I’m reminded today of my fascination with fire when I was younger. In fact, I think everyone has a fascination with the destructive forces of the flame when they’re young. The hypnotic way the flames dance, licking up the edges of the wood, consuming the kindling in a whoosh of light and heat and smoke.
Fire is beautiful in all its terribleness. It’s the light and warmth on a cool summer night; it’s the glaring face of the sun, burning merrily throughout the day; it’s the soft flicker of candlelight at a romantic dinner; the crackle and roar of a wildfire; the thump and whoosh of a bonfire, spurring people to confront their darkest fears and hopes, their id, their primal self. That which crouches in the darkness at the back of their brain and falls backward in awe and wonder at the first striking of the match.
I used to conduct “experiments” on fire when I was younger. I was in awe of how the flames would consume their targeted fuel. How paper would smolder if it was packed too tightly, but wouldn’t burn. You have to crumple the pages, leaving small pockets of air for the flame to grow and live. Straw doesn’t burn well in individual strands, but if you wind a few together, you can produce a decent flame. Wood is slow to get started, and almost impossible to get started without some form of kindling to start it off, and to keep the flame going until it has a really good claw into the logs. Dryer lint works amazingly well as tinder, while shedded dog fur does not. Wet grass won’t usually even take a spark, while dried grass works like a charm. Feathers stink to high heaven as they burn, as does human hair. (my own, thanks!) And sage smells like a sharp, hot knife, cutting through and waking me up, while sandalwood puts me almost in a meditative trance.
Fire is something that lives at the center of us all. There is an eternal spark that dwells within, that feeds on fuel of a different sort. Some call it passion, some – inspiration. But it lies there, dug down deep, waiting for the flames to be coaxed, fed, fueled. Some people feed their spark their whole lives, you can see it in their eyes. There’s a twinkle that lives there, proving that they are in the middle in the flames. Some are slow starters, burning low and constant, coals barely glowing, but if you add just the right fuel it is a flame that can burn down the world. Others, sadly, have let their flames go out, leaving nothing but soggy ash and charred ends. And then, at the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the flares, those that burn so hot and so bright, that they shoot up, blinding everyone around them, only to collapse too soon, having consumed all the fuel to early, and go dark.
What kind of flame do you have within? Do you feed it, or allow it to burn untended? What is your fuel, and where do you find your gaze lighting? Where’s the passion, the inspiration, the muse? These are things that I think about, on the long dark nights, in the Winter of the North, and I dig down deep, stirring up the coals.