Choose Life

February 27, 2017

We hike for miles through winter dormant forest, passing endless gray tree trunks rising from a carpet of brown dead leaves, occasionally punctuated by dappled rocks.  I know the forest is not dead, and yet, the neutral colors for unmeasured miles makes me forget the boundless life just below the surface.

Suddenly, I see a single strawberry plant, bravely sending out leaves in an excess of buoyant hope of spring.  A slate colored boulder is enlivened with a shaggy fringe of green ferns flopping over its edge, as if wearing a wig.  Bright orange fungus beckons my eyes.  In just a few weeks, a boundless carpet of wildflowers will dominate the landscape.  In the midst of winter dormancy, I suddenly realize that LIFE is happening!

Our trail turns up Standing Indian Mountain, and we see evidence of the forest fires which dominated the news just a few months ago at the end of the drought.  A slight dusting of brown leaves cover black ashes across the forest floor.  Carbonized logs crisscross beneath coal-black tree trunks.  I wonder, what has survived?  Will wildflower seeds still germinate without the deep layers of leaf mould to protect them?

And yet, even in this devastation, I see signs of LIFE peeping out.  A log, seared charcoal on its underside, has bright green moss growing across its top!  (That is one tough plant!)  Half-burned clumps of rhododendron leaves support healthy looking buds above.  A moss-filtered spring cascades over rock in a glittering beaded curtain of water.  Yes, life is chosen.

The chorus of a 1782 hymn by Matthias Claudius accompanies me up the rest of the mountain:

All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above,

Then thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord, for all His love.