By Brianne Dela Cruz; Gather & Grow
From the ashes grew sweet liberty, like the seeds of the pines when the forest burns. They open up, grow, and burn again.- Andrew Marlin
It’s high summer in the west and that means two things. The first is that a fierce, parching heat sets in as soon as the sun breaches the horizon. The second is that wildflowers are in bloom. While I would prefer to do without the heat, the wildflowers are not to be missed. So, up the peaks I trek, to gain perspective and a little respite.
I’ve always turned to nature to self-soothe. High desert peaks, alpine meadows, and coolly shaded forests call to me when I feel downtrodden, distressed, and full of angst. These days, it seems that a daily dose of nature therapy is in order. I always find that wild lands are quick to welcome restless souls. It is here where I walk out my weariness, and that I feel welcomed home and soothed in the cooler temperatures. In meadows like this the stress dissipates, the confusion clears, and my eyes see the world with renewed clarity.
There are stone spires and chasms so beautiful and so tall it pains the neck to stare too long. There are emerald pools eclipsing patches of snow at high altitude, and a colorful array of delicate flowers that dance amidst greenery on open meadows. It’s a feast for the eyes, and grounding nourishment for the soul. Alpine days are a divine treat during a hot summer, and a necessary tonic for anyone feeling burnt out. Like so many other folks these days, life feels heavy. Nearly every way in which our modern world functions is being challenged. Everything feels charged with emotions ready to spark and spread like wildfire. A lot of days it feels like life as we know it is breaking down in a blaze. Deep down my instincts tell me that even though it is scary and painful right now, there could be something waiting on the other side of this that is more beautiful than we can imagine. Our opportunity to reimagine the future and create a new normal could be a much needed breakthrough.
When I look at these wildflowers I’m reminded that we are part of nature and therefore part of nature’s cycles. How these wildflowers continue to bloom year after year, through destructive wildfires and bitter cold winters, seems to me a complete miracle. Forests, after all, are a remarkable example of the beauty and abundance that follows destruction. Both pine trees and the fireweed wildflower cannot grow unless their seeds endure a scarification process due to destruction by fire. In mountain environments, wildfires are inevitable and a crucial part of nature’s growth cycle. Natural wildfires bring balance to the forest ecosystem by scoring seeds, ripening soils with the ashes, and creating a reinvigorated land. The delicate flowers that dance on the wind and dot the landscape with immense beauty continue to bloom despite the chaos and hardship of their environment. Nature has made them more enduring than they look. They are not designed just to survive the destruction, but to bloom because of the burn.
While I watch the sun pass behind peaks and cast rays that grace the land in dazzling shades of gold, pink, and lavender, my wild soul remembers the ways of nature. I consider that perhaps we aren’t as different from this landscape as we think. Perhaps we were made resilient like the pine and flowers. Perhaps we too are tied to nature’s laws of burn and bloom. What makes us different from the pines and flowers though, is that we can choose what spreads like wildfire. I believe that what we choose to let spread will determine the beauty and abundance that follows.
Brianne Dela Cruz is a master gardener, wild forager, campfire foodie, and acclaimed writer and photographer. From her home in Salt Lake City, she teaches online gardening and foraging courses for modern folks and budding naturalists as well as hosts seasonal community gatherings. Brianne's blog and online school, Gather & Grow, is a community of folks exploring the intersection between nature and personal growth by discovering ways to slow down and nourish themselves with nature.