Sunday, January 29, 2012

You and I and a Flame Make Three

Last night, I attended the Eighth Annual Winter Bonfire (and Xmas Tree Immolation) at Golden Gardens, a beach in the northern part of Seattle.  The light clouds provided insulation from the bitter cold, and friends, neighbors, and strangers gathered around three glowing fire pits. Every few minutes or so, a family Christmas tree, that had been drying out for over a month, was tossed into a pit. The fire would swallow the tree, sending its flames several feet into the air and washing the watchers in heat. Whoops and hollers would echo as the flames licked higher and brighter.

Papers and pencils were passed around for people to write wishes and toss them into the flames. Our host said, "Your wishes will come true! Or they won't." 

Fire dancers delighted us with fast spinning heat while djembe players set the rhythm. This woman's hips seemed to dictate the movement of the flames around her, swinging fast or sashaying slowly. The glow beneath her made her smile look Cheshire wild. 

Many of my personal rituals involve fire and heat. When I'm sick, I make a special concoction, heat it to near boiling and drink it very quickly, letting the heat scour the sickness out of my body. A celebratory alone night involves a steaming hot salt bath and fogged mirrors. Thanksgivings with the family used to be spent around a bonfire with a drum circle and capoeira. I've sent letters addressed to people I'm struggling to let go of into the flames of beach fires, or let them be consumed from the small flame of a match. I light a candle when I am cooking a meal for a friend and want to put intention and love into what I am cooking. 

One of my favorite songs right now (that coincidently captures my feelings about fire, love, and life) is Akron/Family's "River." 

And once this spark met kindling
Forgets its gentle ambling
Becoming heat, becoming steam
Becoming luminescent glee
Atoms splinter, sparkling
Alive and nimble symmetry
And all along, this glistening
Blankets we and everything
Shadows dance triumphantly
A wordless whisper sighs and pleas
Little deaths envelope thee
You and I and a flame make three

I've felt the sparkling of splintering, and I love it. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dreaming of the Desert

"A desert is a place without expectation." – Nadine Gordimer

The snow is piling up outside, a somewhat rarity for Seattle, and I am dreaming of the desert. I've been literally dreaming of it for as long as I can remember. My most vivid dream involved burning red canyons, dust gathering under my fingernails, and monolithic gods that moved the stars with their rock and roll music. 

I have a fantasy wherein I move to Taos, New Mexico. I live in a small adobe house where the walls are cold to the touch. I decorate my house with cacti, feathers, leather, and bones. I spend my days in a white men's button-up shirt, smoking from a pipe, and writing on a typewriter. The sand slides under my heels when I take walks in the evening. The sky is big, and sometimes I fear it will swallow me and my little house. 

The desert also makes me think of road trips. Riding in the car, windows rolled down, skin sticking to the leather seats. Dave, Dee, Dozy, Beaky, Mick & Tich raring and roaring on the radio. Trail mix and giant canteens of water litter the floor. My bare feet are on the dashboard, tapping in time to the music. The driver and I ask each other questions out of the "If..." book. The landscape seems to never, ever change. 

I am also fascinated by the night sky. Sweeping swaths of poison pink and purple color the sunset and the cacti silhouettes look like frozen dancing figures. It looks like I can reach out and pluck a star for my own keeping. The heat from the day still rises from the earth, and I catch it in my palms and cup it to my cold face. 

Some day I will make it to the desert. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Reward and Punishment

Last year was the first time I was ever cognisant of new year resolutions. My colleagues were all drastically changing their lifestyles, finding "solutions" to do more, eat less, be better. I found myself wondering if this is something that comes with age. As we get older, are we more likely to believe we are a problem to be solved?

Much like this deleted scene from Miranda July's The Future, I find my own strict resolutions feel like putting something precious in danger. I'm trapped, and my harshest critic (myself), rules with iron table legs. I am left blinking, silent, not knowing what to do for fear of disappointing the task master. These resolutions have a lifespan of a week, at most.

Instead of this reward and punishment system (where the reward seems weak and the punishment great), I prefer to look at this time of year as one of renewal. What are the parts of myself do I want to embrace? What parts have I been ignoring? What parts should I leave behind? I'm a patchwork girl, putting myself together with a blunt needle. It takes time, and I must go slowly and gently.

I may never be done putting myself together, and that's okay. I just repeat my favorite mantra: progress, not perfection.