I was driving through north-central Washington, three months after the devastating Carlton Complex Fire that burned for ten days in July, destroying hundreds of homes, livestock, businesses and countryside. The town of Pateros was my destination, population 650. I wasn’t sure what to expect but the media reported complete destruction of this small town.
I knew the school structure had survived because I’d played a small part of its restoration by getting new carpet to the school quickly. It was up and running, delayed only one week, thanks to hard work from a lot of amazing people.
I pulled up to the school and witnessed children happily chattering outside the school. From the surrounding neighborhood came hammering and sawing sounds and smells of renewal; homes were being re-built. Across the charred hillsides, pretty green plants were shooting up through the ashes. And in this fresh greenery were blooms! Blooms in October! Despite the great loss, beautiful blooms chattered like the children at the school, sing-songing to everyone who would see and listen: “It will be okay! We are here! All will be well! Carry on good world! We are here!” It felt so restorative to me to hear and see life continuing to blossom.
I woke up this morning, after sad, tear laden dreams about people I fiercely love but can no longer see except in the ache of my heart or in the fog of a drifting dream where hands can never seem to touch, and thought about the blooms in the ashes.
What if the flowers said “No! We will never grow again here in this destruction. We cant not! We are not strong enough to carry on business as usual and do what we do: grow and sing and bring our own unique joy to the world! WE CAN NOT!”
What if we all did this? What if death and pain and destruction paralyzed us for the rest of our earthly potential?
When my mom died, and I stepped into and stayed for a while, in a deep, dark emotional cave, I remember feeling this intense, irrational anger at the idea that the world could carry on without this beautiful, wicked funny woman. “No! YOU CAN NOT carry on. YOU can not bloom and laugh! NO! It is not right! She is GONE, oh she is GONE!”
But slowly, I peeked out of the cave and began to see, mostly in my chattering, BLOOMING children, that carrying on does not make that which was once there less. but instead carries it forward and grows it exponentially in great honor. The blooms are the result of the ashes and the ashes will never be forgotten because there are blooms.