“Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
Where everything shines as it disappears.” -Rainier Maria Rilke
Just before dusk, I built another bonfire.
I had limbs and logs fallen from live oaks and water oaks that grow on Allee de Lune. They needed to be burned of course, but I intuitively long to sit by an open fire and it is my favorite part of winter. When summer approaches, I will keep a fire to hold the mosquitoes at bay out here in the jungles of this South Carolina Sea Island called Edisto. My neighbors Fred and James taught me that, I think one day after they taught me to play dominoes.
The word Bonfire is said to be a contraction of “bone fire”, but may derive from the French for “good” and refer to any “good fire.” The practice is believed to derive from the Celtic festival of Samhain when animal bones were burnt to ward off evil spirits.
My artist self is fed, for whatever reason, by the ever changing dance of a bonfire. The colors and heat of the leaping flames fuel my imagination. A fire for me “clears the air” and renews, in some way, my ‘fire within’ – my energy – what stirs me. My love of a bonfire is like a painting I start without knowing what it is about. I just need to make it. Later I will know why. It is about trusting the process. Sort of like life and those wise folks who suggest our taking it one day at a time.
So of course, to confirm the principle of serendipidy a book arrived in last week’s mail, one that spoke to exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it, a book I even forgot I ordered late one night with the seductive one click button, from an Amazon used book seller. Dancing in the Flames, is about dancing in the heat of what life offers, about mining our dreams, about inviting the unconsciousness that lives in the dark to come out to dance. It is another invitation to courageously live in the heat of a life lived fully. Anais Nin wrote that “woman is the mermaid with her fish-tail dipped in the unconscious.” Living here so close to ocean, I like that image.
So I think the bonfire is invitation for me to be brave. To be willing. Not to be afraid of a little heat – a reminder that a good fire lights the dark places and burns out the chaff. And according to the alchemists of the ages past, there is a process involving fire that, in the end, yields pure gold – the purest, most fragile gold leaf – coming from the experience of playing with a little fire. Imagine that.
(altered version of one posted originally on May 10, 2010)