It seems like this year has been particularly bad for natural disasters. If it’s not a wildfire, then it’s a tornado or hurricane or flood. Maybe I’ve just been blind to these disasters for the past few years or maybe this really is a bad year, but either way it’s the first time I can remember that so many people I know have been affected. With all of the destruction of lives, homes, property, and jobs that natural disasters create, it makes me question the purpose of them. What positive purpose could possibly be served in something so vicious? One possible answer: It allows for regrowth. Without clearing away the old, we have no room to create anything new.
Take wildfires, for example. Often, old growth creates a choke-hold on the health of a forest. Weeds in an old growth forest will continue to grow and spread, sucking the nutrients out of the soil. To rid the forest of the deadly, soil-leeching weeds would cost millions of dollars that the state and federal parks services simply don’t have. Wildfires have the ability to clear out an old growth forest, leaving room for new, healthier plants, which attract newer forms of flora and fauna. Natural disasters also remind us of the unpredictable nature of life and the importance of being resilient. In psychological terms, resiliency refers to an individual’s ability to “bounce back” from stress and adversity. Natural disasters are a source of stress on the people and environments in which they affect. Time and again we see examples of individuals stepping up during the time of a crisis and providing more than seems humanly possible to help others who are affected. The wildfires in Colorado earlier this summer showed me the resiliency of my friends and family in the Colorado Springs and Fort Collins areas who were themselves affected by the fires, but were able to open their homes to their local acquaintances who were forced to evacuate and house these individuals for extended periods of time.
One of my friends affected lost her home and her farm and all I could think about was how devastating that must be. I felt stress and anxiety over what it must be to lose your home and your job all at one time. How can you rebuild? What I saw as worry, she saw as opportunity. A very skilled artist, she had wanted to turn her passion for photography into a source of income. Having just lost nearly everything she saw her chance to grab her camera and begin photographing the fires and the aftermath of the fires. Her photography has showed up in some newspapers and online sources following the fires, documenting the subtle beauty of nature’s fury. She has since opened a small photography studio in her town as she puts the pieces of her life back together. This is resiliency at its finest.
Figuratively, a woman entering treatment is much like a wildfire in an old growth forest. Years of self-defeating behaviors can create a choke-hold of overgrowth in a women’s mind, body, and spirit. By displaying resiliency and willingness to enter treatment, a woman is demonstrating the courage to clear out the old patterns and ruts of dysfunction in her life and claim herself as a new being; a woman who is only going to accept positive regrowth.
In no way am I minimizing the importance of the lives of humans and animals that are affected by natural disasters. They are horrible events, but they are unavoidable in most cases. It’s the circle that is life in essence. Disasters in nature and in life are going to happen. Some pain is part of the process of disasters; whether physical pain, mental pain in the form of stress or worry, or the pain of losing property. What’s important is that we can learn from life’s literal or figurative disasters no matter the size, find the meaning and purpose, and regroup and move forward in a positive manner.