“She” of the Fire

March 14, 2011

This past week I burned off a pile of wood debris accumulated over the past five years in order to create an ash bed for a much larger garden. The visuals were powerful. Such intensity. Such immediate transformation.

Such a potent symbol for transformation.

To the Beloved

Extinguish my eyes, I’ll go on seeing you.
Seal my ears, I’ll go on hearing you.
And without feet I can make my way to you,
without a mouth I can swear your name.

Break off my arms, I’ll take hold of you
with my heart as with a hand.
Stop my heart, and my brain will start to beat.
And if you consume my brain with fire,
I’ll feel you burn in every drop of my blood.

Rilke, The Book of Hours II, 7

And, stepping out of the fire with her right foot was a fire goddess. The most ancient Greek fire goddess Hestia, perhaps? Or, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, Pele?

She seemed to suggest to me that the fire of transformation was okay; that change was a necessary part of existence.


Want the change. Be inspired by the flame
where everything shines as it disappears.
The artist, when sketching, loves nothing so much
as the curve of the body as it turns away.

What locks itself in sameness has congealed.
Is it safer to be gray and numb?
What turns hard becomes rigid
and is easily shattered.

Pour yourself out like a fountain.
Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

Every happiness is the child of a separation
it did not thin it could survive. And Daphne, becoming a laurel,
dares you to become the wind.

Rilke, Sonnets to Oprheus II, 12

But too much change?

Consider this:

The Flame of Life

Find a candle and place it unlit in front of you with a box of matches at the ready. Now take a match and light the candle, watching carefully as the flame leaps into life.

See the flame burning easily and constantly, and contemplate the fact that what you are seeing happens only because there is just the right amount of oxygen in the air. Had there been just 10% more oxygen, the flame created when you lit the match would have set you on fire, as well as the furniture in the room and then the whole house. From there the fire would have spread far and wide without stopping. Had you lived in South America, the fire would have spread over the whole continent and thence to central America and eventually to the whole of North America. Anyone lighting just a single match on any island, or on any isolated land mass would have created a similar unstop able fiery holocaust.

On the other hand, with around 15% oxygen in the air, your brain would be unable to generate enough energy to sustain your consciousness, and you would be unaware of the candle, the flame or the fact that you are reading this text.

Stephan Harding, Animate Earth

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Sara (Sulis) March 29, 2011 at 7:34 am

So happy to be reminded to visit by your FB posts and to see that you have been healing well. I always feel uplifted by your blogs Peter. And as a water person who has been standing at the edge of bonfires for three years now – discovering the power in that also – I loved this.

The forest where I have been staying continues to recover from the tornado-hurricane that swept through May 2009 and left such devastation. The odd thing is that it seems also be transforming itself into something more beautiful.

There is still the watery soul, so the stanza that caught me up was this:

Flow into the knowledge that what you are seeking
finishes often at the start, and, with ending, begins.

It would be magical to visit one of these years. Meanwhile, keep flowing.

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