Fireweed Mountain, Story and Song

fireweed st helens

Fighting fire off with fire, these machines
still run in me, still running me
fighting fire off with fire, this machine
still in me, and it’s stealing me

Live recording from Daegu, South Korea, Winter 2011, with HyeonJi Jeon

 

Video credit: Kevin Vowles. From a hike together to the top of Erskine Mountain on Salt Spring Island, BC

 

Near my hometown is my favorite mountain, Princess Loowit, or Mt. St. Helens as she is called by westerners.

may 17

Loowit is an active Volcano. In 1980, Loowit erupted with tremendous force and violence, and the devastation was immense, with many animals, people, trees, bridges, rivers, lakes, houses and weather patterns destroyed or radically altered.

eruption

My father grew up on Mt. St. Helens, spending most of his childhood in the woods and lakes on Loowit’s northern side.

Can breaking down the brokenness complete?

still in me, still in me

can breaking down the brokenness complete

wait and see, wait and see!

Nearly all of this land he loved was obliterated by the 1980 eruption. At least that’s how it seemed at first. For my father and many others in my town, Loowit’s missing crown and the changed landscape were and still are a constant sadness, much like living with the unexplained loss of a best friend.

horses

dead tree

blowdown

But for me, I grew up with the new growth.

Shortly after the eruption, when it seemed that everything was dead and the ground was unable to hold life, the beautiful Fireweed flower came up, almost everywhere.

fireweed growing

from: http://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/giffordpinchot/learning/nature-science/?cid=fsbdev3_007195

The Fireweed grows best in areas after forest fires, volcanic eruptions, clear-cutting, or in lands damaged from roads and other human industrial activity. The Fireweed flower loves the hurting and dying places.

It helps to heal the ground, and allows the needed nutrients to establish themselves into the slowly recovering soil, until the ground has the strength and energy to hold bigger and more diverse life forms.

The Fireweed is humble, but bold, very beautiful and strong. It is a living example and symbol of the power of active forgiveness and living in right relationship with the environment.

fireweed 3

from: http://bottleworld.net/?p=576

After it has done its job, it disappears, but its seeds stay in the soil and remain ready to flower again after another disaster.

I hope I can be like this flower wherever I live.

In the darkness of Winter, I want to remember that the frozen soil never forgets Spring.

I want to never forget the light within, and the reality of the creator in all life, and live into heaven here and now, as it is, and in so doing to anticipate and feel the truth of Christ’s words, that heaven is already here, and that it is coming.

And here and now, I think it looks and feels a lot like bomb craters and industrial clear-cuts ablaze with Fireweed’s purples and reds and greens. And Korean elders singing, holding hands and standing in the way of cement trucks trying to lay foundations for a new naval base on top of their home, Gangjeong Village (Jeju Island, South Korea). And standing in the streets of every major city in the US, demanding a better and more just society in which Black Lives Matter. And learning traditional ways and affirming elders on Rosebud Reservation, South Dakota, while crying for the earth and future generations and swearing to do everything in one’s power to stand up to the Keystone Oil snake trying to illegally run through native lands against the people’s wills.

And it looks a whole lot like eating and singing and telling stories together. Face to face.

The “Kingdom of God” that Jesus talked about is a reality in which that of God in all things is honored—earth, humans, all life. Spring is coming! What would happen if we really saw God in all persons and things?

Gradually, I think our lives would come to look and act a lot like the Fireweed, ready to spring up to help when needed, and just as happy to recede back into the soil and out of sight when the time is right for other forms of god to take the stage.

For starters, I bet we’d sing more.

wALKING
Walking the Hummocks Trail (the mounds are pieces of the former top of Loowit), Winter 2015. Photo credit: Sally Martin

 

Studio recording of Fireweed Mountain, from the album, “Putting The Sky To Sleep.” Recorded in Portland, Oregon, 2011-2012, with David Fuller, Erin Eihenberger, Jamie Klanderud and Joby Morey. Mixed, Mastered and Produced at Sun Room Studio by David Fuller. Artwork by Michael Nolan.

 

The mountains and the fir trees cover me, and I’m feeling free, and I’m feeling free

The mountains and the fir trees cover me, wait and see, wait and see!

 

Fighting fire off with fire, these machines, still running me, still run in me,

Fighting fire off with fire, this machine, still in me, and it’s stealing me.

 

Can breaking down the brokenness complete, still in me, still in me?

Can breaking down the brokenness complete? Wait and see, wait and see.

 

The mountains and the fir trees cover me, and I’m feeling free, and I’m feeling free

The mountains and the fir trees cover me, wait and see, wait and see!

 

My hands are open and my feet are bare, are you still there? Are you still there?

My hands are open and my feet are bare, unaware, unaware.

 

But when the sun shines warm upon my face, then I know my place, then I know my place

When the sun shines warm upon my face, I know my place, I know my place.

 

The mountains and the fir trees cover me, and I’m feeling free, and I’m feeling free

The mountains and the fir trees cover me, wait and see, wait and see!

 

I’m gonna fight the good fight for what I love best, and then I’ll rest, and then I’ll rest.

I’m gonna fight the good fight for what I love best, and then I’ll rest, then I’ll rest.

 

(LOOWIT ERUPTS)

 

I stop and breath and put down my machines, and I hear them sing, and I hear them sing

I stop and breath and put down my machines, and I hear them sing, I hear them them sing:

 

(da da da da da)

 

But then the soil’s singing to my feet: you’re incomplete, still incomplete.

Then the soil’s singing to my feet, incomplete, you’re incomplete.

 

But when the ground is calling out to me, then I’m feeling free, then I’m feeling free

When the round is calling out to me, well, wait and see, wait and see!

 

And the rooster crowing at the break of dawn: won’t be long! Won’t be long!

The rooster’s crowing at the break of dawn: won’t be long! Won’t be long!

 

And flames of fireweed dot the burned-out ridge, singing I’ll forgive, well, I’ll forgive!

Flames of fireweed dot the burnt-out ridge, singing let it live! Let it live!

 

The mountains and the fir trees cover me, and I’m feeling free, and I’m feeling free

The mountains and the fir trees cover me, wait and see, wait and see!

 

joshua grace loowit

 Photo credit: Joshua Grace. From a hike together, Summer 2014.

 

hiking with dad

Photo credit: Katie Martin. Time with dad and sis near Lost Lake (Goat Rocks Wilderness, Klickitat, neighbor to Loowit)

Note: all pictures unless otherwise clarified are taken from: http://archive.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/05/mount_st_helens_30_years_ago.html

Note 2: This writing in slightly different format was previously used for a presentation in Gangjeong Village, on Jeju Island in Summer 2014 as part of the peace movement against the illegal naval base being built there; then published in the 2014 Advent readings for Camas Friends; and lastly it was shared recently in the Seattle Catholic Worker’s Advent 2015 edition of The Inbreaking.

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4 comments

  1. Larry Kerschner · April 3, 2016

    Thanks, Seth. Another thoughtful piece.

    Like

  2. Kevin Vowles · April 5, 2016

    “Flee to the wilderness! The one within, if you can find it.” – Utah Phillips

    Beautiful blog Seth. Lovely to read. I love the analogy to many things, particularly our struggle to end violence.

    Like

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