Much of our local news lately has been around fire. We also just returned from Montana where the days and nights were extremely smoky.
Dan read online this morning that there are presently over 100 active wildfires burning in that state, so the fire and smoke was and is a discernible presence.
A couple of weeks ago we made our way to Columbia Falls, Montana, via the spectacular Going-to-the-Sun road and saw the ravages of the recent fire that had moved through sections of West Glacier Park.
Our 10 year old George, in particular, was concerned. Natural disasters worry him to no end, and his ears perk up at any slight mention of new developments. He requires constant updates and conversations about what is going on,
his logical mind requires the facts.
We try to remind him constantly, though, that fire is essential to healthy forests.
It is part of the natural environmental cycle. Fire renews, regenerates and cleanses. We fear fire, and understandably rush to suppress it as it threatens and draws near, but we must still recognize and value its importance,
Before our trip into the States, a couple of friends and relatives who were concerned for George warned us that we would be driving through the fire site. We could have gone a different way, but I intuitively felt that George would be ok and that it might even be helpful for him to witness the fire site firsthand.
Our late afternoon drive over the pass could only be described as deeply quiet and peaceful. We drove by the firefighters’ camp and then into a parcel of tall burnt trees,
a still blackness.
It was easy to see that something powerful had happened there, and we were all in awe of it.
Yet, already, there were little tufts of bear grass poking up, new life.
How quickly nature moves back in ~ animals returning and a little green forest floor already pushing up and through,
life restored without hesitation.
As we drove on I remembered how nine years ago, the month after my mom died, we did this same trip into Montana.
There was no talk of fires that year that I recall, and the drive was positively stunning. The flowers were in full bloom, the bear grass was tall and especially magnificent, the park teemed with energy and the fullness of colour and summer.
I felt blessed by the flowers, the mountains, and the trees – especially the trees.
On that afternoon’s drive as strange as it may sound, I intensely felt as if all of nature was comforting me through the deepest sadness I had ever known,
letting me know that life is so much bigger and greater than I could ever possibly understand.
And then, nine years later, driving through the same forest and mountains with my family again,
Witnessing again a kind of destruction and rebirth, such achingly beautiful resilience,
Nature is resilient.
We are resilient.
George still worries, of course, but he sees a bigger picture too.
Ironically, the very morning that we were set to leave Montana and head back to Waterton, I opened up my emails and found a notice from Parks Canada alerting Waterton residents to a possible evacuation due to another wildfire that had started the previous day due to a lightning strike.
‘Oh my God, you won’t believe this,’ I said to Dan.
We read that if it became necessary to evacuate, an alarm would sound in the townsite and we would have no more than one hour to leave.
We both had the same first thought, ‘how do we tell George?,
‘how traumatic would that be to get back there and then go through an evacuation?’
We slowly processed the information and felt a bit panicked.
‘I need to grab that photo I love‘ I thought, ‘mom’s quilts‘…,
and ‘our dear little cabin, threatened.’
A couple of hours later, however, the evacuation alert was rescinded, we had explained the situation to the kids, and we were packed up and on the road back to Waterton, driving home through that same mountain pass,
through ever-stunning views,
this time held partly in mystery by more haze and smoke and low clouds.
An otherworldly drive.
As I write this, there are still five crews and two helicopters working through the days, but the Waterton Lake wildfire is largely contained.
All fires eventually die.
Two nights ago, we took this picture from the Prince of Wales hotel. In the very distance is where the Waterton (Goat Haunt ) fire still lingers.
What beauty, though, it is being held within.
There has been lots of play this summer, with good friends, and also great quality time with cousins.
During our big family reunion on the Westwood side, we spent over a week with grandparents, aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, cousins.
I love that.
Though Dan has an endless repertoire of stories about his cousins and all of their adventures and mishaps, in my small family cousins and big family gatherings were sparse. Though I had lots of love from my grandparents and aunts and uncles throughout my childhood, I never knew that feeling of having that unique cousin relationship~
almost sibling, more than friend.
I am, however, deeply grateful that my kids get to experience that special bond.