For the Love of a Good Fire: Bonfire

“Want the change. Be inspired by the flame

Where everything shines as it disappears.” -Rainier Maria Rilke

Birthday Cake. For S. 16x20 oil on canvas

Bonfire. 16x20, oil on canvas. CHW'11

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)

I was called to be an artist. And as an old old midwife said to me "If the Lord wants you to do something, you won't have no good luck' til you do." So, here I am, sharing what I love, longing to illuminate the work of art, which is everywhere.

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Posted in art, Arts & Culture, beauty, Charleston South Carolina, creativity, Poetry, spirituality, Writing
6 comments on “For the Love of a Good Fire: Bonfire
  1. When I was doing massage therapy, it was a ritual. I always had to have four elements in the space: earth, water, air and fire. How that usually played out was a living plant, running water fountain, some kind of essential oil in the air and a candle or three. Fire is very important to rituals, I think. I love a good fire, too. Cool post. Love the painting. Is that new?

    • I love that, Hadley. Yes, fire is important to ritual. Lighting a candle even before supper. Clears the air. Guess it is why for hundreds of years one lit a candle in a big cathedral to remember someone, and now we light candles on birthday cakes. Yes, the painting is a new one. I made it for my friend, Sadler, whose birthday is was yesterday. It is his house and it was from a picture of a bonfire he built there. It is called “Birthday Cake”….:) Thank you for the thoughtful comment. xo

  2. Waring Hills says:

    Loved the imagery Charlotte, both visual and verbal…certainly used throughout the Bible in God’s purifying fire…particularly with the technique of a silversmith, burning the impurities out of an object, too little and the job wasn’t done, too much fire and the item was destroyed…how did he know when it was purified and he was done…it was when he could see his image in the object he held.

  3. Sadler says:

    Thank you for the beautiful words and painting Charlotte. What a great Birthday Cake! The flames were a renewal of sorts. They were consuming some old things, making room for the new. This moment was the twilight just before dark and moonrise.

    • It was my pleasure. Your picture tapped into my own muse, you see. And I do think you understand the “love of a good bonfire”. I hope I can make one for you at Allee de Lune on Edisto one day. Come sit with me under the blanket of her brilliant night sky. Perhaps then we can plan a trip out into the sea on a ship named the ‘Hey Babe’.

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Welcome to my blog about the Lowcountry of South Carolina, a place proud with beauty, history and art. Sometimes we feel a call, to be, to go, to do. I was called to be an artist, and as an old midwife from Alabama said, “If the good Lord wants you to do something, you won’t have no good luck until you do it.”

So here I am writing about what I know, about the 'under glimmer' as the poet Basho, says, the way I have learned to see, to notice. I am inspired by, and talking about the history and art and culture of this place that has called me to herself. By the ancestors.

My background includes a degree in fine arts from a small private college in Florida, and before that, four years of all girls' boarding school in Asheville. I worked as a professional photographer, helped my children grow up, and now and I love seasoned things, good food, better conversation, beauty, my beloved and beautiful Italian Greyhound, Beau. Moved by the sacred places and stories of this beautiful historic land called the Lowcountry, I am here in spirit and I hope to infect you with my love of this place.

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