Posts Tagged ‘fire’

The presence of ashes

January 2, 2012

On New Year’s Eve, nearly all of my material belongings burned to ashes.

I am still wondering how I feel about that.

My 54-years of selected items were stored in a friend’s barn. He was storing them for free to help me regain my financial well-being after the housing market crashed and burned (metaphorically, no pun intended) back in 2008 and I had to sell a condo at a loss. I am living with a limited amount of space right now and have done quite well without those items for the past two years. There was nothing of great monetary value. The value was in their memories and my history: photos of my family, a butcher block a dying friend gave me, a dresser that was 60 years old, dishes from my defunct marriage (not at all teary over that), my granddaughter’s Dora the Explorer dollhouse, my oldest daughter’s Sylvanian families animal doll set, a painting of the ocean by one of my sisters.

Curiously, this incident occurred at the same time I was writing my prayer for the new year (see “The presence of prayer”). I don’t believe for an instant that God said “Hey! I know! Let’s send her the towering inferno!” I think the fire would have happened regardless of my writing. The larger message is that everything is temporary and transitory. All of those items were made from the dust and elements of the earth and now they are returned. Perhaps I no longer need them at all.

It was not the only fire in my life that day. We had set the oven to clean on New Year’s Eve and awoke to the sound of smoke alarms at about 2:30 a.m. The oil in the oven had caught fire. Fortunately, the fire was contained inside the oven and it is now pretty darn clean. Lesson learned: clean the oven more often.

Part of me feels relieved of the worry about my stuff or having to pay someone to move it for me. I did not lose everything. I have some specific special items here with me: my meditation table and items, my books, a few pictures of my daughters, my vacuum (don’t ask), some kitchen items, and my bed.

Fire is nature’s way of removing the old and the dead. It sets the stage for new life to begin. There are some seeds in nature that require fire so they can burst open. The cones of young jack pines require intense heat in order to split apart and free their seeds. An endangered songbird (the Kirtland’s warbler) will nest only in these pines and the pines only grow in recently burned forests. (Go to “PBS”.)

I am sorry for my friend who lost a huge part of his investment in his farm. He truly lost something hundreds of times more valuable than my stuff and was at danger of losing several more buildings on his property. I am grateful there were no horses or humans in that barn and only hope the mice escaped into the wilderness.

I am more keenly aware of not becoming too attached to material things because in an instant, they can all be gone. The same is true for the living beings I love. Yet, I vow to remain attached to my love for them because that is the way I know I will find them in the next iteration of my existence.

I am one of those people who wander around finding meaning in all of life’s incidents. It is what I do as a human. Otherwise, life is meaningless and empty. Okay – life is meaningless and empty to begin with. We are the ones who fill it up with meaning. The meaning I find here today is to be grateful for what I do have: my essential belongings, the memories of my former life, the people who are still around, and the gift of knowing what is important.

©2012 by Barbara L. Kass

the presence of wind

September 4, 2010

I had the good fortune to be on a Shamanic journey the weekend after Magic died where I connected with the spirits of nature: fire, wind, water, earth, bugs, and plants. Connection with nature is available all the time and requires only that I focus my attention to use my senses to see, hear, feel, smell, and taste.

Fire is probably the only spirit that one might not want to taste in its burning naked essence, but we taste and ingest fire anytime we have eaten a plant or an animal cooked over an open flame. I doubt that I would ever lick an insect or eat dirt, and I remind myself to admire poison ivy from afar and only taste water that I know well.

The wind is an entirely different matter. Wind is air molecules who have caught the energy of the sun and use it to travel the earth. It is with us all the time. Can you taste the wind? Of course we can. We can measure its strength with our bodies, watch its effects with our eyes, smell its fragrance through our nostrils, and hear its journey as it passes through tree branches and lifts the eaves of our homes. Most of us don’t stick our tongues out to taste it as it passes by, but you might try it sometime.

Because it is always available, I have begun to pay attention to wind while walking. The west wind visited me the other day, bringing with it the promise of autumn. I felt its breath of coolness against my skin even though the temperature of the air was well over 90 degrees. As I inhaled, the air tasted and smelled faintly of dusty leaves and earthy soil. It was easy to see and hear the trees ruffling in the breeze, but that was not all I could hear. Beneath the quiet trembling of tree limbs, the wind offered me a whisper of advice: look to be happy.

I’ve been pondering this advice. It is not so much that the wind advised me to be happy. It clearly said “look” to be happy. If I expect happiness, I will seek it – I will look to find it around me. I can expect that if I desire happiness, I will find and experience happiness within myself. Even if there are some present circumstances in my life that I am not totally happy with, I can look within my being and find much to be happy and joyful about. Being happy is a proactive way of life.

When I quiet the monkey chatter in my head and connect to these ever-present spirits of nature, I realize my more complete oneness. The wind is always inside me filling my lungs, providing my cells with precious molecules of oxygen. My contribution is the carbon dioxide I exhale which the wind then carries to all the plants of the earth. They, in turn, sustain me with their nutrients when I ingest them. The wind even captures the molecules of water on my skin when I sweat and lifts them high into the atmosphere where they become clouds of rainwater. Those molecules carry an essence of me to share with the world.

The next time it rains, I am going to imagine I am being showered with happiness.

©2010 by Barbara L. Kass