“Earth, teach me to forget myself as melted snow forgets it’s life.
Earth, teach me resignation as the leaves which die in the fall.
Earth, teach me courage as the tree which stands all alone.
Earth, teach me regeneration as the seed which rises in the spring.”
About a year ago, I was compelled to take a stroll through an old burn area in Central Oregon. Inspired by the massive destruction of wildfires around me at the time, I felt a strong pull to explore a region that once died beneath this destruction. I suppose I was curious to see what it was like, fourteen years later.
I was just coming out of a six-month depressive episode. If you have ever suffered from mental illness, you might know the smoky haze that slowly seeps in and permeates everything. This silent creep often crowds our minds, causing confusion, build-up, and some degree of powerlessness. I guess this trip was an opportunity to look for signs that there was something beyond the destruction, beyond the death, beyond the smoky haze.
I arrived mid-day, without much of a plan. I find my best times in the outdoors are usually spontaneous and this trip certainly fit that model. I looked around as I unloaded my gear near the trailhead, seeing a striking contrast of decay and regeneration. The B&B Complex fires were a linked pair of wildfires that together burned 90,769 acres of Oregon forest during the summer of 2003. The fire complex began as two separate fires, the Bear Butte Fire and the Booth Fire. The two fires were reported on the same day and eventually burned together, forming a single fire area that stretched along the crest of the Cascade Mountains between Mount Jefferson and Mount Washington. If you have ever driven from Salem to Sisters, you have passed through this area.
I took my time as I walked through this forest that, in a wave of fire and smoke, was once destroyed and drained of life. So much new growth persisted despite the adversity it faced, and I was blown away. Young saplings grew atop decaying trees. Beautiful and colorful plants were scattered everywhere within sight. The forest had burned to the ground, and in the newfound clarity, you could actually lift your head up and look ahead on the trail to get a sense of where you were heading. I was reminded again that destruction, death and decay are just a part of the natural cycle of life, and necessary for renewal. I started to feel like maybe the smoky haze that filled my mind might just be a part of the cleansing cycle needed for me to grow.
I cannot count how many times I’ve felt healed by a simple walk through the forest and strolling through this old fire area was no exception. It was profound. Once again, it became so obvious to me that these cycles of destruction and regeneration, death and rebirth, pain and growth are natural and ever changing. I had been in a state of apathy for so long that I had just given up and given in to the pain. But this stroll was the reminder I needed at the exact time that I was ready to receive it. Like the natural world, we go through cycles where our wounded or fragmented parts creep in and we are not able to think or act as our whole selves. But that’s natural, and it’ll pass, and it will provide nourishment for the growth that lies ahead. As I drove home, I felt a sense of relief, hope and excitement for the next phase of the cycle. Humbly, I was reminded that sometimes our pain is our greatest lesson and Mother Nature is our greatest teacher, if we know how to listen to her.
About the Author: Emily Nascimento
Emily grew up in rural central Oregon on an 80-acre cattle ranch, where her initial exposure to and love for nature sparked. Living among the various animals ignited a compassionate interest in the natural world as she learned about various life forms and their significance to the biosphere. After high school she moved to the Willamette Valley to attend Western Oregon University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree with honors in Psychology in 2014. It was here, among the lush forests and towering Cascades, where her true passions for the natural world were discovered.
After graduating she pursued work with the State of Oregon to gain experience in government and legislation, as more of a curiosity rather than a pre-determined career path. Here, she cultivated a deep interest and skill in encouraging the practice of conscious leadership through fulfillment coaching and training. In October 2018, she will begin her journey towards obtaining her Masters in Consciousness and Transformative Studies, with a vision and mission to assist leaders in the transformational journey needed to be conscious stewards of the planet and alive to our inherent unity.
She firmly believes that experiences in nature that tap into our psycho-socio-emotional wellbeing are the foundation to inspiring this stewardship and sense of unity, and is an advocate for nature-based healing and transformation. She currently acts as the President on Straub’s Board of Directors and is honored to play a small role in bringing culturally responsive nature-based education to the Mid-Willamette Valley.