Devastation and Renewal
I heard of a section of the Murmuring Woods that had suffered the attack of a forest fire. I was saddened and dismayed to think of any part of these enchanting woods being destroyed. I had to head into the woods to survey the situation for myself and yet I was all at the same time frightened by the prospect. I wasn’t sure my heart could bear the pain. I so dearly love these woods and the loss of any part of them breaks my heart.
I headed into the woods with fear and trepidation. I carried little with me and moved quickly. As I ventured deeper into the woods, through the trees I could begin to see a clearing. The once dense woods were thinned out until there was an opening in the trees. The closer I came to it, the more fear and dread I felt. I considered running back in the direction from which I had come, not certain that my already aching heart could take on any more pain. The thought of my beloved woods being destroyed was painful enough, the reality might prove to be too much.
As I approach the clearing, I take a deep breath, willing myself to see the signs of death and destruction left behind by the fire. Instead, I am surprised to see, in place of blackened earth and ashes, green sprouts pushing up everywhere. The earth has begun to heal itself already and seems as well, to be troubled by the view of the destructive appearance of the fire after-effects, determined to replace it with as much life as possible. Where I had expected to see a war zone, I saw instead great healing taking place. I couldn’t believe my eyes.
I headed back to the Manor house and straight to the library to do some research. What I learned was astounding to me….astounding and yet very comforting. Some researchers, in fact, promote the idea of setting controlled fires in certain forested areas in order to promote the new growth needed. They claim that forest fires help to promote new growth in many ways, beginning with clearing away the decaying plant matter on the forest floor. The nutrients released by this plant matter is speeded up by the fire, whereas under normal conditions, it would be released very very slowly over time. In addition, it removes or opens up the forest canopy at the tops of the trees, thus allowing light to reach more areas of the woods and increasing new plant growth in those areas. In addition, forest fires help to clear away certain types of destructive insects which could cause severe damage to the trees and plant life in the forest. They are also helpful in terms of clearing away pathogens that could bring disease to the trees and other plant life.
I learned that trees such as the table mountain pine and jack pine have resin coated cones that remain on trees for years until high enough temperatures are reached (through a forest fire). These high temperatures help the cones to open up and allow the seeds within to be released. These seeds, upon reaching the ground, grow into new pine trees. These trees have become extinct in some areas where no fires have occurred for generations on end or in areas where fire controls have been in place.
As I began this research, I remembered my summers back as a child in Fundy Bay National Park in New Brunswick, Canada. I recall one of the hikes out into the forested area with the park rangers in which they showed us the differences between the areas that had been ravaged by forest fire in recent years and those that hadn’t had any fires at all for many years. They explained to us that in the older established forests, this was where we would see moose living there as they eat the higher, tougher, older growth parts of the trees, whereas in the areas that had been burnt, there was an abundance of deer instead. The deer feed off the new greener growth on the forest floor. An area that is prime for deer is not for moose and vice versa and so again, deer rely on forest fires to provide them with areas of growth suitable for their diets. I was astonished to learn, as I went back to my reading, just how many different varieties of animal life also relied on forest fires to provide them with the environment they needed to survive. The Red-cockaded Woodpecker, purple fringeless orchid, mountain catchfly, whiteleaf sunflower, dwarf larkspur, goldenseal, and Indian grass are additional species that have become endangered when living in areas where there have been no forest fires or under fire control practices.
Clearly forest fires can get out of hand and cause horrible devastation and destruction to the land, plants, animals, humans, and housing but never before had I thought of them as being helpful in any way. I had never seen them for what they are: a normal part of the cycle of life, that under most circumstances simply prunes away the dead and dying parts of the forest to make way for the new, positive growth. It is obvious that the Creator planned for forest fires to be a part of this cycle, for otherwise why would there be species such as the jack pine trees which must have the heat of the fire in order to survive?
This experience has given me much pause for thought. If a traumatic event causes not only pain but growth and a resulting positive change for nature, surely it must be much the same for us. As someone who has lived with chronic pain and illness for years now, I know pain. I know the frustration and disappointment of living a life that seems less than it used to be. Throughout all of the pain, frustration, and disappointment, though, I have learned many lessons. I am stronger than I ever was before. I have grown in ways I never could have without the car accident and ensuing illness. I have become a better person than I was before. Despite all the “bad” I have lived through in the past few years, growth and healing have occurred and I have moved forward. Just as the land renews itself following a natural disaster, so can we renew ourselves after the most trying of circumstances. The cycle of life goes on.