I can see it blazing, a rage of scarlet against the scattered brown and green and gold of the surrounding hillside. It burns and sparks and crackles, and yet the tree still stands, a lone fresh firecoal fallen onto the tinder dry landscape, and I am almost surprised that the mighty winds haven't scattered the flames onto the surrounding pinons and junipers. It is a pillar, an alter, an icon, and I remember the gritty sand between my toes: I am standing on holy ground.
Over this past week, we have known what it is like to stand on holy ground, and we have known that holy ground is not always comfortable and soft, alive with moss and green grass. Sometimes holy ground is carpeted with desert briers and thistles, sharp stones and tumbleweeds. And sometimes holiness means pain and letting go and giving up. Sometimes holiness requires more of you than you think you can give. Sometimes holiness burns.
I think perhaps I expected angelic choirs in the background as an unworldly sense of benevolent peace filled my soul when the decision was finally made. I expected it to feel like a firm step along the straight and narrow path. I did not expect it to seem like a step off a cliff. I did not expect it to feel so much like grief with so many tears. I did not expect it to feel so much like death.
Yet. The branches dance with these tongues of flame, and I can hear them whispering in the rush of wind. And it is not death that comes to mind, standing under the spreading boughs, but life. There is beauty, and hope, and deep-rooted joy of knowing that even though it burns, the tree is not consumed. Neither are we. And when they will fall and wither, they will feed the ground that will next spring feed the limbs that will feed the leaves that will be greenest living green. And so will we. And so we are.