Fire connects us to things far beyond our typical everyday comprehension. In a way it connects to what it truly means to be human. Beyond any definite framework of what perhaps many philosophers’ have spent their lives trying to put their finger on.
And so, I won’t make any attempt to do that here.
Though it’s clear to me that fire is a direct connection to our ancestors. To their stories and myth, their prayers and their wisdom, their grief and their sorrows, and their hope for the future.
Growing up I never went camping or spent much time around a fire, I wouldn’t have these experiences until my early twenties. I found myself in a communal living situation here in Detroit Michigan, brimming with artists, teachers, community leaders, musicians, urban farmers and the like.
They shared with me the magic of fire; the stories, the songs, the sorrows, the whole spectrum of visible and invisible light. We even had wood stoves burning inside the homes at all hours through the colder seasons.
Something was awakened in me by those fires. A metaphysical connection to the natural world. The ability to communicate with authentic parts of myself that had been buried in my adolescence.
Two million years ago, early hominid Homo Erectus may have been just discovering, opportunistically, her ability to harvest fire from the wild. Or perhaps, as the Karuk legend goes, the Coyote took pity on the humans and stole the fire away from the selfish Fire Beings and stored it in the wood for humans to draw upon when they needed it. Either way, something very powerful was gained.
A phenomenal catalyst of cultural innovation. And safety, ah yes, protection from predation in the night, a place to warm your bones. A place to gather, to socialize, to tell stories. The development of an oral history, a classroom of sorts, a substrate for collaborative learning. A courting of the mysterious. The juicy pulp of the immaculate fruit of life.
Something ancient, timeless, and unspeakable is awakened within those flames.
And to me nothing feels so natural, so right, so magical as to prepare for a fire and to feed it. To feed it with oak, with breath, with hope, with laughter, and with grief.
And in absence of wood fire as essential for survival, I aim to start and end my day with it’s symbolic glow regardless.
Guided by candlelight I get to the center of who I truly am as I begin each day, and in the evening revel in gratitude for this body and it’s days gone by. For it’s within this constant flux between dream state and waking state that we have the power to fashion the life we’d most like to live.
And sometimes the center of who I am feels elusive, and sometimes reveling looks a bit more like stumbling.
And that’s okay too.
If the fire has taught me anything, it’s to be kinder to myself so that I can do the same for the Earth and its inhabitants.
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