Born of Fire: A Seed of Hope Emerges From the Devastation of the Columbia River Gorge

The fire is encroaching. With each ragged breath, I can feel the heaviness of its smoke in my lungs. Where sky was blue, it has been replaced with a rust-colored haze. Ash descends from the heavens like snowfall, blanketing all it touches in a grey shroud. The lush, verdant forest of cascading waterfalls and wildflowers, which has rejuvenated my spirit so many times, is ablaze. I fear it may soon appear to be nothing more than a blackened, ravaged landscape. I grieve for my Mother. She has been reduced to cinders by the careless actions of an immature mind.

It would be easy to become consumed with despair. Against the forces of nature, humankind is faced with its impotency and, currently, everywhere we turn, there are reminders of how profound that powerlessness is. This is not the first time I have felt this way. I am reminded how dismantling it was to first present myself as an artist. Vulnerable as a scrub brush after a long, hot summer, the harsh critiques of others threatened to burn me to the ground.

The profession of artist requires the ironic contradiction to possess the sensitivity to explore the reaches of one’s soul and, at the same time, the fortitude to continuously deflect the fireworks lobbed at us in explosive attempts. It’s a somewhat schizophrenic state-of-mind to maintain. I often feel I am standing on the edge of an abyss, waiting to see if a wind will topple me over in an endless fall or if it will catch my sails and give me flight.  It is at such junctures in life when it is critical for me to remind myself that we are not separate from the forces of nature that act upon us but are each a part of it like a stone in a stream. Destruction is a necessary element of creation and we are often made stronger by it.

With the flames licking at my doorstep, I wish to make myself like the mighty Sequoia tree, born of fire. While the giant tree’s thick skin of bark can withstand enormous external temperatures during a forest fire, its cones depend upon the heat of those conflagrations to open and release its seeds. Less substantial trees around it are burned, clearing the ground and fertilizing the earth for sequoia seeds to germinate & sprout new life. Nature will continue to regenerate & rejuvenate itself with time. Waterfalls and wildflowers will return. Neither my mother nor I are lost forever to the careless actions of others but will simply be reborn from the ashes, made richer and more fertile with new paths to explore, new treasures to discover.