Here you go–just another Wednesday in New Mexico.
Actually, most days lately I live my life in the margins of wild places. Despite how lucky we’ve been to take river trips and have a couple local runs in the VW, I am far from getting my fix of the forests this summer. The only thing I can be sure I’ve done enough of is sweeping the floor.
Does it always have to be about nature? My daughter asks as I try to lure them out on yet another walk in the arroyo after dinner. Why are you so obsessed?
But how could it not always be about nature? It is always about nature.
It is in wild places that something in me arrives home. I lose myself in the numinous only to find I can locate myself at last– Here, on this earth. Here, in this body.
Belonging to this particular landscape is something I am utterly devoted to. I would rather return over and over to the same beloved forests and trails (and rivers) than take the most epic road trip (though periodically an epic road trip is needed to remind me of this truth).
As with any great love, there is danger in attachment. Be it to blight, storms, drought, fire, or floods, we risk losing the places that sustain us and occupy the “home” corner of our hearts. Today, that danger constantly surrounds us, no matter where we live or what land we cherish.
This week, a new fire burns perilously close–again–to the places I love best of all. I hesitate to say it will destroy these places, but for us short lived humans, transformation by fire is a process that we are for too impatient for. Fire takes what we love and breaks our hearts.
Is it me or does it seem like fires have been burning all of 2020?
There have been fires in Australia, California, and Colorado on a scale I can hardly fathom. There are the figurative fires wrought by a global pandemic, economic collapse, systemic failures, white supremacy, and the ongoing, increasing destruction of our global environment. More personally, fires are burning through a spiritual community that is dear to me.
Like the forest, these things need to burn. But everything is so out of balance, so insanely combustible, that the resulting inferno is all-consuming. As I write, Santa Fe is shrouded in smoke so thick I can’t see the ridge behind our house. And that’s how everything feels to me–impossible to see a way through.
My friend Erin reminds me that fire is above all a renewing force. Fire burns in service to life. It is the ground-clearer and the seed-opener.
Best of all, she says, when the fire has passed, the forest doesn’t need us to do anything to help it regrow. The land knows just what to do, sending up wave after wave of green growing things. The forest comes back because that is what forests do.
I hold that image inside myself even as I grieve lost places.
In witnessing burning, may we know the true medicine of the wild.
May the seeds for personal and collective renewal crack us open.
May all beings be safe.
May it rain.