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 it is 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 for the first time 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.