I can see the clouds today. It has been several days, maybe weeks since we’ve enjoyed clear skies. Notice that I include seeing clouds as “clear skies”. The smoky haze from wildfires has obliterated our view here. For me, knowing what is burning in those hills makes it a true heartbreak. This has been an epic summer for me. Early, early mornings, more sunrises than I’ve seen in my entire lifetime and a deepening love for woods and the solitude they provide. My last twelve months have changed me. And it is not unlike what the fires are doing to those woods.
I’m reminded every time I lament the losses that this is part of a cycle that creates healthier forests. It’s pretty hard to swallow that description, yet I have to defer to all those who know better. Fire is necessary to the woods. ” The fires reset the natural landscape. They are regenerative for the forest, revitalizing for the watershed, renew the soil and reset the clock for the ecosystem. ” ( Will Donovan ) It seems many forests actually require these raging fires because the trees are adapted to only produce seeds following a major fire event. Who knew ? The renewal of the soil chemistry is a whole other topic. Without this seemingly heartless destruction the forests would actually decline.
I get it. I’m no scholar, but I understand the science of it. Mostly I am a lover of wild things. ( A lover of broken things, too ) I lost the beautiful landscapes that meant so much to me. I think our hearts have a consideration here too. My head understands, but my heart feels crippled in its aftermath. I’m sick of losses. I have heart fatigue for the changes that seem to come in batches these days. This year has been especially hard.
The coming year I’m dedicating to some personal renewal. Next week I will do one of the most challenging things I have done to date, all in the name of getting right with myself. I spent the summer getting out, I’ll spend these next seasons going in. I’m headed to a huge, unfamiliar city to begin learning how to quiet my mind. I have no illusions. It’s a big task. I say that after, yet another night, tossing and turning because my brain is like a pinball machine. Just as a thought begins to unravel and fall down the table, another shoots up in its place. Before long I am desperately trying to keep a ball in play even as it careens off the edges of my mind. Sleep is not happening on these nights.
Last nights worry was about the strange, giant city I’m careening into. Los Angeles. Inner-city Los Angeles. I’m going to a place where I know next to nothing about the neighborhood, people or program I am so hopefully seeking. I hope to learn about ‘going in’. About ‘being still’. A calm mind is like the Academy Award. It’s like the perfect cut of Wagyu beef. It’s sticking your feet in a raging runoff from a glacier. Its snapping a tiny twig from an alpine fir and crushing it between your fingers until the aroma fills your senses. That feeling. Only the empty, opposite side. I’m headed to a meditation retreat offered to beginners by someone I trust with my unsteadiness. If this coming adventure resonates with me, I will seek something close to home. I don’t really know what to expect and it has been suggested that I pack all those fears in my bag. I suspect I will learn, in the only way I can, that next time I can feel free to pack much lighter. Fear is heavy. Faith is not. Simple choice.
I’ll be sleeping on a simple foam mattress on the floor next to others. We will share a bathroom and an experience. I will immerse myself and trust that this path is exactly where I’m meant to be. Or maybe it is a mid-life crisis. Who knows.
This year someone found fault with many of the parts of me I find precious. I’ve learned many things, not the least of which, is that if I surrender myself to someone else’s vision of me, I abandon my own hard work of self-discovery. I am finally, at 55, comfortable in my own skin. I’m one of those people who are passionate to my very core about the things that are important to me. Should I change that ? Should I alter the parts that give me joy ? Should I apologize for who I am ? Newp. Can’t do it. Even now, when my ego and inner critic are having their way with me, I can’t nudge myself toward any other version of myself. I gotta be me. I’m sure I can be a bit much, but here’s the thing: I am always honest and I am always forthcoming. And hey, truth be told, if you never ask for things the answer will always be no. It’s like the lottery. If you don’t play, you can’t win.
And what in the Sam Hill does this all have to do with the sky ?
Things are falling.
Trees, ashes, comfort zones and expectations.
There is a metaphor here somewhere, I just know it. As I watch the fires rage, I know that good things will eventually come from all of it. Regrowth. Renewal. Regeneration. A great big Reset. In the forest and in the wildness of my heart.
Enjoy some of my favorite pictures of summer.
The last ones here are from Noble Knob.
That beautiful land that is now on fire …