If you know how to look, you can read the stories fire has written across the landscape. Some of them are obvious: rows of dead trees turning a ridge to silver, or the blaze of fireweed in a new meadow. For others you have to walk the mountains to see: a blackened stump deep in beargrass, pieces of charcoal mixed into new rich soil.
We are all scarred by love and loss as surely as the hills are marked by a fast moving fire. A lightning strike to the heart, and we are changed forever. We carry our scars with us, some of us on the surface and some of us buried deep, like the ashes from an ancient fire hidden beneath the forest floor. We use them to protect ourselves against future storms in our lives, to prevent other people from seeing us too closely. The geography of our damage causes us to believe things like these: I will never marry again. I will never trust anyone. I won't find what I am looking for.
But eventually, after every fire, life returns even to the most sterilized soil. Seeds drift in on the wind. Flowers appear like small miracles. It may take years, but the trees come back. The forest may not look the same as it once did, but it is alive. It goes on. And so do we.