Fire Away (4-27-17)
Speaking of Sparking
I’ll come right out and say it, speaking of sparking, I’d like to ignite the room, fuel the imagination and then burst into creative flames, perhaps that’s a bit… inflammatory?.
But, hey, I’m in the heat of the moment, images fire away in my brain, Wildfire, catching fire, running across tall grasses, traveling from hearth to stake, hearth to heretic, we believe in flames, we know heat, warmth in one moment, doom and destruction in another. We want fire in the belly, passionate flare ups, flames licking at our heels propelling us forward into vast futures, burn the timeworn down, throw the old into the blaze and start again. Carrying the torch. We’re all fired up.
But then, naturally - would that be accurate - do we still have a sense of ‘natural’ – naturally the fire fades, dying embers in the heart, post combustion, post conflagration. The moment was so quick. Fire’s like that. Quick and unforgiving once it takes hold, but then thank God - or the gods depending on your world view - the flames die down and we are left contemplating ash.
I can only imagine what it was like to see fire for the first time. I’m not talking about our usual firsts but I’m dreaming of previous people in caves, dark, brutal and cold. Lightning strikes a hollowed-out tree and catches fire. They, the first people, see the flames dancing and they watch the tree fall. Somehow one or several of them, the first people, manage to carry a small fire back into the cave, bodies huddled around this mystery in awe and then in heat. Something from a bone falls into this fire, and they watch it sizzle. After the flames die down they pick up a morsel and eat ….cooked food.
Now we have it - fire, cooked food, light in the darkness and of course language. This is what makes us human, the experts say and I won’t disagree.
Sitting around circles of fire countless stories about how fire came into being are told, many of them featuring a divine power with exclusive possession of fire and a hero who steals it through some kind of trick and takes it to the people. (I want to know more about those tricks) Prometheus of course, a well-known example. Or the Chinese fire god Hui Lu who kept 100 firebirds in a gourd. By setting them loose he could start a fire across the whole country. One of his lieutenants, Lo Hsuan attacked a city with swords of fire but was stopped by a princess who appeared in the sky and quenched his flames with her clock of mist and dew. “I see fire and I see rain…..”
And then there’s Agni the god of fire in Hindu mythology, existing at three levels, on earth as fire, in atmosphere as lightning, and in the sky as sun. Agni’s parents are described as two kindling fire sticks, whose loving action creates him. Agni is a tender baby, who needs loving attention lest he vanishes. With care, he sparks and smokes, then flames and grows stronger than his parents, finally so strong that he devours what created him.” Does this sound like someone we might know?
And we have the many stories about animals who capture fire and bring it to us humans –raven, wolf, woodpecker, coyote, Navaho coyote stole fire from two monsters who were guarding it on fire mountain. He lit a bundle of sticks tied to his tail and ran down from the mountain to give fire to his people.
So many fire stories raging across the continents, fueling imaginations and beliefs, beliefs becoming dogma, dogmas coming into conflict, setting off endless conflagrations. Fast and furious I feel the heat rising again. So quickly, it’s easy to imagine everything going up in flames. It’s a tendency – when everything gets too complicated with too many contradictions - there’s that tendency to set everything ablaze, scorched earth. Spontaneous combustions from rags and riches, the flames devour, ravaging tall timbers once part of a door frame or holding up old beams, burning old papers and books, years of memories, now piles of blackened debris and ashes.
I need to get some air, step away from fire for the moment. I walk out into the street, well an imaginary street…It’s a beautiful day, the flowers are out, sun energy still takes care of those, I’m looking up at the sky, clear skies today thank god, but while I’ve got my head in the clouds I bump into someone. He, it is a he, he’s incensed, unforgiving, a conflagration erupts before you know it, a moment going quickly up in flames, many others get involved, I don’t know where they’re coming from, seems like they live for provocation, carrying their versions of fire swords, adding more fuel to the fire. Someone yells ‘you flaming idiot’, fiery speech and name calling, I hear sirens and see red lights everywhere.
I start running, run back to an imaginary sanctuary home and close the door, a protective fire wall. Slowly I return to gentle normal heat, the 98.6 degrees of my own body.
I nod off. I see someone sitting in front of a fire, a blanket over her knees, it’s a woman making something with her hands, stitches on a white broad cloth, a design for the future? I hear “Keep the home fires burning”. That consoles me as I think of all the mothers in front of fires, stirring the pot, singing soft songs, boiling water for birthing. But then later, children burning with fevers, straw beds and thatched roofs going up in flames.
Fire now on the brain, gone from the belly to the medial temporal lobe, the limbic system. Neurons firing up, inflammatory response as messages are carried to my memory chambers, that’s what I call them, more rooms of free association going rampant. I’m running through history.
Another spark catches and combusts through the flames I see a figure at the stake, Joan of Arc, no way I could avoid her, then the Salem witches. Images of women burning are branded into my female DNA. I run through thousands of images of bodies lost to fire and smoke, countless charred remains from knowing too much, wanting too much, or just being… in the line of fire. I’m burning up in time travel, I can’t distinguish between the past and the present. It’s the fear of what has happened and what could happen again, is happening still? I remember that I am a woman when all is said and done.
Now I watch a woman in distress, an immigrant or refugee in a tenement, you name the country, subpar housing bad electrical wiring. An incredibly fatigued (body) mother or father figure lies on the couch smoking, hand drops, the fighting arm lets go and the cigarette embers fall onto a flea-bitten rug and without warning flames erupt, engulfing is the word. Someone screams. Someone else kicks down the door, and carries off young children over his shoulders. Fire fighters, I stand to salute. There are still heroes, but the dream fades, just like a fire slowly going out.
In the darkness, I follow signals from another universe, fireflies, trying to catch one, eight years old. We could catch them in jars and keep them for a while trying to decipher their light language. Say you (could have been me) had a little row with our parents that night at dinner and while we watch the fireflies in the jar on the shelf near our bunk bed we start to imagine that these little creatures might set the house on fire and then our parents would be sorry. This is powerful, but we take the jar back outside and let the magic back into the universe. In this moment, we have understood how fire needs to be tended and some of our impulses contained.
All this time traveling, running with and away from fire, I’m parched, dry mouth once full of fiery speech and proclamations and now tasting like dust. I want to eliminate fire from my mind, my life. Do away with excitement, practice stone like behavior, stop wanting to fuel the imagination. But, of course, I can’t, we can’t live without fire. But where is our agreement with the Gods, the politicians, the fire keepers who are supposed to help maintain the balance of the elements? Where are the magical animals who can bring us back to fires that warm our spirits? So many fires are now out of control.
Leave those dark thoughts and go out again, this time to refuel my own psychic fire energy. Out one door and into another I wander into a relaxed juice bar and then up the stairs to a yoga mat where I find Raam, raam. “Say it with me” Raam “Say it with me as you envision the energetic flow and the color yellow”, Raam. I’m trying but all I can think about is my fear of fire. Raam. “Settle in for a few moments and awaken forward movement energy, the energy to see things through. See things through to where, where are we going? “Now we are in the pitta chakra of our inner fire known as Agni. Agni, it’s you again. Raam…“Nourish the inner fire that burns away whatever is no longer serving us, including limiting beliefs, ideas and memories”.
I get off the mat and walk towards an exit door. On the way out I notice a window looking up and I remember sand becoming glass through heat….. alchemy and transformation, the wonder of it all, all the times when fire gives life to new forms. As I go out the door and walk slowly towards home I hear “keep the home fires burning but don’t burn down the house” singing to myself…fire away, fire away, find a way with fire, carry the torch and begin again.