As far as the forest is concerned, the season has switched from fall to winter. The branches are bare, and the forest floor is evidence of a year gone by. The other day, as I arrived at the trail I like to run on (first time since fall was in full foliage), I was surprised to see a dozen firefighters spread out in the woods. Surrounding these yellow uniformed warriors, like little monsters under their watchful eye, small flames crackled; consuming the underbrush, fallen leaves, and rotting branches.
Controlled burning is best carried out in the winter time when the trees have spent their visible life and the squirrels already have their seasonal cache. It seems harsh to burn such beautiful land, and I wasn’t sure if the smoke from these fires would make it hard to breathe as I ran. I did run, and I noticed something…
A new, less trodden path appeared through the barren trees and burned out underbrush. The changing season along with the fires had cleared a view of another way to run.
I thought about my life’s journey as I meandered along the new route which criscrossed a creek. Amazing, messy, and beautiful, I thought about how often I have taken the same marked, trodden, and orderly pathways. I also thought about all the underbrush of my life that can grow over some of the wild and wonderful new adventures I could be having. Fear, selfishness and shame can make a nasty twist of brambles…
Sometimes by my own hand and sometimes by the hand of others, my mental, spiritual, physical, and vocational health have all experienced barrenness and burning. In these times my surroundings seem devoid of life and the smoke of big and little fires makes it hard to breath; even the familiar path becomes hard to see.
Have you had times like me: a job lost, a death in the family, the words, “I don’t think we are going to make it” coming from your spouse? Has your journey seen the flames of forced moves, uncertain finances, addiction; a view of the future that is so smokey it seems impossible you will ever see the sun again?
If this is at all familiar to you right now, I wonder if you could consider what I mused about the other day; as the aroma of charred logs, leaves, and earth filled my nostrils. The smoke cleared as I turned off the beaten path onto the new trail. I thought to myself, without the bare branches and burning, I would never have had the rewarding experience of seeing a new beauty of which I didn’t know. The new route gave me a view into the gullies to the creek and the groves beyond which was magnificent. As the squirrels and birds around me found their new way, I found a new way too.
Life is going to be barren at times, and have fires, but sometimes these painful changes can show you a new and beautiful pathway.
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