By Flossie Friedman
Hiking and being in nature has always been a source of strength and peace for me, as it is for many others. Peter’s Canyon and Irvine Regional Park had been a “go to” place for us until the fires a couple of years ago, when it felt like we were gawking at the destruction more than admiring the beauty. After last winter’s rains, though, we began to see the life and beauty returning. With many of the trees, the trunk and branches had been destroyed, but not the roots, so new shoots of green sprang from the charred ruins.
We were recently in the Canadian Rockies and Glacier National Park where there have also been many wildfires, mostly from lightning strikes. Hiking through areas previously devastated by massive fires, we were treated to abundant wild flowers and lush new growth. We learned how the forests actually need the fires to regenerate, how some seeds only germinate when exposed to the scorching temperatures, how the carbon from the fires returns to the earth and fertilizes the new growth, and how the sunlight is now able to reach what was the forest floor, enabling new plants to grow.
I have felt a strong affinity to all of this regeneration, then realized that I was relating to it on a personal level. Seven years ago, I was battling cancer and it felt very much like my body was being assaulted by a wild fire. No platitudes, the battle was horrible and I have the scars to show for it. But here I am seven years later, stronger and full of life. I am not the same, but it’s healthy to not be the same. Like the forests, I endure in new and beautiful ways.
In this season of reflection, we all have scars that have made us who we are. We can choose to take advantage of the sunlight that can now get into our souls as a result of those scars and blossom in ways we never had thought possible.