Chemical Fire Retardant and Water is dumped on forest fires and the land surrounding it every year.
The impact of these chemicals on the land is largely unknown
Often the metaphor of fire is invoked when we talk about stress in the modern world. How many times have you heard someone talked about being "burned" by someone? Increasingly common in social movements is conversations about "burnout" and the importance of self care. It's fascinating that we call upon the energy of fire to talk about these challenges.
As I watched beloved land and trees burn and the smoke from the fire envelop everything within tens of hundreds of miles, I found myself asking, what is all this for? What is the medicine that fire has for the land? What is the medicine that fire has for our lives? I could go into a long discussion of fire and the politics of fire fighting and fire prevention, but I won't go there today. No, today I want to explore these questions through a plant that is an integral part of the forest's healing process after a wildfire sweeps through.
Fireweed blossoms amidst a forest that burned the year before
Fireweed is a plant that flourishes and thrives after the forest has burned. It needs clear open spaces with bright unfiltered sunlight to blossom and so naturally it has a natural affinity for forests where the sunlight is unmitigated by leaves, full branches and other plants. This plant has seeds that lie dormant beneath the soil for many years, waiting for fires to clear the way for it to blossom. For this reason, this plant can also thrive after the devastation of clear cutting, bringing hope for healing in the face of destruction at the hands of humans.
Line Drawing of Fireweed
Earlier this summer I was hiking near the Trinity Alps in California. As I hiked down to a lake, the entire forest surrounding the lake had recently burned. It was powerful to stand among the towering charred bodies of trees like ghosts looming in the morning sun. I took a breath into the sadness in my heart of the family of trees that had died here at the hands of fire. I reached down and ran my fingers across a pink Fireweed blossom. As I caressed it's soft petals, I heard it whisper, "life always survives". I took a breath into this message and shifted my gaze to the green leaves and blossoms that were thriving only a year after the fire.
I believe this is one of Fireweed's biggest medicines. It is a teacher for us humans that there is a wisdom of this earth that surpasses our short life cycle. Fireweed helps us to connect with the larger cycles of life and nourish the seeds within when life is on fire. In times of upheaval and trauma Fireweed helps us remember that life will continue, life will go on. Fireweed helps us to remember that we have reserves of energy deep within even when life is chaotic and we cannot access them. Fireweed reminds us that those seeds are deep within and trust that when the fire stops burning we will continue to live and grow.
Fireweed blossoms up close
I like to use Fireweed with people who are in the midst of trauma, loss, and grief. My preference is for the flower essence of this plant as this plant has such a strong affinity with the sun. This flower essence can be helpful with supporting acute trauma as well as supporting people with PTSD and Complex PTSD through the triggers, flashbacks, and the increased sensitivity to one's surrounding environment present for many with PTSD.
I also like this plant for activists and organizers who are feeling "burntout". This plant helps us to connect with the larger struggle and remember that this campaign or this particular fight is a part of a longer and much larger movement for justice. This plant helps us to remember that each struggle plants new seeds for justice that will germinate and help bring forth the transformation this world so desperately needs--irregardless if we win or loose.
So this year, as much of the west coast is enveloped by flames,
May all those affected by the fires be safe from harm.
May we remember our part in the ecosystem.
May we stay connected with the larger plan of survival and healing in this world
May we learn to be in right relationship with fire
May we always remember that life will survive.
Fireweed Blossoms watch the Sunrise over Charlton Lake in Oregon