Driving up to Eleven Mile reservoir we pulled off to appreciate the fish splash through the rapids. Spring had the river teaming with life. We watched as the fish gathered in the clear water behind a pack of boulders. Weaving in an out of the pack.
A hummingbird started to dart back in forth right in front of us. It hovered, staring right at us. Initially astonished at the beauty I held my breath. The delicate power house was teaming with life. This moment stood out in my mind as one filled with astonishment at everyday life.
I felt like I was experiencing life for the first time that summer. Until that point it had been a series of events that resulted in my growing up to fast. I don’t have many memories of being astonished at life. Maybe that is why a fear of death doesn’t motivate many of my actions.
Except for building fires. Something about the magical, uncontrollable dance always held my astonishment. Fire has always seemed to be teaming with life for me. We talk about extinction events, natural disasters that are propelled by human action, by a pervasive level of unconsciousness that comes out of being separated from nature. But forest fires can be natural events, that result in destruction that leaves room for more life. Nature does not need to be protected from itself, it needs to be protected from us.
A year passed after the hummingbird engaged us before I had the opportunity to contemplate death. 23 an I had yet to experience anyone close to me passing. I was faced with the death/suicide of a dear friend of mine, who had spent many nights gathered around one of my fires. He had overdosed on Prozac and alcohol, the coroner said the quantity meant his passing must have been deliberate. This girlfriend said he believed himself to be invincible, he had done it enough times before. “His spirit was not in harmony with the Universe” she said. How do we breathe into an uncomfortable life that leaves us in a state of wanting?