Seeds from Chaos

Humans are creatures of habit, routine being so important to all of us at one level or another.  I would probably fall on the high end of a “need for routine” scale.  I use it to keep life moving forward.  Workout, breakfast, work, lunch, work, dinner, family time, bed.  Rinse and repeat.

There is value in routine and it will always be an important part of my life.

However, today I rise in defense of CHAOS….the enemy of routine.  A little chaos can be a powerful thing.  It is important to growth.  What follows is an example that is personal for me.

In the summer of 1988, Yellowstone National Park was on fire. Several large fires occurred in the same season, grew out of control, and savaged the familiar landscape of the park. At the time, I was an artillery soldier stationed at Fort Lewis, WA and my battalion was one of many battalions ordered to deploy to Yellowstone to assist the Forestry Department in fighting the fires.

This was personal for me.  My folks met in Yellowstone.  My grandfather was a naturalist in Yellowstone.  My father was a Park Ranger in Yellowstone.  We vacationed in Yellowstone routinely when I was a kid.  Many of my siblings worked summers in Yellowstone as we grew older.  Yellowstone will always be a part of who I am.

I remember flying out of McChord Air Force Base to somewhere in Idaho before getting transported by bus into the park with my unit.  We arrived as the sun was setting that day and that made it easier and easier to see small pockets of flames in the woods as we entered the park.  It was eery….  I had spent countless summers being instructed on the importance of making sure your campfire was completely extinguished.  So my instinct was that we should pull the bus over and put out these small fires lest they should grow into something bigger.

I clearly didn’t understand the magnitude of the problem.  I would in the coming days and weeks.  The nation mourned the loss as heartbreaking images were brought to American living rooms by the media.

Yellowstone was tragically lost forever…

But wait….Yellowstone is still around and doing quite well, right?  How is that possible?  Well, as it turns out, the horrifying summer inferno of 1988 was just what the park needed in order to grow and renew itself.  I claim no expertise in this area but apparently the amazing lodge pole pines that make up much of the landscape in Yellowstone require fire to release new seedlings.

So, you see, the fires served two purposes.  They cleared away layers and layers of unburned brush accumulated over years and years when the burn policies in the park were less friendly to natures system of renewal.  The fires also unlocked the seedlings needed for new lodge pole pine growth.

For me, this story is emblematic of how chaos can be a powerful agent of growth in other areas of life.  If you want to grow corn you must disrupt the soil before you plant.  If you want bigger muscles you must break up the muscular fibers with exercise in order to grow your guns.  If you want to grow another curl in your brain you must study that which you do not already know and challenge that which you do.  If you want growth in a current relationship or to establish a new relationship you may have to introduce some form of disruption to the situation.

So invite a little strategic chaos into your life and release those seedlings.  And while you are at it…don’t discount that seemingly useless underbrush in your life.  Without it there is no fire, and the seedlings never get to work their magic.

16 Replies to “Seeds from Chaos”

  1. Without realizing it at the time I was reading this…. I think it is exactly a story I needed to hear this week….

  2. Wow! Just fantastic Ken! This brought back so many memories and emotions. I’m looking forward to your next post.

  3. I especially loved that shout out to the underbrush at the end–it’s nice to think that some of the dead, useless bits of my life wil be fuel to a great flame some day!

  4. Sure, Yellowstone is doing fine. But how many out of work smoke jumpers are on the welfare rolls?

    1. I don’t know the answer to that…but I can confirm that the Forestry Department puts on a better meal spread than the Army. Way better, not close…;)

  5. Haha! I’d forgotten all about the Forestry Department meals. They WERE much better than the standard Army fare for sure. Great article, enjoyed it, brings back some fond memories.

  6. Routine builds builds character and chaos exercises that character. Excellent read Ken!

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