that I am too frightened to dive headlong into as a grown woman, made sweet with wild strawberries. And sometimes, alright always, I worship the smell of butterscotch coming off the largest pine tree in the lower meadow — nose pressed to bleeding sap, pine gum pitch in mouth.

You should try it.

I even like being here alone. It feels familiar, like spending a whole day one-on-one with a distant favorite parent. The one too busy otherwise. Difficult, yes, but so is being stuck mid middle of any Mormon family.

That doesn’t make either of us wrong, just troublesome — both father and daughter. The land, though, heals all. It’s the great mitigator. Land and water.

The land now marks a safe distance between us, one never quite available in the beginning of any given family. It’s the space that gives space for like minds to finally approach one another. There could be something to that. At least it feels to me like a connection that joins longing to accidental independence.

I could be wrong.

I am often wrong.

I’d hate to lose this place–my here and always. Not that I am. Here has been my personal constant throughout my entire life. I do fear that I have lost it, though, and it is tough to grieve a thing more than once. But that’s death … and life. 

Now death again.

Meanwhile, I sit by my river, grand as it is.  Welcome a frigid cleansing. Dip my toes in an icy re-baptism into the gospel of a once and future happinesses. And hope, hope, hope.

All that is right in this life can not last, unless reborn into something new.

Epilogue:  “Wednesday night, I received a call from my parents.  My mom was calm and said, “Well, it’s here.”  Puzzled, I asked “What?”  “The big one,” she stated.  Still not understanding, she then explained,  Grand Lake and the Rocky Mountain National Park were burning out of control.  The fire had already reached our meadow and several structures were already burning on the ranch.

We wouldn’t learn until late yesterday that the home was completely consumed.  Last night, the Grand County Sheriff called to explain the fire is so hot that they still have been unable to get near the area, however, they told us survival wouldn’t have been possible.  They estimate that the home burned quickly, sometime around 10PM on Wednesday.  

The fire is named the East Troublesome Fire and that it moved 26 miles in under 3 hours.  Over 100,000 acres were consumed in 24 hours and is still active and growing.

On the night of the fire, my parents asked me to call my siblings and let them know they were together and they planned to wait out the fire in an area of the basement they called “the bunker”.  Given electricity was out and they wanted to preserve the battery life on their cell phone, I told them I would call back in 30 minutes.  That would be the last conversation we had.

Lyle and Marylin were extraordinary examples of kindness and love and will be sorely missed.”

-Glenn Hileman, son

*In memory of Lyle and Marilyn who perished on October 21st, in the East Troublesome wildfire at the Bar DM ranch outside Rocky Mountain National Park.


  1. Andi Pitcher Davis says:

    Thank you, BCC community for all of your support. May this not be the end, but a launching point to discuss the real issue of climate change and the many may lives it will take. Not just my two dear ones. I hope this post stands as a call to action.

  2. Natalie Brown says:

    Andi, I am so grieved to hear about this loss. I hope you find peace and love at this time.

    In my corner of Colorado, we have been breathing ash since August. I spent last week glued to the news as friends were forced to evacuate and beloved homes and areas burned down. I felt dumbfounded that RMNP burning down barely made the national news because our media is more focused on politicians than the catastrophes we should be holding them accountable for. I was shocked that I only learned weeks after the fact that a weather event wiped out much of Iowa’s corn crop.

    I believe that scientists will create a vaccine for COVID-19, but our collective failure to address this pandemic should make us terrified about our willingness to address the potentially far more damaging consequences of climate change. In the meantime, I guess I will reevaluate my food storage.

  3. Andi, I am so sorry for all of your loss.

  4. With this fire being so recent, how do we know it was caused by climate change? I haven’t followed this story, so I apologize I have no idea how this fire started. Lightning? Hunters?

  5. Dear Andi,
    I am so very sorry. So sorry. Thank you for writing and for sharing. We’ve been watching and experiencing the ash from these fires from our home in Boulder County. Is there anything we can do to help?

    Hi Mike,

    The fires were fueled by historic drought, forests that were already devestated by borers, and uncharacteristically hot windy weather for our Colorado autumns. There really is no doubt that a warmer, drier climate than existed in previous decades is the reason why these fires grew to the size they did at the rate they did.

    But all this aside, when someone is sharing their tragedy and grief, even on the internet, even on a blog, a better response is to acknowledge and try to empathize than argue a point that isn’t up for debate. How the fire started doesn’t matter. Our firefighters have been battling these fires for months because we’ve had no rain/too little rain. These fires have been spreading at rates that were unimaginable even five years ago. The growth of the fire and the ferocity of the fire is the result of a dryer and hotter climate even if a careless hunter, bolt of lightning, pyrotechnic, utility company, campfire, or wind-blown ember from the Cameron Peak Fire started it.

  6. Geoff-Aus says:

    Andi, Commisserations to your family. We in Australia had the unprecedented fires last summer, and they have started again for this summer. This summer we are also having thunder storms that are more extreme than normal..

    Pres Trump is shown saying climate change will go away, the virus will go away, and racism will go away, if he is elected. He has no plan to deal with any of them, except to stop talking about them, and make himself the centre of attention.

    We are not expecting a vaccine, that is safe and effective for 12 months

    We are having celebrations here, because one state (victoria) had a big outbreak of the virus, up to 750 new cases a day, a total of 817 deaths, but they have had strict lockdown for the last 6 weeks, and the last 2 days no new cases, and no deaths. They are now lifting their restrictions, and as all the other states did much better, the borders can open and they, like us can return to normal.

    But most of this time people were united behind the state premier (govenor), how that could be done by Biden if he wins, in a divided America?

    Climate change is one of those areas where America has abdicated leadership, and we are all paying the price.

  7. Amy,

    Nice try. Someone shares a tragedy and SOMEONE ELSE introduced climate change into the discussion, implying that certain politicians are responsible. I was not the one who introduced climate change into a story about someone’s personal tragedy. I was simply asking for some information that would justify the politicizing of this story. I’m not surprised by your response.

  8. I’m so sorry to hear this. I know that nothing I say can possibly reach the measure of your loss. But remember, the beauty is still there in your heart, just as your parents will always reside there. Please take care of yourself and let others lighten your sorrow, even if it’s no more than a meal or just sitting beside you. We are inadequate in the face of your grief, but, like a hand reaching out. we care.

  9. Mike,

    You need a dude, be nice shirt.


  10. I’m sorry for your loss. Sometimes no one is to blame. Truly. Don’t blame the poor Chinese guy for Covid, the maskless guy on the bus, or the overweight, out of shape coughing one on the corner. Likewise, don’t blame the poor Indian working in the factory, the African in the coal mine or the autoworker in Detroit. If we want to get serious about climate change, mitigation efforts at the effects would be important. Rather than just passive aggressively complaining when tragedy strikes and demand costly solutions that only *might* have an impact in 100+ years. Low hanging fruit like forest management would yield better results than carbon credit training, which increases prices, pays out to insider traders, and still hasn’t yielded results in Europe. In fact, my engineer friend who has helped write for the ICC panel has said frustratingly that the USA doesn’t sign on to agreements but ends up with better results while the EU makes a lot of promises but not only doesn’t deliver, but enables worse polluting in many areas. That said….

    The story of someone alone and waiting to die from an encroaching fire is tragic. At least they were together.

  11. Mike,

    You need to take a closer look at the byline of this (tragically beautiful, though apparently unappreciated by you) article, then take a look at who the “someone else” is that began the discussion of climate change. Then your should apologize, thank her for the beautiful tribute, and offer your condolences.

  12. From the Denver Post:
    As the wildfire exploded Wednesday night, threatening Grand Lake, authorities and friends tried to get the Hilemans to leave, Schroetlin said.

    “This couple had been contacted and actually refused to evacuate, wanting to stay with the house that they’d had for many years in their family,” he said.

    [. . .]

    The Hilemans called their son on Wednesday night as flames approached the house. “They were calm, resolute and adamant, they would not leave,” the family said.

  13. Thank you all for the generous support. It is true that Lyle and Marilyn made the choice to stay, and he being a former fireman, I believe, understood what that choice could result in. Having said that, this couple even at 84 and 86 had at least ten or more happy years in them. She had just purchased a new Cadillac three weeks prior that was melted into nothing in the fire. There is a chance we could’ve had a chance to convince them to leave if we had had more advanced notice. Mandatory evacuation orders were given 30 minutes prior to our ranch being consumed in flames. Neighbors had to drive around burning logs to get out the one road that leads to our place. They are reporting a pyro-tornado hit their home, with winds over 100 mph, and basketball sized burning embers pelting the structure. It moved 26 miles in under 3 hours, fueled by trees long dead by the devastation of the pine bark beetle. 97% of the lodge pole pines in Rocky Mountain National Park were dead. And yes, this was caused by climate change. This fire was so aggressive that when it reach the top of the Continental Divide, it blew embers across a full two miles of treeless rocky terrain, and ignited the other side of the park in what they are calling the Thompson Creek Finger. It is hopefully being held just a half mile from entering the city of Estes Park. Apparently, our place received up to 24 inches of snow on Sunday, but this does not extinguish this type of mega-fire, it just makes it impossible to fight for firefighters, because the temperatures are around 5 degrees and there is no using hoses under 32 degrees, not to mention the hypothermia. They expect to be fighting both the Troublesome and Cameron Peak fires well into early December. I have seen a couple of images of our ranch, and nothing remains except a large chimney. Nothing. As a bit of needed lite humor, my sister commented that it stands as a huge middle finger to 2020. Grand Lake lost over 400 structures at least. I like to imagine it as a whole lotta middle fingers now in what is called fire country “in the black”. As a final note. When the officials arrived to retrieve the two, they were found wrapped in each other’s arms.

  14. Andi, thank you so much for continuing this conversation despite your loss. We need to care for each other and for our planet. Once again, I want to remind you to take care of yourself. We are here for you.

  15. I’m so, so sorry for the loss of your loved ones. Absolutely heartbreaking. My prayers and thoughts and energy are with you and your family. May they rest in power and peace.

  16. John Mansfield says:

    A year and a half ago at a show in Alexandria, Virginia one of the songs Eddie from Ohio played that night was Sahara. The songwriters spent a significant amount of time with storytelling before most of the songs that night, which made for a nice mood, and before they played Sahara, Robbie Schaefer told of having the parents of Chris McCandless as guests there at the Birchmere in ’93 to hear the song he had written about their son. Reading today of the Hilemans, who found it suited them better to die in a wilderness fire rather than to leave their home and live, brought that song Sahara to mind and I listened to it again this afternoon. I can imagine Mr. Schaefer picking up the tale of Lyle and Marilyn Hileman as he did the 60-years-younger Chris McCandless’ and creating something wistful, sad, and beautiful. It is inspiring in its way to think that idealism of this sort, willing to die in order to only live as desired, can make it to old age. I don’t know which side of John 12:24-25 this falls on: Is it being willing to give up even life in the quest for something greater, or is it holding tightly to a fixed identity in an ultimately sterile gesture?

  17. Andi,
    So sorry for your loss. I live in one of the communities that was affected in Oregon. Your eloquence in writing about losing a part of your being touched my soul as I lost my childhood home and my place of refuge and peace. So glad I have the Savior to see me through. My heart goes out to all those in our country and abroad who are experiencing loss and devastation. I hope we can change things around.

  18. Thank you for your empathy. It means the world to me. We are now in the black.

  19. Oh Andi darling, you are an honour to your parents in expressing this loss so eloquently, and memorialising your childhood home.
    What precious souls have passed together and are at one with the universe. I hope their love sings in your soul forever.

  20. Kristine N says:

    I am so sorry. Your writing, and your loss, brought me to tears.

    Condolences to your family.

  21. How awful! I’m so sorry.

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