There was a small grass fire near my house a few weeks ago. I drive past the hill that caught fire nearly every day on my way to work. No structures were damaged, but the hillside was a charred black for several days. Then, suddenly, the hill turned vibrant green. I was shocked. And mesmerized. I pulled my car over to take a picture. I stood and stared for a while. I ended up being late to a meeting.
It hadn’t even rained. This hillside just went from blackened ashes to vibrant green growth overnight. A visible sign of new life.
The image of this green hill is stuck in my mind even today. The contrast was striking. All the grass that had not been burned remained the traditional brown of early spring. The transformation seemed to happen overnight. Generally speaking, this has not been my experience of change in my own life and the lives of those I love. Human transformation tends to feel slow and painful. There is a fire, a trial, a suffering, a lesson to be learned. Maybe we feel blackened and ashy; unsure of how we’ll ever grow or feel “normal” again. The journey to becoming green again is often long and painful.
This time of year, the Celts celebrate summer and the coming of the light half of the year through the festival of Beltane. Beginning on the evening of April 30, a sacred fire was lit on a hilltop, which could be seen by the entire village. It was a symbol of life continuing.
Nowadays, we don’t have the same uses for fire. It is a luxury to have a fireplace in our homes, not the necessity that it was to the Celts. It is easier for us to think of the destruction fire can cause- grass fires, house fires, wildfires. Fire is capable of great destruction. But that green hill reminds me that fire is also capable of producing great growth. We, humans and all created things, do not experience fire without the change that happens as a result.
When we experience a trial or a fire in our lives, the destruction and the change that happens as a result isn’t as visible as it is on the hill near my house. Celtic spirituality consistently calls us back to nature. It calls us to attune our lives to the visible signs of God and growth and hope that surround us. God reveals God’s self to us in many ways, and often through nature, we must slow down enough to notice. Even if that means pulling over the car and being late to work.
Kelsey Hart works with youth, families, and liturgy at Church of the Holy Family in Aurora, CO. A native of northern Illinois, she moved to Denver with her husband, James, 6 years ago. Kelsey is a fervent supporter of Celtic Way and is most interested in the intersections of Celtic spirituality, feminism, and work with marginalized communities. She and her husband are parents to a fierce toddler, appropriately named Brigid. In her wildest dreams, she'd like to be a writer.