In the late summer of 2003, a vicious forest fire ripped through central Oregon. When it was finally contained after 34 days of incredible battle, the B&B Complex fire had left a devastating mark on over 90,000 acres of pristine woodland. That summer, I spent a week teaching at a music camp in Sisters, Oregon. I’ll never forget the feeling of being so close to such a massive and powerful fire. The air was thick and smoky, and it felt like you could cut it with a knife. Large forest fires often create their own weather patterns, and the atmosphere felt volatile and unpredictable, as storms would rage through for several minutes at a time. The little mountain town that is usually crawling with tourists all summer long was dead, except for the thousands of woodland firefighters who were camped nearby.
Fifteen years later, the Santiam Pass still shows the deep scars of that fire. Since my medical team is in Bend, I drive that stretch of highway often, and in all seasons. With any long drive that you make repeatedly, you start to get the rhythm of the mile markers. I know exactly where the cell phone and satellite radio signal coverage cuts in and out, where all the passing lanes are, and the precise point at which you feel like you’ve left the Willamette Valley and officially made it to the mountains. The thing that I love the most about the drive from Salem to Bend is the way the terrain changes so much along the way. From the farm fields and orchards in the valley, to the lakes and huge evergreen trees in the mountains, no matter what time of year you make the drive the scenery always breathtaking. Then when you get up onto the pass, and you see the acres and acres of land still affected by that incredible fire, it’s shocking. Thousands of burned trees stand like charred scarecrows, with their arms stretched to the sky. In the winter months, when the snow is on the ground and the skies are gray, the 10 miles or so of skeleton trees seem more eerie.
Last weekend as I drove over to my neuro appointment, I suddenly noticed how much regrowth has started to happen in the pass. It has taken a long time, but the ground cover is vibrant and healthy… bright green against the blue sky, with summer wild flowers scattered among the trees. The mountains stand solid, strong, and unchanged, and the burned trees create a charcoal picture frame for all of this natural beauty. As I drove, it dawned on me that this regrowth is a perfect metaphor for life after challenges. I often speak about the power and peace that comes with accepting the fact that you are going to be different and changed on the other side of major life events – whether that is a new diagnosis, brain surgery, or a relationship change. Sometimes those events leave us feeling like this forest land – devastated and burned out. But faith is the confidence in things unseen-- the belief that eventually the landscape will grow and flourish again, if we simply keep standing tall – reaching for the sky with everything we have left.
Pain is going to change you.
You’re going to be different on the other side, and that’s ok.
We’re ok. We are HEALING.
The storms pass, and the wildfires die.
The soul remains, and the heart will stay strong if we will it to do so.
Find beauty in the broken.
8/4/2018 05:48:19 am
I love your current blog. The metaphor comparing a the stages of a wildfire with the stages healing was perfect. I’m a mom of a hydro warrior. My daughter Mariah and I follow you on social media. Like you my Mariah loves music and finds strength and healing in it. She hopes to be a worship pastor. She also finds relief through exercising. It is her escape from constant headache and she shares the life battle of hydro. She’s had 25 brain surgeries in her 24 years. Her last surgery left her with nerve damage and a permanent turning in of her eyes, but just like you she is a fighter. Never giving up and always looking for the good and fighting the good fight and you are spot on when you say, “pain changes you”. I always think you two could be the best of friends. Thank you for sharing your heart and struggles and victories with the world. You bless this mama just knowing there is another hydro warrior out there living her best life and NOT letting hydro win. Keep fighting Am!💕
8/5/2018 11:32:35 am
9/23/2018 04:47:15 pm
I really like that metaphor of regrowth and how it applies to life setbacks. I think part of what really makes something alive is that there can be regrowth. All living things are able to adapt to challenges in one way or another. A person loses their vision, and suddenly their hearing is that much more powerful. A stream gets cut off, the water overflows and finds a new path. A bees nest gets infiltrated, and the bees travel somewhere else to build a new nest. All of nature seems to have a way to adapt to change, and we humans with our intellects are the ones who will fear change. There is nothing to fear if you know that healing and positive changes are a law of nature. As long as you survive, your life is en route to better places!
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My name is Amy but friends and family call me Am. I am a lover of dogs, good whiskey, and strength training. I'm a brain surgery survivor (x31), a fiddle player, a construction designer, and a boxing enthusiast. I have six real siblings, and five fake brothers. I love deeply, and consider my close friends to be family.