So: this happened. The side of a volcano came down; the side of a volcano blew out. Everything died. Catastrophe, devastation, moonscape. You see something like that, and for a moment you believe life will never rise again.
But. The land heals. Things buried survive, and rise, and thrive. Life blows in, life is carried in, life sets about healing scars and making a wasteland hospitable again.
Things change. They won’t ever be the same. Where a creek flowed, the debris avalanche made a dam and created a lake.
Where lush, old-growth forests lived, where ash and debris buried them deep, sun-loving flowers thrive.
If you come back here, year after year, decade after decade, you begin to see the succession of plants as communities mature. The trees, bushes and flowers that love distressed lands and easy access to the sun set the stage for their own eventual replacement, as they enrich the soil, as they pioneer the way for other plants.
And as you walk here, you find tangled banks to contemplate.
I think of Charles Darwin, here, and the last words of The Origin (first edition).
It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us.
These laws, taken in the largest sense, being Growth with Reproduction; Inheritance which is almost implied by reproduction; Variability from the indirect and direct action of the external conditions of life, and from use and disuse; a Ratio of Increase so high as to lead to a Struggle for Life, and as a consequence to Natural Selection, entailing Divergence of Character and the Extinction of less-improved forms. Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows.
Volcanoes have a hand in it, too. And I’d say flowers are pretty exalted. I certainly find them fascinating and complex.
There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved.
(Note: No mention of a Creator in the First Edition. And it is just as sweeping, just as awe-inspiring, just as beautiful and terrible. More, actually, knowing no creator was required for these “endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful” to evolve. You don’t have to believe.)
The forms here at Coldwater Lake aren’t technically endless, but there are many of them. How many can you find and identify?