Beauty in the Burn

River Valley Papoose Fire by Stephen Quiller from his Beauty and the Burn collection

I heard some beautiful words this week.  I have a friend who lives on 50 acres of beautiful forest land that was destroyed several years ago by the famous Hyde Park fire here in Northern Colorado.  When the fire was burning, she said, she feared that the intensity of the heat would render her land infertile.

I guess I didn't even know that could happen.  In that summer of 2012 when it seemed that our entire state was burning, I remember concern about lives, buildings, animals, precious keepsakes.  But I don't remember hearing that a fire could actually create such desolation that the land could no longer support life.  That is an entirely different fear.  Especially for a caretaker of that precious life.

As we talked, she told me about planting 500 new trees on her land and hundreds of pounds of grass seed.  That is faith.  She did not know whether any of it would find the essence of life still in that ground.  But plant it she did.

Now, she says, as she walks her land, she is ever vigilant to look beyond the desolation.  Beyond the acres of black towers, doomed to lean, then break, then fall to the ground.  Beyond the char and scorch on the ground.  And, ah, there it was.  The green.  Poking it's way through.

So much beauty and truth here.  The burn, for her, devastatingly painful.  The trust to plant,  fragile and hopeful.  The new life, delicate and hearty at the same time.  Yes, she was telling me her story, but she was also addressing my story and everyone's story of loss.  That we must not focus on what is burned, scorched, gone.  In finding the courage to face the scars and tend to the pain, we trust, and are rewarded with the delicate green shoots, the resilient young saplings finding that when they sink their roots into this ground they are met with life-giving energy.

That is death and rebirth.  Beauty in the burn.

P.S. Stephen Quiller has a gallery in Creede, Colorado where our family has vacationed every summer for over 20 years.  That valley also suffered a devastating wild fire in the summer of 2013.  His collection is his reflection on that experience.  It is beautiful.  You can see the entire collection here.