Throughout the drive into the mountains from Boise, we passed hills and ridges covered with both charred trees and green undergrowth that had been rebuilding for the last three years. These fires were accidental and clearly devastating. Yet at the same time, many forest fires are a natural part of nature’s cycle. As a result of these fires, dead trees and undergrowth are cleared so new or competing vegetation can grow, nutrients are returned to the soil, dead or diseased trees are killed off, and trees are thinned for more sunlight and growth. Yet that process takes time. And the juxtaposition of dead trees next to emerging, luscious new growth was stark.
We left Austin in a blaze. We burned so much down. So much was good. And some had to go. Schools, jobs, half our possessions, financial security, our community of people who loved us and loved our kids, our weekly routines of pizza/movie nights, bathtubs and pantries, hell – my cell phone contacts were even all erased during the first week of the trip. Like forests with dead undergrowth that chokes competing vegetation, we had built habits that could potentially be restricting new life. I’m still not confident if this forest fire was (is) good or bad, intentional or unintentional, controlled or rampant, but it’s a fire that has come with devastation and destruction yet also with the hope of re-creation and new life. And while our forest floor might currently be mostly charred trees (charred everything), new buds are forming. We might not see that rich undergrowth for a while, but we wait and press on. And even when the undergrowth thickens and new vegetation emerges, charred trees will remain. Not for forever, but this will take time too. We may never shake off reminders of what was, what we left behind, what burned in this blaze.
So amidst the fast blaze of a fire and the way it sweeps through the dry, high desert landscape; may we also patiently await the new life that it is sure to bring.