Wildfires don’t burn so much as they consume. Anything in its trail is either completely devoured, or left standing naked, all greenery stripped from the branches that are now left shivering in the emptiness. What a wildfire leaves behind is something otherworldly — a moonscape of black and white, devoid of natural color.
Months later, after time and some rainfall, new colors of bright green, red, and brown emerge from the barren ground as if by magic. The new growth is spotted with the charred, still-standing remains of old, sticking out high above as a reminder of the destruction that bred this new life.
There are certain types of trees whose seeds cannot fall unless assisted by a fire. The tree and its pinecones succumb to the fire’s rage, which discriminates as it consumes, leaving only the ingredients necessary for new life to follow in its wake.
Fire has a type of intelligence, I think, and exists to show us that beauty can follow destruction. In fact, sometimes destruction is necessary to make way for new growth. Such is the case for us, humanity.
All stars in the night sky will meet a chaotic, aggressive end. Stars don’t slip meekly into irrelevancy, their light dimming until it is indistinguishable from blackness. No, stars meet their end in a brilliant explosion, bursting out from the inside with a power unlike anything the human mind could comprehend.
Long, long ago, a certain star met its end in this fashion. From the chaos and disintegrated star parts came something new, something that all at once blinked into existence at the same moment the star was wholly consumed by its own brilliant death. And that new thing was carbon. The molecule that gives rise to all life on planet Earth — that composes you and I — was created by a chaotic explosion and the death of one star. We are, literally, made of stardust. We exist only because a star died. Humankind was born from chaos.
Wildfires teach that beauty exists in everything. Your eyes can’t always see it, but it’s there; perhaps beneath the soil, preparing for its eventual rise. You can’t see it, but you trod along on top of it, unaware of the unique design being created from near-nothingness beneath your feet.
I heard on a podcast once the idea of changing your thinking from “this is happening to me” to “this is happening for me.” The tree could wail, try to up its roots and clutch its skirt as it flees the wildfire; or it could let itself be consumed, knowing that the fire is for it, helping to create something new and beautiful, even if it can’t yet be seen.
I’ve found peace in this way of life — to see the beauty in every situation, to believe that beauty is there even if it cannot be seen. I’ll never know either way, just as the trees and the stars do not have the privilege of standing witness to the new growth that comes from their destruction. It could all be random, all chaos, horrible things happening “just because” — chance, a roll of the dice. Or it could be designed, the whole already present within the part; like how a tiny seed contains within it the design of a monstrous tree.
I’ll never know for certain whether new growth was planned before the destruction, or if it arose in spite of it. I have a choice, though, to decide what to believe. I can believe that it is all random, or I can believe there is a purpose that will lead to growth — and to beauty. Which is correct is unknowable, and doesn’t even matter. The power resides in me. How will I choose to see? How will I choose to live?