Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Building a Fire

Some days there is nothing more cleansing than sitting down and pouring words onto a page.
Other days, we simply need to be dragged out of our selves to breathe.

It poured a gushing rain two nights before I went camping alone on the grounds of a retreat center a few weeks ago.  Even with a couple sticks of fat wood, my first fire, which promised to be a rager, coughed and hissed until it was shockingly just smoke.  

By morning, the fat wood was gone, but determined not to drink cold tea, I gathered the driest leaves, grasses, twigs I could find.  Finally, a flame caught, I added bigger sticks, and sat down with my journal and book.  Right as I picked up my pen, the fire turned to smoke.  So up I stood, snapping dry twigs, blowing into the embers, and starting the fire again.  Then I sat down with my journal and book.  Right when I picked up my pen, smoke.  So up I stood to comb the woods again.  Right when I sat down, smoke.  By the time I held hot tea (victory!), it had been an hour.

What I'd most wanted to do was sink into my thoughts, dig around in the restlessness, read words for grounding, and sit outside of the life of constant interruptions.  Instead, interrupted constantly, I made a fire with my hands.  I fed kindling to hot ash, watched for a flame to catch, and layered logs until it did.

Sometimes the saving comes through our hands.

The other night, I was reminded of camping.  It was a dark, not outside with the nearly-full moon, but inside with churning and doubting.  I lay in bed with open tired eyes for hours.  Around midnight Eden unexpectedly cried out.  Her head hurt with sharp pain that made her whimper even after she dozed off.  So I sat stroking her hair for an hour, then lay on the floor with a quilt, waiting for her to wake.  Eventually I peeled myself up and fell back into bed asleep.

The headache hasn't come back, and I wonder if it wasn't just there to shake me out of myself, to give me a way to care with my hands, to leave my thoughts, and finally to sleep.

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