Resilience and a Ham Run

On May 3, 150 runners followed the Gunflint Trail from Gunflint Pines to Way of the Wilderness, and completed the 2nd Annual Ham Run Half Marathon. The runners wound through Superior National Forest, witnessing recovering forest on the anniversary of the Ham Lake Fire.

Boy, two years ago in that war zone, I would never have dreamed that we would be celebrating an anniversary, with both the Gunflint Green Up and the Ham Lake Run.

We sure did.

I’ve heard people talk about “resilient”communities during times of stress. I’ve been thinking about that word.

A (casual) physics definition of resilience, if I have it right, is the measure of a matter’s ability to store energy elastically, and then release it. Different materials have different measures of resilience, different maximum abilities to absorb energy and then unload it.
If I think about an elastic rubber ball—I apply force as I throw it on the ground, and it bounces back-with equal force if it is perfectly elastic. There’s an equation for that…but let’s skip that part.

So I’m thinking about the overwhelming power of the Ham Lake Fire. Destructive, hot, massive, wow. Unstoppable, death, blackened ground. At the time, really sad. However, when the smoke cleared, the fire didn’t burn everything. Just patches and clumps, and then it would jump. And almost immediately, (partly because it was spring), we witnessed the resiliency of the earth. All of that energy was released again. A subtle reoccurring kind of energy, that most powerful resurrection-type energy, the green, the blueberries, the wildflowers, the new sprouting life. Quieter, kinder, peaceful, yet still powerful.
The fire specialist on the Gunflint district keeps telling us with gentle persistence and a variety of graphs that a boreal forest NEEDS fire for survival. Our instinct is to say…yeah, yeah, yeah…but not in OUR slice of the forest. The truth is, these woods are strengthened by fire. Never did that quite sink in until I saw that energy released, until I witnessed the elasticity of nature.

Then it shouldn’t surprise me that people in this community follow the model that the earth has set. At first, I thought the fire might zap everybody’s resources, their vigor. But check out Mike and Sue, the catalysts of the run event. They transferred all that momentum into the annual Ham Run Half Marathon. This circle of volunteers, many who supported the fire fighting efforts, rallied once again. That’s some powerful elasticity: remarkable actually to see what has come back.
Lucky me, that I’ve had a chance to soak up some of these experiences. Experiences like that rubber ball–it’s OK to roll it around, but that’s not nearly as fun as the big bounce. Some of the greatest joys come out of the rebounds, after the stressers have passed by. It’s the stuff of life.

And the runners? Resilient with every step!!