Life throws the impossible at each of us in unique ways and nothing can prepare us. We may not be alone in the process (or we may be) but the nature of the struggle is ours alone to bear in the way it plays out on our personhood. As I have faced the impossible in my life over the past several years, particularly in the utterly daunting challenges with Lochlan, I have found solace, comfort and peace in this place. The hill is a steep climb up, and the sheer willpower it takes to fight the exhaustion in the climb does something chemically to take me from absolute exasperation (from life) to renewed strength and resilience. At the top, I find this solitary tree in all it's imperfection, a bastion of hope, a reminder that the world is so much bigger and more beautiful than my present (impossible) circumstances and/or perspective. It has welcomed the seasons year after year and not without blemish. Yet, it stand resolute and strong. I have screamed at God, cried, laughed tears of joy, and taken every burden in my heart and cast it into the hands of the Almighty at the foot of this tree. I even have a jar of thoughts buried at the base of the tree. I have begged and pleaded for miracles, I have wrestled against the powers that be. I have fought my greatest internal battles in this place. It is a place that reflects the beauty of the great painter replacing my sorrow with joy.
In the first fire, two months ago, I thought it would be taken. When it wasn't my heart was filled with profound joy and disbelief. Then, the second fire started two months later.
I could not see the area for the smoke for many days. Looking at the infrared images of the fire every morning revealed that the fire was creeping closer every hour, each day.
This is a text I sent my sister, Krista:
"My tree is still alive. Please have everyone pray today. It is completely surrounded by active fire."
I found my boys in the living room, holding hands praying together with tears streaming down their cheeks and they were praying for my tree, my hill to be spared. Krista, then, sent this message to so many people:
The following morning, I woke up and infrared showed that it was completely surrounded by the fire. The smoke had lessened and the highway had opened up, so I drove up to say goodbye to it, from a distance. There it stood, unmoved and still unmarred. I could see flames in every direction around it. I sent Krista this text:
"My hill has survived but the fire is right next to it and the winds are heavy. I said goodbye to it this morning, in my heart. I could see it from the highway standing tall and resolute with flames on the trees across from it. Everything around it for as far as you can see has burned. Sobering. If it survives it will be a miracle and the sweetest joy.
I feel really numb. Unsurprisingly. I think it's grief."
But, it DID survive. Not just my tree, but my entire hill. Like an umbrella was placed over it.
This picture was taken yesterday, as storm clouds rolled in. You can see my tree on top of the unburned hill. It will be green again soon! When the forest is re-opened I will canter to the top as swiftly as my legs will carry me and I will dance!
"When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the Lord will answer them; I the God of Israel will not forsake them. I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive. I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together, that they may see and know, may consider and understand together, that the hand of the Lord has done this, the Holy One of Israel has created it.”
Isaiah 41:17-20 ESV