Some days the complexities of the universe overwhelm me – like the power behind nature that overflows banks, uproots trees, and burns through forests. Too much. Too fast. Left to its own pace, nature heals and restores itself, creating new life, making adaptations, and pushing forward. Last year I felt dwarfed by the massive beauty of the meadows, peaks, domes, rivers, lakes, and waterfalls in Yosemite. I could not begin to grasp the reality of the furious, chaotic and seemingly catastrophic geologic forces that began millions of years ago and led to this majesty.
Rangers in the National Parks readily point out that forests and grasslands have evolved to deal with their own natural disasters, in a historic cycle of growth, dieback, and growth. Eco systems eventually recover and sometimes create something new in the process.
Some years ago in a deep state of grief I became fascinated with nature’s capacity to heal itself, studying the impact of the 1980 volcanic eruption of Mount St. Helens on the surrounding destruction of life and devastated landscapes. I was encouraged by the return of the first signs of plant life, such as birds flying overhead dropping seed into small crevices that held enough moisture to support particular forms of plant life.
I began to look to nature for the continued signs of hope and promise and I return to nature to be reminded of these lessons over and over again. When historic floods and turbulent winds destroy towns that are a part of my own familiar landscape, I wonder how as a community of beings, we can begin our own cycles of adaptation and re-growth. Nature takes its time; change begins with but a seed. Human communities feel the urgency to make rapid restoration.
Nature says – we are not starting over; we build on what we have at hand – it’s a dynamic, evolving process. Creation also gives clear evidence that this is an interdependent process. We are integrally dependent on one another to identify the resources and the path to recovery. And despite our good, immediate efforts, it takes time to create new life. The reassurance that all things can be made anew with those who trust and work with one another for the good of the entire community provides hope, promise, and possibility.
Photo: Thirty years after the blast, Mount St. Helens is reborn again.
Early colonists bloom on a hill near the volcanic monument’s Coldwater Lake: foxglove, lupine, pearly everlasting, red alder. The tree stump is a reminder of pre-1980 logging operations.
Photograph by Diane Cook and Len Jenshel