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June 11, 2015



This morning I am walking through a field of poppies—in a canyon where, two years ago, a 1000 year rain and 100 year flood washed through. Entire hillsides slid away, ponderosas were ripped from the ground, thousands and thousands of rocks tumbled from the mountainsides and turned a tiny streambed into a wide gulch. Two-ton boulders were uplifted and catapulted hundreds of feet down hill. Ice age era granite was revealed for the first time in ten thousand years. In a few days time, this rocky mountain foothills landscape was profoundly changed. And yet, here, now, is this riot of scarlet poppies bursting from the earth like a fleet of otherworldly birds—their petals like wild wings, their centers like sea urchins or the eyes of the earth itself, looking back at us.


And, there is something different about the poppies this year. The fuzzy pods and tissue paper flowers are twice the size they have been in other years. Perhaps they carry the fertile harvest of the floodwaters—up through the stems, out through the stamens. Perhaps they have been nourished by the floodwaters from the roots up, the way after a wildfire, flowers grow bright and prolific in the rich soil. Whatever has happened, these outrageous passionate expressions of life’s return speak to me of Resilience—of that essence within and without that “bounces back,” regenerates, reshapes itself anew.

We live in a world, in a time, of tremendous disruption and churning. Perhaps this is what we try to guard against our whole lives—particularly as it relates to our own individual safety and survival. I was recently in a conversation with a colleague in the field of biomimicry—she was talking about the ways ecosystems naturally regulate themselves through disruption. “Stasis” and “status quo” is death. A healthy ecosystem naturally moves towards a “climax state”—developing ever more complex soils and relationships between species. But what we don’t always see or embrace is the role disruption plays in this process –-flood, fire, lightning, storm, landslide –all are essential to the development of ecosystems over time.  

If there is too much disruption, biological life cannot take hold. But without disruption, there is collapse of a different kind—ecosystems simply stagnate. Mycelial networks (strings of fungus) live in the soils of old growth forest, feed and nourish the trees—and are nourished in kind—a kind of symbiosis. If, as the forest ages, there is no event (fire, flood,etc) that disrupts and regenerates the system, the mycelial network that lives underneath the forest will literally collapse parts of the forest to evolve it. In essence, the mycelial mat will create an event that will disrupt the stability of the ecosystem in order to cultivate more complex Life. The forest, after being leveled, then returns with ever richer and deeper soils and further reaching stands of trees[1].

I wonder how our human journey mirrors the process in these eco-systems? I wonder how we are remade from the disruptions that push us to recreate ourselves in ever more fertile ways? I wonder about the cultivation of human resilience (which seems to be one of our most natural and noble traits)—that might shift us to think of ourselves not as victims of external circumstance but as co-creative agents of Beauty—a beauty that embraces disruption and relative stability. A beauty that is made of these very spirals of evolution that bring us into ever-changing, ever-evolving, and mysterious relationships with all that is. And I wonder about the ways we would live if we identified ourselves not as a species standing outside of “nature” looking in, but as a part of the ecosystem itself. No ecosystem, anywhere, can survive or thrive on a constant growth model.



Today I am walking through a field of hundreds of poppies—the ones that returned after the flood. Today they invite me to stop and look back into the eyes of the earth and recognize the fleeting moment of their blossoming. Today they remind me that human time exists on a whole other scale from Geological and Cosmic time—and that this awareness can bring both humility and infinite courage to our living. Today they remind me of the exquisite wilds of the human spirit—of the most beautiful and passionate expressions of our species, of this vast intelligence within our collective that knows in our very bones how to live in balance, how to embrace disruption, how to regenerate and bloom after the floods—within and without.

[1] Is this the largest organism in the world? This 2,400-acre (9.7 km2) site in eastern Oregon had a contiguous growth of mycelium before logging roads cut through it. Estimated at 1,665 football fields in size and 2,200 years old, this one fungus has killed the forest above it several times over, and in so doing has built deeper soil layers that allow the growth of ever-larger stands of trees. Mushroom-forming forest fungi are unique in that their mycelial mats can achieve such massive proportions.

Paul Stamets, Mycelium Running[1]


2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 11, 2015 9:40 pm

    What a gorgeous post! Your photographs are absolutely stunning! And, I love the point that it’s time to stop looking at nature “from the outside.” We are part and parcel. It is all One.

  2. Russell Bramlett permalink
    June 12, 2015 1:00 am

    Beautiful thought provoking piece. Fun to share some of those Moments! Mushrooms and a Poppies oh my!

    Sent from RB’s iPhone


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