I’m spending time this weekend with family that live within a couple hours from my place. Where they live was hit hard by a devastating wild fire almost a year ago. I’ve been coming to this area for about a decade. I love it here. I have friends and family, and places that feel sacred to me. Significant life events have transpired here. Driving in today, the devastation was palpable. It emanates from the burnt skeletons of trees. Manzanita trees look wrought iron sculptures. There is nowhere to look without being stared down by harsh reality and grief. Someone I was talking to was lamenting how the fire has changed the community as a whole. She knows 40 people just from one class she takes, who lost their homes. Most have relocated out of the area. Two local destination resorts burned to the ground, displacing hundreds of workers who also lived on the respective sites.
So here we are, almost a year later. There is new growth. Trees are beginning to repopulate. Homes are being built. People I know who were forced to relocate have discovered new opportunity, and some, profound joy.
Fire is one of the ultimate equalizers in life. It doesn’t take anything into account except whether something is fuel. Race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, income, ability, we’re all fair game. Here’s the thing though, it has a purpose. Nature uses fire periodically to clean house. From the underbrush to the tallest tree, it all goes, and makes room for new life.
I’m not advocating or even suggesting that we run out and become arsonists. In fact, please don’t! But what I’m saying is that sometimes, our biggest and most seemingly devastating changes turn out to bring forth new opportunity like nothing else could.
My diagnosis of Major Depression came from personal devastation that lead to my first hospitalization. I thought my life was over, and couldn’t see a way out. But I had to get the debris cleared out to lay the foundation for what my life has become today. My choice today is to keep focusing on the burnt out remnants, or cultivate new growth. Fire is going to happen. We all experience our own versions of complete devastation. But as long as we’re not consumed, new growth and determination to survive, then to thrive, will have space to push through.