Friday, June 19, 2009

All fired up

Fire warms and cooks and provides romance on a cold, snowy night. Fire lights the way and cheers when glowing through a window on dark nights in a solitary landscape. Fire destroys and in that destruction provides nourishment for growth.

In the July/August issue of Grit an article about prairie fires caught my attention. A couple decided to buy land in the Midwest and reclaim the land. Part of the reclamation is controlled burning every 2-3 years, something indigenous people did regularly to nourish the land and increase its productivity and diversity. Animals flee as the fire races across the prairie devouring everything in its path. The ground is blackened and plant incursions by competing species are ash that enrich the soil. When the flames die, native plants grow quickly supercharged by the life-giving sun, its heat concentrated by the blackened earth, reaching quickly toward the sky and once again covering the prairie. Animals and insects rapidly return and ecological stability is maintained and preserved.

The same thing happens with forest fires. Forest floor litter is consumed and the ash enriches the soil. Seeds safe in the earth from the fire grow unimpeded, no longer choked by the thick undergrowth. Small trees consumed by the flames allow sunlight to stream down through the remaining trees. Pine cones open in the intense heat and release their seeds and indigenous trees with thick cobble-stoned bark protect the inner layers that contain the circulation that provides nutrients and water that keep the tree alive and thriving. Fire is nature's spring cleaner, weeding out the weak and nourishing the strong and it works for writing, life and relationships as well.

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