Last month we had a significant forest fire in North Port, FL that engulfed more than 4500 acres. It flared up on a blustery Saturday afternoon in the midst of a substantial drought. Forest fires are common this time of year and we are used to putting them out. There was no stopping this one. The news and social media were buzzing with reports and the updates were doom and gloom. We’ve been conditioned to think fire is bad. Is it? Fire can destroy homes, scorch forests, and blister our skin, but we often forget fire also stimulates growth.
As a firefighter, I was out in the area of the fire the day after the big blaze. I saw the miles of seared forests and blackened landscape. Right away I noticed the number of birds and their zealous activity the day after the fire. Even more impressive was that just three days later the edges of the charred forest came alive with bright green carpet of grass. In less than a week the tall scorched black spikes that once were beautiful palm trees were sprouting the most brilliant green palm fronds. The vibrant green amidst the charred black was stunning. In what first seemed like a wasteland there was resiliency. Deep within the blackened landscape, life was teaming with an invisible energy. Soon, the forest will be even more beautiful than before.
Relating fire to life, we all experience life as an individual and we each see a separate reality. Our personal realities are molded by our thoughts, though thoughts aren’t reality. Similarly, fire sometimes seems like an enemy and sometimes a friend. Fire is a natural and a basic part of our environment just like water, air, and land. We don’t judge water as “bad” because a river overflows its banks and causes a flood. Nor do we declare air a “monster” because of tornadoes. Since the beginning of time, just like water and air, fire has been a vital part of life on earth.
Why, in the minds of many, does fire get such a bad rap? Surely you have enjoyed a cute dancing flame on the candle of a birthday cake or warmed your hands with mesmeric glow of a campfire. That’s the same fire that grew from one small flame to a towering inferno that ripped across the landscape on a blustery Saturday afternoon.
Even though we often see fire as an agent of destruction, in nature, it is an essential agent of change. Fire alters form: It breaks down thick brush and massive logs into ash that fertilizes the soil and breeds new life. Fire changes space: an area that once was thick with sprawling tangled undergrowth becomes open and uncluttered and welcomes fresh vegetation and animal life. Fire plants seeds: The maturation and release of seeds from several plants and trees are triggered, in whole or in part, by fire or smoke. Simply put: natural fires keep forests vibrant, diverse, and scenic.
If we shift into the thought of fire as a metaphor, how might it apply to your experience of life? Look back and notice an instance that (at the time) seemed like a destructive forest fire, but allowed a space for tremendous growth. In my life I can see many: a layoff that fertilized the soil for a flourishing career, an injury that helped spawn new thought, the close of a relationship that left space for growth and change. I invite you to take a moment and notice yours.
Consider this- the next time an apparent “forest fire” rips through our space: What if we stepped back and wondered what seeds were being planted or what was changing form and being fertilized? What if we gave even more liberty to the endless possibilities of growth and open space in life? Might we realize that no matter what- it’s going to be ok? In fact, it’s going to be better than ok.
The Florida Forest service might not have meant to be so philosophical, but wow! What a statement to remember: “To employ fire as a useful friend is much more logical than confronting it as an enemy.”
How might you employ “fire” as a useful friend?
Until the next revolution…
Share in the comments below what is coming up for you. What do you notice? How have you shifted your thoughts and actions?
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