Sunday, May 22, 2016

After you blow - lessons from Mount St. Helens

My husband has been listening to a book on CD about the eruption of Mount St. Helens in the early 1980's.   The mountain was distended over 300 feet - visibly changing shape before their eyes - and everyone hoped that nothing would happen.  They were monitoring it but sort of hoping that somehow this huge bulge wouldn't blow.  Do you have something like that in your life?  Are you way out of whack somewhere and everyone (including you) is ignoring it?  Hoping that somehow it will magically disappear?

But then it doesn't.  It blows up and kills people 17 miles away who were just camping!  So glad it blew up on Sunday and not during the work week.  What happens in the aftermath?  Some things are going to blow up - we watch them grow and there isn't much we can do to stop it.

On disk 5 the mountain actually erupted (in a way that shocked everyone except for a scientist named Voight - who is related to Jon Voight and Angeline Jolie - no lie).  My husband filled me in on the battle to make a reservation of sorts.  They decided to let the mountain heal and to watch what happens as it does so.  Do you need space and time to heal after trauma?  Probably.  No one puts out a reservation sign for you - but maybe you should allow yourself that space and time.

Today we finished the last disk and it discussed the ways that scientists tried to predict and help the area "recover" after the devastation.  The hypothesis was that the scarred mountain would begin to regrow from the edges inward.  They also thought that they would "help" the process along by re-seeding it.  Finally, they tried to remove some of the devastation (fallen logs and such) so that it would be easier for life to start again. Scientists were wrong on all accounts. 

Mount St. Helens is now more biodiverse than it was before the eruption.  Why?  Because new plants blew in, took root in the rocky and craggy places, held on and life began again.  Some of those plants have survived while some of them just died and became fodder for the next group of plants and animals to take up residence.  New animals arrived on the scene too. But life didn't start on the fringes and move its way in.  Instead the pumice plain grew life in ways they didn't even think were possible and attracted totally new species altogether,  Looking from above the canopy looks pretty much the same, but on the forest floor there are all types of new and different life as a result of the eruption.

Isn't that funny? After a devastating event, new life grew up in places of bareness.  Isn't that just like God. To bring life where it doesn't even seem possible.  Not only that - but more diverse, fuller life. Of course, this happens over time, it is not a quick fix.

Scientists were looking to help mother nature be re-seeding the area with grasses. So, they flew planes over the area and dropped seeds.  Well, they picked the wrong time of year and the seeds didn't take.  Not only that, they all washed down the mountain towards the stream.  Near a water source they started growing like gangbusters.  This in turn spurred on a bumper crop of mice.  However, when the grasses died out - the mice started starving - so they started eating the bark of the newly growing trees and damaged them.

It makes logical sense that if we could just "replant' the old, what used to go there, that maybe it would help.  But that's not really helpful in the end.  It washes downstream and makes a big mess of things and can undercut the natural growth that is happening.

The final way to "help" was to remove the debris and wreckage.  This sounds like a good plan - create a clean slate and move forward.   However, today, the places that are growing best are the areas where the debris was allowed to remain. Why?  The rotting logs provided food for the next type of vegetation to grow.  The places that they cleared out took longer to grow back because the debris served a purpose the scientists hadn't thought about.

Take heart, if you still see debris in your life - whether from an overwhelming event like an eruption or just the gradual wearing away - let it rot and see what happens.  Let go of it and see what springs up in place of it.

Some lessons from the mountain: 

Admit to yourself that something has happened.  Eruption or otherwise - you will need time and space to heal.  Give it to yourself and ask others to do the same.

Expect new life to spring up in places you wouldn't expect.  From people you wouldn't think could bring life.  Possibly from places you've never been or seen before. (New spider species appeared from over 60 miles away)!  It won't come from the outside in - it will come from the craggy, hard places out.

Don't try to re-seed and create "quick fixes" with old ways, habits, patterns, ideas or thoughts.  Going back to those ways or quickly adopting someone else's plan isn't going to move you forward.  It will gnaw at and undermine the new growth that is springing up.

Finally, sometimes it takes time for things to rot in your life.  Man that stinks.  However, it provides the nutrients and fodder for the new to come forth.  Sometimes we do need to just clear out the debris but sometimes it is there for a purpose - it can actually help us to heal in ways we wouldn't expect.

No one wants to erupt - but sometimes life doesn't go the way we planned.  It gets messy.  Sickness, death, divorce, broken relationships.  They happen. Let's give each other space, grace and care when the eruption does happen.  It is not something that can be fixed over night but over time it can bring growth, diversity, and healing in ways you would never have expected.

In the end Mount St. Helens will take over 2,000 years (or more) to regain its former "profile".  Once the eruption happens there is no going back.  There is only going through.  May He be enough as you go through.

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