Friday, August 23, 2013

Through Ash

I stand on Johnston Ridge. Finally making the connection. The ridge is named after the volcanologist. Oh. Right.

The USFS Ranger with the British accent shouts her self-stylized slam poetry presentation at us.

She shows us satellite images.

Here is Mt. St. Helens in 1979 before the 1980 eruption. The red areas represent vegetation.

Here is Mt. St. Helens in the fall of 1980, a few months after the eruption. Goodbye, vegetation.

Here is Mt. St. Helens in 2009. The volcanic aftermath is still readily visible, but new lakes bolster the ecosystem, and the vegetation has re-emerged, looking no longer like a patchwork quilt of confused logging country, but a blanket of velvet, redeeming areas long devastated.

Now, 33 years later, even on the plane where every bit of life was totally obliterated, vegetation and hope sprout up.
Indian paintbrush grows all around bits of rock and shredded tree trunk blasted onto the ridge.

I look more closely at the Indian paintbrush around me. It's been my favorite wildflower ever since I met it in the Boulder Mountains of Idaho when I was a little girl hiking with her daddy.

Something catches my eye. The Indian paintbrush here on Johnston Ridge is different, and it takes me a second to figure out why. Ah. I see. Its minute crevices are caked with ash. Teeny tiny specks of gray cling to its leaves. I realize. This little plant didn't grow in spite of ash. It grew through ash. It took rich nutrients from the ash around it and transformed them into delicate beauty.

I think about my life. My places long devastated. Just like Mt. St. Helens, decades later my scars are still visible in some places. In gut reactions. In lifelong fears. In paranoia and obsessive compulsive behaviors. In chronic health issues. In PTSD.

I smile.

Places long devastated are not the only thing visible in my life. There is also joy. And blessing. And grace. And love. And forgiveness. There is thriving relationship. There is compassion and empathy. There is specific mercy granted to me not in spite of my devastated places, but because of my devastated places.

God is transforming my devastation into beauty, too.

"The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me... to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified."
~Isaiah 61:1a, 3

God gives beauty for ashes. He brings beauty from ashes.