It’s dry in Wyoming. We left for two weeks to explore Glacier National Park and in that short amount of time, when we came back, the landscape was totally changed. Once lush green fields are now cracked and golden.
We’re staying in a little RV park outside of our beloved Pinedale, Wyoming. This town is a great hub. Just an hour and a half from Teton Park and a 10 minute drive in all directions to amazing, breathtaking hikes into the Winds.
On our way from Teton Park we saw the damage from a recent forest fire. Miles and miles of mountainside is black with the bare remains of Lodgepole Pines. The sky is hazy and smells of smoke. I recently learned something profound about Lodgepoles. They have cones that are tightly sealed. Layers of resin and woody tissue stick the cones’ scales together. And the only way that they can release? Forest fire. When and only when exposed to extreme heat, the cones unlock. And when they fall in carbon rich soil that fire leaves behind, the seedlings pop up almost immediately. Before you know it a rich grove of new trees are growing where it was once black and scorched.
It seems extra hot today, unusually so. Even for a Texan who is used to triple digit temperatures. Brown grasshoppers bounce and fly around, their skin matching the dried up grass. There is a gray, smoky haze on the edge of town. People seem to move slower, like the heat is creating a barrier. Dried up bushes are scattered throughout the park.
Isn’t life just like that? It’s almost cruel how quickly it can change. When circumstances are going great you don’t really notice your surroundings. And then a forest fire comes through and changes your whole view.
Our poor little trailer AC is on full blast. The usually open windows are closed. I feel a bit locked in in this little space. Islay is panting on the ground next to me. Bubba the cat is hidden in some cool corner.
When the fire comes through your life, how do you cope? Do you mentally check out? Do you gorge on pizza and wine? Do you sit for long stretches staring into space? Do you keep yourself busy, ignoring the issue? Unfortunately, I’m just listing out all my habits after crisis :) It usually takes me a long time, before I finally remember that there is One who cares about the circumstances of my life. He is not an angry God who delights in your misery. “The Lord will keep you from all harm, he will watch over your life.”
So how does that truth fit into difficult circumstances? The other day we were hiking through the Beartooth mountains. The trail followed a quickly flowing creek. The sound of rushing water was refreshing and therapeutic. We came upon an area on the mountainside that was previously burned. Long black spikes of tree trunks jutted out of the ground. The earth was still dark. But in the midst of this ruin were bright green saplings dotting the forest floor. Years from now this mountain will not remember the fire. The burnt tree trunks will fall down and fertilize the new pines. Where there was once death, a stronger, healthier more vibrant forest of pines will remain.
When you’re in the midst of a raging fire it’s dang near impossible to focus your mind on the growth that will later come as a result of your pain. Everyone needs a crash and burn day. Everyone needs time to wallow. But know that this soon will pass. Life is created in the midst of this tragedy. The ground is being prepared for new growth. Hope will grow like a vibrant new forest reaching green and high to the heavens. Your fire is not the end. It is the beginning of new life, fresh joy and boundless opportunities.