fire ecology, or evolution of a soul

Anza Borrego Desert by InkSpot's Blot
Anza Borrego Desert, a photo by InkSpot’s Blot on Flickr.

Adaptation: Resin-coated seeds require intense heat to melt their cocoon and stimulate germination.
Adaptation: Obligate seeders require complete fire to germinate their seed banks.
Adaptation: Resprouters store energy in their root systems, which promotes rapid regrowth and recovery after a fire.

At a basic level, fires represent an agent of dramatic change. I’ve walked through a burn area and felt the desolation of the place, otherworldly and lacking in life. All there is is this ragged scar and it’s hard to imagine anything thriving there again. In this sense fire is seen as a destructive force. Certainly human encounters with it have been often times devastating. Smokey the Bear crams his rhetoric down our throats. Yes, only I can prevent forest fires. In Southern California, as in other places I’m sure, we have fire danger advisor boards prominently displayed in National and State Parks. For a reason.

However, fires have been around for much longer than humans. Several ecosystems have evolved to require fires to clear out underbrush to promote soil and light conditions for certain saplings to grow. Specific species of seeds need intense heat to germinate and grow. Here, fire is still an agent of change, and while it appears to ravage a landscape, it actually effects change in way that is necessary to promote growth.

A proverbial fire has been burning through my life. It started several years ago, cleaning out the overgrowth in my life, harsh and stripped, left vulnerable. During the time period, my landscape has been bare, exposed. It felt like one of those destructive fires. Only recently have the seeds cracked open. This week I experienced a curious shift in thought. A sudden enlightenment. It isn’t anything as dramatic as a redwood appearing overnight. But a sprout has pushed through the surface and is easing into the light.

The shift has to do with action and fear. I fear conflict in my life, and tend to shutdown and cocoon during disagreements. Instead of clearly communicating who, what, where, why, when and how, I sit back. I storm, I isolate. I wait for someone else to do and all the while make sure that they FEEL how pissed or hurt I am about something. The shift in thought is this: how effective is that behavior? Furthermore, it’s so bloody passive. It puts power and responsibility into someone else’s hands instead. So I wait and wait for someone to finally get what I want or need. An apology, a resolution, a change. It almost ensures dissatisfaction with an outcome. The shift also has to do with being uncomfortable with that time-honored reaction of isolation and storming.

The benefits of fire ecology are somewhat slow to be realized, it takes time for plants and trees to do their thing. Fire ecology of the soul is similar. Tomorrow I probably won’t be an outspoken and amazingly articulate advocate of my own interests. But likely I’ll hesitate, my period of withdraw will be shorter, I’ll have that uncomfortable conversation far sooner.

Progress is often hard to see in the details, but if you step back it’s there. Steadily unfolding.

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One thought on “fire ecology, or evolution of a soul

  1. Funny you should post this one so recent to my trip up to Julian. Going through the burn area of what, 7-8 years ago? I saw the desolation of the dead trees tilting and crumbling while new growth was sprouting from the ground and sometimes from the seemingly dead trees themselves. Newer homes made in older styles, different markers. Fire is a catalyst for change in many ways…even that car we saw the other day that had obviously been involved with fire and had an “altered” paint job. Nice.

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