The thing I remember most was the smell of smoke. The smell that crept through closed windows and filled your nostrils with the scent of fear. I remember the dust that coated the highways and filled the air with floating particles of ash. The smell that turned a familiar home into an unfamiliar alternate reality. I remember the feeling of fearful anticipation, of waiting for the knock and the quick, ten minute evacuation warning as wildfire threatened to consume.
This area has seen a lot of hardship over the past few years. Between the wildfires that charred the trees and swallowed the trails and the floods that broke the dam and washed away the lake, Bastrop State Park is a charred remnant of its former self. But there sure is some beauty in the ashes.
The trickling stream crawled sluggishly across the red earth as I wandered the paths through the remains of what was once a lush, green forest of tall pines. Their charred limbs baked in the harsh sun of a hot Texas winter day. The further I walked along the caked, dry trail the more layers I shed as the temperatures continued to climb and shake off the chill mist of morning.
My puppy wandered here and there at the end of her leash -- darting unexpectedly at times across my path and creating an almost Three-Stooges scenario as I tried to avoid what seemed like an inevitable trip and fall.
I paused for short yoga breaks and moments of exploring and clambering across giant boulders as my puppy sat on the ground, ears twitching side to side in confusion about why she could not join me up high. The gravel trail crunched underneath my feet and then came the soft swishing of the sand in the dry paths between the leftover trees.
There is something so enchanting and haunting about walking through the crumbling remains of a once great forest. Almost like a great cathedral or ancient European castle fell into ruins - the magic and mystery of the place remains. Dry and broken limbs reached towards the sky as if reaching for something they couldn’t quite grasp - a desperate search for meaning amidst the chaos of life and loss. Green shoots poked their heads through the piles of dead, dry limbs as the landscape struggled to heal itself. A colorful reminder amidst the black and brown that life always wins eventually.
Written by Lauren Bringle. Photos also by Lauren. See more of her adventures on Instagram: @laurenbringleyoga