Beginner's Heart

via wikipedia

via wikipedia

Fire destroys. Especially in parks. And yet, it can have consequences beyond the immediate destruction, even the resultants deaths.

This is a picture of the inferno that blazed on the Rim vista point, in the Stanislaus National Forest. It cost approximately $127 million to fight.

The fire that devastated Yellowstone still haunts visitors — there are thousands of sere lodgepole pine skeletons reaching skyward. They march across the horizon like their own grave markers, thin black silhouettes.  Even now, so many years later (13?), you can see entire acreages of bleak grey sentinels, standing watch over the younger vegetation below.

But fire also renews. Most of us who visit national parks know about the serotinus conifers —  pines, cypress, sequoias — that need fire to help seeds sprout. Fire helps habitat for grazers, as well, opening up more area for grassland beneath the denuded trees. Ash is an excellent fertiliser.

Still, no one seeks out a raging fire. No one intentionally sets fire, other than in carefully managed circumstances. Because fire, when uncontrolled, is so very destructive.

National Park Service / EPA

National Park Service / EPA

And yet… It’s beautiful, fire. From a distance — away from the killing heat, the fatal smoke? There are few things lovelier. Witness the picture of the recent Yosemite Half Dome fire.

That’s today’s lesson for my beginner’s heart. Sometimes what seems catastropic, or at the very least severely destabilising, is a form of controlled burn. We can be renewed through it. And no, it’s not particularly pleasant. I’m sure the deaths suffered in the great Yellowstone fires are still mourned. But the new growth? The new grazing, the young saplings, the revitalisation? That’s the legacy of fire.

I’m sure this is some kind of lesson, all gleaned from a picture sent me by a friend. Just a picture of beautiful fire, seen from a distance. Doing what it does best — both destroying & renewing. The destruction is obvious, as is the beauty, if you’re far enough away. But you have to look for the renewal. And it takes a while. I’m ready.


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