Who I Met on Summer Vacation
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National Cathedral

Story Chip's editors have logged a lot miles this summer. We have driven from the west coast through Arizona when the smoke from the wildfire there was so heavy that you could not see the road. We were in Abiquiu, New Mexico just before the fires that forced the evacuation of Los Alamos. We were in Santa Fe when the fire began in the mountains north of town. We have seen prairie fires all over Texas in the worst drought on record there. We visited the National Cathedral weeks before the earthquake damaged many of its spires. We were in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware just before Irene swept past en route to landfall near Cape May, New Jersey. We have traveled across Pennsylvania and New York en route to Ontario.

It has been a tough year for our uneasy relationship with mother nature. Starting with the floods and tornadoes that razed places that we used to live, going through drought and fire to finish with earthquake and hurricane. Now, back in Austin, we are in the middle the central Texas fire season. All of these natural disasters take center stage on the nightly news, but for us this summer has been about the people and their stories. Events grab the headlines, but people make events real. Some travel pictures after the jump.

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The Pedernal covered with smoke from Arizona fires

Photographs of our travels provide a sense of altered locations across the country but end up being little more than the slide show of the first day of school exercise of writing “My Summer Vacation”. Those essays were similar to the slide shows that have become Facebook picture pages or what we have come to recognize as the television sound bite. Connecting to those places and events requires something more. Natural disasters blend into each other without people and the stories of their responses.

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Smoke rises from the mountains north of Sante Fe, New Mexico.
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Spend an afternoon in a sold out hotel lobby in the Austin area because brief snippets of flame or aircraft dropping water can never tell the stories of people and these fires. First, there are families who were driven from rented apartments or homes, some have lost everything they had and some are only in the hotel because of contributions from various charitable organizations. The “lucky” people in the lobby were forced to evacuate a neighborhood in the path of the fire but do not know the condition of their home and spend their time wondering, hoping and fearing the worst. Many are just waiting for the chance to go home and find out what is there. A man checks out of the hotel explaining that “We checked in because our air conditioner stopped working, but we don't feel right about taking a room from someone who has real troubles.”

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There are already stories that have been added to Story Chip from our travels during the summer of '11 and there will be more. We visited an artist spending her summer running a gift shop near Georgia O'keefe's Ghost Ranch for the pleasure of immersing herself in her muse. Her joy with the experience shattered by the Los Alamos fire that forced her to evacuate. We met stone carvers who have a personal sense of loss with the damage to the National Cathedral. We are concerned about the damage to the crops from Irene's wind and rain of the farmers that we met at the Delaware farm markets because they shared their stories with us.

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Hindsight. I know today that my teachers should have given the assignment to write about someone we met on our summer vacation. This summer mother nature displayed some of her most impressive tricks allowing all of us to have experiences that we can share. Visit Story Chip and leave a story about the interesting person you met this summer vacation.

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