When I was seven years old, I won an award at Girl Scout camp for fire building. We were, with fire pits all lined up in a row, supposed to build a fire that would catch quickly, (a one-match fire as the cool kids used to say), rise quickly, and burn through a length of rope that was suspended several feet above.
Let me repeat — I was seven years old.
Some people are naturals at downhill skiing or card games. I seem to have a natural ability in building fires.
I found this recently, I don’t know the author:
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs;
A breathing space.
Too much of a good thing, too many logs
Packed in too tight
Can douse the flames
Almost as surely as a pail of water would.
So building fires
To the spaces in-between,
As much as to the wood.
When we are able to build
In the same way we have learned
To pile on the logs,
Then we can come to see how
It is fuel, and absence of fuel
Together, that make the fire possible.
We only need to lay a log
Lightly from time to time.
A fire grows
Simply because the space is there,
With openings in which the flame
That knows just how it wants to
Can find its way.
What I have learned in the last number of months — the time of climbing back to strength — is that there are many open spaces in my life from which the fire will come.
I am not going to lie.
It has taken a fair amount of bravery to get through.
The scenery around me has changed.
Perhaps I seem to have been lolling about, following forward with the river.
But I wish I would have done more lolling about.
Where I am is not where I have been — and it is not where I was — before. I am rolling into somewhere completely new.
Months ago I believed that I had fought the dragon but there have been many more dragons stepping into my path. If I am honest, there was also darkness, plague — and prayer. And if I am being honest about the underground — although there is mud and dirt — there are also — many gems to be found deep down — which, if you have done much digging in yourself or in the earth — you already know to be true.
It’s been very intense over here.
I heard a story of a man who was being chased by a tiger. After he ran several blocks he realized it was only a dog, painted to look like a tiger. What might have happened if he had stopped in his tracks and let the tiger overtake him? He would have found it was a dog. He might have been attacked by a tiger — or a dog. It would have taken enormous bravery to stand still.
Bravery on standing still.
How much courage does it take for you to stand still?
Standing still is like the poem about the fire — it is allowing space. It is exhaling knowing/trusting that the next breath will come. That every exhale is imbued with the trust that there will be oxygen when it is time to inhale.
I admit that when I am in a hurry — I start my fire — and I pile one log on top of another — I don’t take that extra couple of minutes to create space. And air. And more space.
I don’t know how you are all doing it — but getting just the right amount of space is something that I am not mastering. Maybe yet — or maybe never.
We are moving into a continued time of rapid change. It’s as though we are following that river — some intense rapids. I, for one, have to remember to leave space for processing all of it — even as the river is rushing so very quickly.
It is good to stop at the banks — hold onto a tree trunk — and breathe.
One more thing I found — but did not write: Here is holy fire. The power of fire to cleanse and to purify — to uplift, to light our way — to warm our hearts and to bring us back home.