Monday, February 1, 2021

Fire and Rain

 February 1, 2021

For many years the house  I grew up in,  was heated by two coal burning fireplaces and a coal burning Warm Morning heater in the kitchen corner.  It was only a four room house so we stayed cozy most winters.  We lived in coal mining country, coal was cheap and plentiful.

I learned early the value, the beauty and danger of fire.  I remember the warmth of flames and embers on skinny little legs covered by a flannel nightgown and the yells of my mother warning me not to stand to close.  I can close my eyes and still see the grate holding the burning coals, the glow and depth of the red embers and oily smell of burning coal.  It seemed that even the belly of the heater had a glow when daddy would pour a scuttle of fresh coal in its mouth.

I suppose it was those winters that instilled in me a love and respect of fire.  As I grew older I realized that fire had played many roles in history, and that it had been a part of many stories and myths.  I think in wonder of what it must have been like to live in that earliest of civilizations when man and fire found each other.

When I worked at the addiction center, those with  PTSD, trauma and grief were required to come to my class.  As I listened to their stories, as I pursued my studies and involvement in helping those in recovery,  I understood that fire could be a release in many ways.  I encouraged students to write letters to those who had hurt them, to those that they needed to forgive but couldn't find the voice or courage, write letters.  Write letters describing in great detail, pain, hurt, anger, hate, fear, sadness, grief  and then...burn that letter.

Let the fire release and take away all those words and feelings.  Fire is extremely cathartic and healing. It can be an incredible first step in forgiveness and letting go.

Because Rick's death had been so traumatic for me, I knew at some point I needed to light a fire. I had wanted to do it on his birthday, but the weather would not let me.

Last Sunday, our good friend Fred ( who happens to be a trauma counselor at the center where I had worked) came over and helped me burn and release.  We spent close to six hours burning a fire almost as big as my great room.  Now much of the wood that was the base of the fire had been there since last spring when storms had blown down trees and limbs but Rick just never got around to burning it.  Since I order many of my supplies I had saved boxes for the past few months and a couple of months of newspapers as well.

As the fire started to burn, I had a long handled pitch fork, and Fred brought his "poker" that he uses in the fires with his work.  I had prepped the area around the mound, raking away pine straw, making sure there was no plastic, glass or metal in the pile.  As the fire took life and began to burn, we talked a bit at first, but then Fred started to explain that fire was much like life, and to live, it had to breathe.  We spent the next few hours, poking and prodding that fire with Fred reminding me to breathe, to let the fire breathe and to let go.

Once the fire had burned down to smoking logs, Fred left.  The clouds were rolling in and there were sprinkles dropping from the sky.  In an hour or so, I knew there was still unfinished business with me and the fire.  I went back out and grabbed my fork and started the poking and prodding, soon there were flames rising from those log, tears were falling down my cheeks, and rain and darkness were moving in.

For an hour in the rain and the darkness, I stood and watched those flames finally begin to wither.  All I could think of by then was James Taylor's song, Fire and Rain.  I had seen them both.

Today in Ireland, the Irish celebrate St. Brigid.  She is much older than Christianity, she was a Celtic goddess, so beloved by the Irish that the Church canonized her.  She is the Goddess of holy wells, fire and healing, and poetry.  With my Irish heritage, it seemed fitting to write this blog about fire and healing today.  Perhaps it is in my genes, this love of fire, poetry and healing.   I  can tell you this, that fire last weekend was healing in many ways.

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