While the nation has been chasing small, mythical cartoon animals, I have been on a strange search of my own. I am trying desperately to find fire poppies.
The California Poppy, our state flower, is rightly nicknamed the fire poppy because these brave little flowers are the first to push through charred ground after a wildfire. They are the first fruits of new life, floral harbingers of hope after the devastation of wildfires.
As you well know from the news, California experiences more than its fair share of wildfires. Hiking yesterday through the drought-ridden, crunchy chaparral of our regional park, there was ample evidence of burning. Charred branches, black ground, devastated landscapes. Bleak and black, the earth seemed so tired and barren.
The trials of our lives, like raging wildfires, leave evidence long after the flames are snuffed out. Prolonged sickness, the death of a loved one, unemployment, stubborn seasons of depression, infertility or the myriad of other wildfires in our lives this side of Fall scar what used to be green places of life and vitality, leaving them much like the earth here in California.
Walking along what remains after trials in our hearts and lives, it is natural to feel hopeless, to remember with sadness the lush life that once was there. But, as is often true in the natural and spiritual realms, things are not as they seem. Much more is happening than the naked eye can gather. Fires, although devastating and dreary, leave nutrient rich soil and clear out space for life that would otherwise never thrive.
Life will emerge from the charred remains. The courageous little fire poppies, all naked and stalky will push their way through the crunchy crust. And when they come, the barren landscape will be the perfect backdrop in which to enjoy the welcomed pop of color, ironically the same color as the flames we once feared. Fire red.
After a prolonged season of trial and testing, the landscape of my life feels tired and sensitive. My heart’s habitat leaves much to be desired these days. Much of the green beauty that I love has been cleared out and it feels like only charcoal and soot remain. I truly am thankful, as I know that God clears away to recreate. I know the nutrients are there. I know that soon enough, when bounty returns, I will barely remember the burned earth.
But right now I am eagerly waiting and actively looking for the fire poppies. Every time a strange stem of new life emerges, I celebrate. Little signs of life that I would normally never notice have become sources of profound peace in this post-burning season.
To my friends who feel like their souls are sensitive habitats of late, today is a good day to find a fire poppy. Happy hunting.