The Fires of Life

Image of giant sequoia by LoggaWiggler from Pixabay

Forest fires are fearsome things.

They can lay waste to hundreds of square miles of mature trees and displace wildlife. If they spread to areas of human habitation, they can raze buildings to the ground and devastate communities.

And yet, fires can play an important role in nature. Trying to suppress them too drastically can have a negative effect on the ecology of the forest.

It can backfire, so to speak.

Take the giant sequoia, native to inland California. This majestic tree can live for thousands of years and grow to a height of almost 300 feet.

You’d think that protecting groves of sequoias from fire would help preserve them. But sometimes when we interfere with the natural cycle of fire and regrowth, we do a forest no favours.

The suppression of fire during the last century by U.S. land management authorities actually hobbled the sequoia’s ability to survive. Its seedlings can only grow into mature trees if competing plants are regularly eliminated by low-level forest fires. (The sequoia’s spongy bark helps protect it against fire.)

Not only that, the cones of the sequoia require the intense heat of a forest fire in order to open up and release their cargo of seeds. If the surrounding ground has just been cleared of competing vegetation by fire and enriched with the resultant nutritious ash, the seeds are given an additional leg up to grow.

So the sequoia can only grow to its impressive grandeur with the help of fire.

Perhaps the same is true of us.

Read more

Being Cruel To Be Kind

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Sometimes, in the garden as in life, you have to be cruel to be kind.

Perhaps like me, you’ve started seeds indoors in late winter. I have a sunny spot in a front bay window where I put my trays of seeds.

I cover them while they’re germinating to keep them warm and moist. After they’ve sprouted, I check the seedlings daily in their protected nook and make sure they’re well watered.

Life for my little seedlings is sweet.

However, I’ve sometimes made the mistake of babying my charges too much. They then shoot up too fast and get “leggy”: their stems are tall but weak.

The problem with this is that when they’re transplanted outdoors, they won’t be able to cope well with the harsher conditions in the garden: the colder night temperatures, the wind buffeting them or the rain pelting on them.

What I need to do is subject the seedlings to a bit of hardship while they’re still in their trays indoors. So I’ve learned that I should blow on them or run my hand over them to simulate wind: this will strengthen their stems. I harden them off by gradually introducing them to greater temperature fluctuations and stronger sunlight. I let them feel a bit of cold.

The seedlings may not like what I’m doing to them, but my efforts will produce stronger plants that will have a better chance of surviving and thriving once translated outside. I do them no favours if I coddle them and leave them unprepared for the hardships they’ll face outdoors.

I think God does the same with us.

Sometimes He subjects us to unwelcome things in order to toughen us up and prepare us for what lies ahead. We may not like it, but He would be an unloving Father if He didn’t do so.

Read more

5 Things A Monstera Plant Can Teach You

Photo by Maja Dumat on Flickr CC BY-2.0

Can the monstera houseplant teach us something about our faith in God?

This plant, nicknamed the Swiss cheese plant, has become hugely popular in recent times. Much sought after, it has risen to the status of an icon among houseplant aficionados.

But besides being a fun plant to grow indoors, is there anything we can learn from the monstera? Can its example help us grow spiritually?

I believe that just about everything in the natural world can teach us something that can deepen our faith. I like how Ralph Waldo Emerson put it: “Every natural fact is a symbol of some spiritual fact.”

And the monstera is no exception!

Here are 5 things this special and beloved plant can teach us:

Read more