Thursday, August 9, 2012



Fred is most happy when he is travelling an unfamiliar road. I asked him today if there was one place that he would like to see again. He answers that he prefers to see altogether new places. This is no surprise to me but keeps me poised for the unpaved, unfamiliar, and unsettled. Our trips often bring me more profound understanding of the way things work in the world.
At the tail end of our canoe reconnaissance trip we drove into Dixie National Forest off of Highway 14.
We camped at the edge of a burned forest.

It was barren, black, and ominous.

Twisted and naked tree branches
 reach for mercy. Others had snapped and landed pell-mell.

Tears of glistening sap bled and sat petrified on tree torsos. 

Tree bark had soaked up soot, and although the intricate puzzle texture was evident, 
the bark’s blackness
told of the feverish nightmare. 

The fire had completely obliterated some of the trees not only to the ground but voraciously followed the root structures, leaving telltale pits.

At all levels through the burned forest, no vegetation blocked the view. The black ground spread out as far as I could see.
 Birds, insects, and animal life had deserted the area. The trees stood in silence.

 I thought of my friend, and wondered if her life feels like a burned forest. Much of what she had dreamed and looked forward to is burning up. She will weep at what was lost. The ashen smell pushes in to haunt her every moment. I wonder if she feels naked, exposed, the brunt of the burn, snapped, soaking up soot. Blackness threatens to engulf her mind, her heart, her soul. Her little ones too will reach up for mercy as the burn touches them. It is so very hard to watch.
With hands upstretched I plead for mercy for her so that she will not die from the heat.

I am fairly confident that my friend’s root system will not yield to the fire. The fire may threaten her stability but it will not overtake it. There will be no gaping holes where her roots presently hold. As is true for many who have lived through fire, she will find in her blackened forest that she is vouchsafed by an underground spring. She will draw from that spring in ways mysterious to unscathed victims.

As we drive out from the campsite, white aspen and stately pine trees line the 2 lane highway. Water levels are down this summer, and ponds and lakes all have a fringe of barren sandy shore. Even here are a few burnt trees. Further along we come across moonscapes of lava, pocked rocks unfriendly to vegetation. Nothing grows in these volcanic zones. There is an indomitable difference between the desolation of this lava flow and the smoky burned site. For thousands of years, nothing has grown on the red lava. It has made the land infertile, barren. It remains barren still because cooled lava does not change.

But the burn site is different. It will look ugly for a long time, but it is not inhospitable. Snapping pictures of the dead trees blackens my sandaled feet with charcoal. Looking down I realized that the ground didn’t feel right; it was spongy. What is that? It felt like a children’s playground covered  in rubber. I bent down; and saw below my feet and atop the dark sponginess, new valiant life had begun.

 Little shoots of growth I didn’t recognize, had emerged courageously: a promise of renewed life. In what appears a graveyard, among the smoky smell and barrenness, new life dares to take hold and sprout as a promise for the future.
For my friend; things are looking ugly. It may feel like epoch ugliness. But it is a season.
It is a season of waiting on God. So I pray for my friend.
        May the hated firestorm that has destroyed what could have been, be the catalyst for germination, rooting and sprouting.
        May you know that God- our life source will with fury, work the destruction backwards.
        May you be fed by living water in the darkness of this season.
        May God be your balm in the blackness.