I imagine you were sprouted from a branch of a laurel tree perched high on a ridge. This ridge you shared with great redwoods, pines, raptors, squirrels, beetles, banana slugs and butterflies, blue jays and woodpeckers, ants, ferns and even an occasional human. From this ridge you swayed in the breeze, directed heavy mist from your outstretched skin to the roots of your tree. You soaked in the rays of the sun providing nutrients for your tree to grow and thrive. You were nimble, brave and in your element. So you thrived.
When the fire came, sparked from a burst of lightning, which ignited a tree miles away, spread to the forest floor and lapped at trunks of trees just like yours. Until it got to yours. It craved the food of your nimble, but slightly parched, bark. It understood your vulnerability. And it engulfed you.
Your tree's roots were strong, so it stayed put, but its branches swayed in the wind from the fire. You trembled, as the heat surged and the flames began to lick the branch and then the twig that held you. Smoke swirled high into the atmosphere, and when you caught fire, you could no longer hold on.
You let go, and you took flight--a marvelous flight across miles and miles of burning trees and undergrowth, of lines of firemen and women working through the day and night to tame this unsightly beast of flame. You flew, soaring and falling from your ridge from where the raptors had already fled, passing over a valley of vineyards and subdivisions, a six-lane freeway that cut through the landscape like a concrete river. And over the actual great river and its tributaries, dry now from the scorchingly long spring and summer and dry air. You were lifted by the wind, pregnant with the smoke that had been your neighbors days before, and you were taken until the wind stopped.
You began to fall. Pieces of ash, from the barks of trees a hundred feet tall and the twigs and twine of birds' nests and fallen pine needles that the humans were told to "rake" to ward off the fire.
There was a sweetness in your falling, knowing this leg of your journey was coming to a close. The miles behind you proved you were too strong to be erased. You were too strong to become a puff of smoke. And you landed, inconspicuously, in a suburban neighborhood, next to a driveway that was next to a garden. You missed the garden because you wanted to be found.
And when you were found you had your story to tell.
Where there is life, there is death. There is not one without the other. It is a continuum where death breeds more life, and life breeds more death. A never-ending cycle that might be the only thing we can rely on. Your life is a reminder of our death. Your death is a reminder to live our knowing this death will meet us, but our journey is uniquely ours. And what we do along the way matters.
In union, in deep, deep gratitude and acknowledgment for all living beings, for the cycles of nature, for our ability to shift and grow as we become more connected to the natural rhythm, I honor your life. Om.