Wednesday, June 1, 2011

More on the Nature of Fire

According to The Nature Conservancy, 
More than half of the terrestrial world, including almost all of North America, depends on the existence of fire to maintain healthy plants and animals and natural resources upon which people depend, such as clean water." 

Further, the National Park System says,   
Fires are a natural part of the Northern Rockies ecosystem [italics mine]. Fire promotes habitat diversity by removing the forest overstory, allowing different plant communities to become established, and preventing trees from becoming established in grassland. Fire makes minerals more available to plants by releasing these nutrients from wood and forest litter and by hastening the weathering of soil minerals.

This is simply amazing!  In general, we fear fire and do everything in our power to prevent it, which is reasonable.  Of course we are speaking here of actual fire, not the metaphorical kind I spoke of in "The Nature of Fire."  Yet there are certainly parallels, aren't there?

5 years ago yesterday, my best friend and sister-in-law, Sharon Parish, died.  She had a "cardiac accident" two weeks prior that had left her brain-dead and unresponsive.  This was the biggest "fire" of my life.  In the days I sat at her bedside, the cleansing fire raged through and removed all the trash and underbrush.  In the weeks and months following her death, that fire cleared off the over-story and mis-planted seedlings.  In the years since, the forest minerals have created a healthy ecosystem for what is new that is emerging in me. 

At times after her death, I fought "the fire" with all my might.  At times, I fed it.  In the end, the nature of fire prevailed and all that was not essential fell away and what remained was the true essence of who I am; I have re-prioritized my life to place my loved ones first.  I have recognized the value of pursuing my calling, something Sharon did very well. 

I have been reminded -- in the most graphic way -- that I am actually not in charge on this earth and I do not know how many more minutes or hours or days I have to make a difference in another's life or to tell my friends and family how much they matter to me.   I have a big and messy home but I always have time to read a story to my little ones. I have time for softball games and track meets.  I have time to foster parent.  I make time to exercise and sleep so I can have what I need to do it all again tomorrow.  I have time to call my parents and send thank you notes to my grade school teachers.   And if it turns out I have 50 years, I will be able to look back with satisfaction and know they were years well-lived.  This is the nature of fire.

"There remains for us only the very narrow way, often extremely difficult to find, of living every day as though it were our last, and yet living in faith and responsibility as though there were to be a great future.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

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