What Lies Beneath

Hope can be difficult to locate. Our destruction of the environment often appears insuperable to me: global warming, overpopulation, impending lack of fresh water, and to top it all off my own propensity to drive too much and use too many paper towels.

My Spirit Play group recently visited Piedras Blancas Light Station, a 136-year-old lighthouse on the California coast  (Spirit Play group: women who gather to do playful things that feed our spirit). We thought the point of the trip was to see the lighthouse, but the highlight turned out to be the surrounding bluffs, which put forth a dazzling display of fuzzy yellow flowers—aptly named wooly yarrow—interspersed with clumps of an unusual white lupine and spurts of purple seaside daisies.

In 2001, a heartbeat ago geologically speaking, non-native iceplant covered the entire area. A group of dedicated volunteers cleared nineteen acres by hand, a little over fourteen football fields’ worth.

Today, native vegetation has made a complete recovery, and, as our guide said, the critters have returned. The volunteers didn’t replant or bus in brush bunnies from the surrounding hills. As soon as they removed the iceplant, the native grasses and flowers began to grow. When the wooly yarrow, dune buckwheat, and others had taken sufficient hold, the animals followed.

I don’t understand this resurgence any more than I understand where fruit flies come from. There are no flies in my house; some fruit rots; voila, fruit flies, as if they spontaneously create themselves or pop through a wormhole. Though bunnies and bobcats seem too solid to explode fully formed into existence, the revival of an ecosystem in such a short time gives the feel of the miraculous.

I find this transformation heartening. We don’t have to fix it all. If we clear away what we’ve allowed to grow over our earth—or our hearts or relationships—the natural beauty already waiting beneath will spring up and amaze us.