Thursday, September 3, 2009

We Didn't Start The Fire....

It's bonfire of the vanities around here. The fire started small, but the wind has picked up and now we have a full blown conflagration on our hands. (I have found succor in writing in metaphors lately). Fire is typically associated with destruction, but I think that is a human value judgement. We see any big change in nature as a natural disaster. I wonder if maybe we need to rethink our perspective; maybe it's time for a paradigm shift. Fire, as far as nature is concerned, is a good thing. Forest fires that happen frequently serve to clear out undergrowth, which dries out and can cause really large, dangerous fires if left to become tinder.

But I just want a controlled burn. I want to get rid of the stuff I want gone, and not have it affect my precious possessions. Most of the time, that is why we avoid fire. We don't want to risk the loss of that which we deem essential, so we will let the choking undergrowth take over. The logs fall across the path, the vines and brambles quickly encroach. Pretty soon, what we have been trying to save is both unreachable and covered in vines that are tearing it apart. At that point, a fire is going to burn everything down. What will be left is clear ground, ashes, a scar. This is the point at which most of us despair.

This summer I took a road trip with my sister Joni and my friends Andy and Bea. Andy and Bea, being from Scotland, wanted to visit as many national parks as we could get to on the way home. Me being as I am, was worried about money for gas, food, and lodgings, and about getting enough time with my sister Avril. Andy wanted to visit Yellowstone. I was not at all interested in Yellowstone because I remembered my visit there in 1999. About 75% of the park had burned in a forest fire. It looked like a war zone, burned sticks coming up from ashy ground. There were also many and large potholes and TRAFFIC. I had no desire to go back, but went anyway anticipating a blah experience and a long ugly drive. What a difference 10 years made. A growth of new green lodgepole pines covered all the wreckage. It was a different place than I had remembered. New, fresh life had sprung up to fill the void left by the fire. I was awed by the beauty. It was there that I had an epiphany: I need Beauty. I don't just like it, and enjoy it, it gives me something that is essential to my makeup. Wandering through the massive corridors of mountains, geysers, and sky I was able to put my life in perspective again. All of the problems that I think of as insurmountable, are nothing in the face of the mountains shearing down to a crystal clear stream.

So, from this fire I am expecting the sprouts of new life to spring through the now enriched topsoil. The ashes from the old will allow the soil to support new, stronger life. I expect Beauty of the extravagant nature; beauty that outsizes even the behemoths that lurk in the dark places of life. Burn fire burn, because I have seen ten years down the road, and its going to be amazing.