It seems this week that there is not a corner of the United States where you can escape extreme weather. Extreme heat, fires, smoke, and hurricanes are affecting millions of people across our country and around the world, including my own community. It may feel like Mother Nature has suddenly put her true power on display for all of humanity to see. But what we miss when we look at it that way is that we are not separate from nature. We are one with nature.
In the heartbreaking aftermath of the shocking loss of the Sperry Chalet – a beloved century-old backcountry chalet that burned down in Glacier National Park last week – I journeyed to the spirit of the fire to ask why? What is the lesson for us?
Although the fire had been burning for weeks and the smoke had become worse and worse, I hadn't bothered to journey and ask about it because as much as we humans struggle with the effects of wildfire, I know that it's part of the ecosystem of a healthy forest. The debate over forest management in the west will likely rage on politically as long as there is a forest to argue over. But fire is part of the cycle of life. I know and accept that.
So I shouldn't have been surprised when fire answered my question by saying:
There is no lesson, it just is.
Ah yes, wise Grandfather Fire. Just as I suspected. But there must be more. I know enough to know that the quality of your questions are imperative in shamanism. The spirits will always answer the question that you asked. So we must be sure that we're asking the right questions.
I asked again. What is the lesson to be learned from the chalet burning down? That appeared to be the better question as the information flowed quickly.
As a side note, if you're not familiar with Glacier National Park, the Great Northern Railroad built a series of chalets across the park after it was established in 1910. They were about a day's horseback ride apart and were how early, very well-to-do visitors enjoyed the park.
All but three of the original buildings had burned or been torn down over the past century. But the two that remained inside the park were beloved by many generations of families who trekked miles and miles to reach them. Sperry Chalet still offered full service including a dining room where hearty meals cooked off-grid by the staff were served to weary travelers nightly.
I promise you, this is an important part of this story.
So when I asked the lesson in the loss of this historic treasure, the spirit of the fire so unemotionally told me: People don't need a place in nature to escape nature.
We have been creating ways to make ourselves somehow apart from nature for far too long. But we are not separate from nature. We are one with nature.
Although we so deeply feel the loss of this place that was far more than just a shelter from the elements, deep in the backcountry, just a short hike from one of the park's remaining glaciers, this chalet represented the old ways. We don't need to hike two days through the wilderness to eat our dinner off china and white linen.
The fire said we are moving back to a time where we need to understand how connected and protected we all are. Glaciers melt, forests burn, and we begin again.
The reality is that even with our changing climate, those changes in our environment are far too subtle for us to notice from our air conditioned homes and cars. The spirit of the fire said very clearly that we need to live with the effects of the world we have created.
If we keep devising ways for us to escape or be separate from nature rather than truly be part of the experience of it all, how can we feel these subtle changes? How can we appreciate the magic of Mother Earth? It's time to release the old ways and make way for the new earth.
Where perhaps, one day, we understand that we are not separate from nature.
Be safe, my friends, wherever you are at the moment. Journey to the spirit of a significant weather event in your area and ask what we are to learn. Do not put yourself in harm's way, but do ask yourself if you are really experiencing your surroundings at the moment.
It's easy to be a part of nature when the weather is what we would consider “perfect”. But can we do it when it's less than favorable to our delicate senses that are accustomed to the ability to control our climate at all times? I know I am asking myself that question right now too.
I'd love to hear about your journeys – let me know in the comments what you learn.