To be good ecological restorationists and cultural restorationists, we need to know where and how regeneration and renewal begin in natural communities and in the human soul, for that’s what we need to emulate. Curiously, renewal in forests and forest people often takes place in “light gaps”— where there is suddenly an opening in the dark understory where bright light can break in and stimulate germination, new growth and renewal.Those light gaps are often opened during a storm, a fire or some other catastrophic event or crisis, where trees may fall and old paradigms become obsolete.
Renewal in deserts and semi-arid steppes often takes place in what my friend the desert ecologist Alberto Burquez calls “dark gaps” –the scratchboard equivalent of what happens in forests. Most seeds in the desert and steppe cannot germinate and their seedlings cannot survive in the open; instead, they emerge from the dark fecund shadows of a sole nurse tree like an ironwood or below a cliff face, where the soil is fertile, but the seedlings can be buffered from scorching heat and drought. And it is in such “dark gaps” that desert peoples have long descended for spiritual renewal: in caves, canyon grottos, or perched rock shelters where little sunlight enters.
These are the kind of places where the Zoroastrian and Buddhist prophets sought out in Central Asia, where Jewish prophets went in Greater Palestine, and where the Desert Fathers and Mothers of early Christianity as well as the Muslim Prophet Mohammed took refuge!
Oh yes, there is another rather obvious analogy here: if we are to advance the restoration of a wounded habitat, we as humans must also descend from our own lofty egos, and choose to go into whatever darkness or light we need to be transformed ourselves, from a naïve young “caterpillar restorationist” trudging along but not getting very far, to a full-blown “butterfly restorationist” capable of miraculous flight!
Brother Coyote, OEF