I hiked into a freshly burned Redwood forest that’s perched on the cliff’s in Big Sur.


I was much further than I should have gone.. but I’d been silent for days in retreat at New Camaldoli Monastery and the lack of conversation kept me innocent about what I was encountering.

retreat room at the monastery
retreat room at the monastery

It looked like someone had painted the entire earth black— the violent contrast between the destruction of the fire and the electric green that was already emerging from between the ashes was one of the most extraordinary things I’d ever seen.

The fire erased literally everything in its path, except for the invincible redwoods.

They have been victorious in these battles for centuries and nothing changed on this day.   The bark is like kryptonite – this massive shield from the elements.

after fire growth

If one of them does succumb to the inferno, The Redwood comes equipped with a back up plan– inside the giant burls are the seeds of re-birth, the fire being the fuel for new growth and an entire new ring of tree’s, sometimes 8 or more, spawn from one sacrifice.

When they grow, they form a perfect circle around the departed original tree– often referred to as a fairy ring, they look like they are holding hands, the branches touching and creating this protected open space inside their perimeter.  It’s so beautiful, the trunks so erect and noble, perfectly circled around their ancestor.

fairy ringFor me, It’s holy ground.

I sat a long time in awe and fascinated by the re-emergence of life.

Spirit Garden, Highway 1, Big Sur
Spirit Garden, Highway 1, Big Sur

The forest so perfectly illustrates what happens in all of us—burned nearly to death by moments and emotions and suffering and life crap— and yet so often, we re-emerge more beautiful and electric than we ever were before.

In the forest fire, all the scrub and invasive plants are burned away making room for more sustainable growth and renewal.

The same thing seems to happen to me all the time– living and building a life, then a fire emerges that I perceive as horrible in the moment and yet it creates all this room for a significant and sustainable deepening that substantiates what’s real and clears away what’s not.

It reminds me that within suffering is a satisfaction of knowing something more is emerging. IMG_0202

I recognize in a deep and personal way that the space created by the fire is entirely my responsibility to cultivate and it is never easy, doesn’t necessarily feel good and it takes incredible practice and intention, but the result is a sustainable peace that it seems we’re all in search of.

 want more?  check out:

 why go on retreat

silence is essential 

entering silence