Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Mammoth, fires, and growth.

Our first day in Mammoth, it rained ash on us. Everett was excited for a moment, because he thought it was snow.

We had planned to spend almost two weeks in the Sierras, and we weren’t sure if we were going to be able to stay.

The smoke cleared up relatively quickly and didn’t affect us most of the time, but it was a reminder of the rhythms and cycles of nature, which are a normal part of the way the world works and yet can be devastating.


The week we arrived home, I went to a yoga class where the theme of the class was growth. The instructor used the Sequoia tree as an example. Sequoia trees, she said, are some of the largest and oldest trees on the planet, and they require fire for growth. In order for their seeds to be released, they need extreme heat. A force like fire, which can be destructive, is necessary for new life to happen. Their longevity is only possible because of the fires they experience. 

If you’ve ever seen a Sequoia, or better yet, pressed up against it and tried to wrap your arms around it, you have likely been impressed by its strength and beauty.

As the yoga teacher spoke, I was struck by the parallel to our human experience, which was her intention: some of our most trying seasons of life lead to the most growth. Looking back at my own life, I can see how this is true. 

Because I am a tree-loving nerd (we even named our dog after a tree), I did a little more research after the message of the yoga class lingered with me.

Many of the largest Sequoia trees are over 3,000 years old. Low intensity fires sweep through them approximately every 5-15 years. That means that the oldest trees have experienced somewhere around 300 fires throughout their existence. That mirrors what it feels like to be a human. Like Sequoias, we experience sporadic yet consistent fires of varying intensity throughout our lives. We make it through a fire, and then experience new life; the fire is necessary for the growth to occur. Then the cycle repeats. In fact, as soon as I feel like I have something figured out or I have arrived at some life lesson, I am surprised once again with a new struggle or obstacle that allows me to grow in new ways.

It is both beautiful and exhausting. 

The Sierras are still on fire. Currently, there is a fire outside of Yosemite that has closed down the National Park.

It is both natural and devastating. 

The fires are unpredictable in intensity, duration, and timing, but the constant is that fires happen and that they do end. Once they are over, there is room for new life.

As we did yoga and held poses, the teacher reminded us to push through the challenging moments: Breathe in. I will stay in the fire. Breathe out. So I can experience new life. 


This summer has been more tiring than we anticipated. We are entering the new school year feeling a bit drained and not particularly refreshed. 

Throughout this summer, we have been reminded of the joy and then repercussions of traveling with kids, the blessing and curse of home ownership, the beauty and exhaustion (for this introvert) of spending so much time with family and friends and visitors who we love so much. 

Mostly though, we’ve been reminded that any stresses we are experiencing are so insignificant in the big picture of life. We have been fortunate this summer to have a lot of time together as a family away from our everyday, which has helped me remember yet again that the most important thing is that we have each other and a lot of love. It’s helpful sometimes to push pause on the hustle and bustle of life and just focus on that.

Now that we are back home in San Diego, we have been reminded once again how quickly the days become busy and pass by. I am realizing that we need to bring the same intentionality that we have on vacation back into our everyday life. As we think about and approach the next school year, I want to try to make sure that our calendar isn’t so full that we constantly feel busy with obligations and commitments. I want to make sure we are intentional with our time and that we slow down with ourselves, with each other, and with our kids. 

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