My family and I lived out in the Pacific Northwest for 6 years before moving to the South. Those six years I was working as a Quaker pastor of a small community along the Columbia River. It was a meaningful experience to me, not only because we loved our community there, and were loved in return, but it is where two of our three children were born, many friendships were forged, and where I really fell in love with roasting coffee.
Early in our time in the Pacific NW, I met a musician named Seth Martin and we hit it off almost immediately. I invited him to come and play his music during one of our weekly meetings, and before long, he became a regular on Sunday mornings.
It was Seth who taught me about the significance of Fireweed in the Northwest through his song “Fireweed Mountain.” The song, Fireweed Mountain, is about Mt. St. Helen or “Loowit” and eruption and the eventual new growth that now covers this beautiful mountain.
Fireweed (Chamaenerion) is a purplish pink flower that favors “disturbed ground.” It grows up through volcanic ash, healing the earth beneath it, bringing nutrients back to the soil, and preparing the ground for new life to emerge.
Here’s what Seth has to say about Fireweed:
Shortly after the eruption, when it seemed that everything was dead and the ground was unable to hold life, the beautiful Fireweed flower came up, almost everywhere.
The Fireweed grows best in areas after forest fires, volcanic eruptions, clear-cutting, or in lands damaged from roads and other human industrial activity. The fireweed flower loves the hurting and dying places.
It helps to heal the ground, and allows the needed nutrients to establish themselves into the slowly recovering soil, until the ground has the strength and energy to hold bigger and more diverse life forms.
The fireweed is humble, but bold, very beautiful and strong. It is a living example and symbol of the power of active forgiveness and living in right relationship with the environment.
After it has done its job, it disappears, but its seeds stay in the soil and remain ready to flower again after another disaster.
I hope I can be like this flower wherever I live.
Inspired by this beautiful flower, I find it a powerful metaphor and a good reminder of what I should be doing with my own life.
When I look back on our lives in the Pacific Northwest, and I think about the one thing, the one image that can capture my experience there, is fireweed.
I want the coffee I roast and share with the world to be about healing and creating new connections and opportunities for new life, ideas, and relationships to emerge. I want what I put out in the world to be nourishing to community.
And so Fireweed is a reminder and a metaphor of what we’re capable of, healing, connection, and new life. This is my wish for you and for me.
Shortly before we moved, I took a motorcycle ride out to find some fireweed, so I could take a little with me.