Warming Fires

My husband is a first responder for wildfires.  With the nights turning cooler around these parts, we’ve had several dinners and family evenings interrupted by fire calls.  I’m accustomed to this annual uptake.  As the trees shut down sugar production and drop their leaves, forests are particularly vulnerable to fire.  Fire is simply following its natural ebb and flow.  But this year, something different is happening.  This year, the wildfire calls aren’t originating from our area’s forests, they’re coming from our sub-divisions.

And no, all of North Carolina isn’t burning.  No homes have been threatened.  No lives have been endangered.  The calls have come from concerned citizens reporting warming and cooking fires on their neighbor’s property.  In most cases, these citizens are unaware that fires used for heating or cooking are legal, with municipalities overlaying their unique regulations on a condition of 1997 proscribed burn legislation that provided for a citizen’s right to keep warm or to cook food.  But even absent that knowledge, I’m having a difficult time understanding their concern, a concern so strong it compelled them to contact the authorities.

When did we become a people who upon seeing a fire circle burning in the dark and cold of the night, decide that the prudent course of action is to pick up our cell phones and report something amiss?  When did we come to fear fire so?  I’m pretty damn sure my ancestors would have sighed in relief to see the flames dancing, knowing they meant light and warmth; food and human companionship.

For eons we humans have circled in the glow of fires, drawn naturally to their power, to their gifts of survival.  But also drawn to them as a gateway to mystery.  Something magical happens as the night darkens and the shadows leap and grow.  The fire’s light dances across the faces of the people we love, softening lines, brightening eyes.  Children settle, mesmerized by the molten jewels and flaring bursts of blue, white and green.  The ancestors arrive, curious.  Soon, soon, someone begins to speak.

Once upon a time, the world was a much different place than it is today.  There were no strip malls, no cars, no paved roads.  No fast food, no grocery stores, no microwaves.  No electric lights, no TVs, no computers.  Not even any gaming reserves, zoos or formal gardens.  The earth was a magical Eden, where all the animals and plants talked and there was no hunger or death. 

But, wait, I can see you’re too grown up for that version, so look, I’m going to tell it to you straight.

It was a gentler time, but things still died.  The lions ate the zebras, and the zebras ate the plants, and the plants ate up the dirt and the sunlight and the rain.  This is the way of life, my dears.  Was then and is now. 

But anyway, that’s not the important part of this story.  What matters is the talking part, and that part, that part is true.  The lions, they roared; and the zebras answered back.  The plants did a lot of whispering and the dirt stayed understandably quiet.  But the sun and the rain, and oh, that wind, they liked to never quit, talking day and night.

People?  Ah yes, there were people.  And they were great listeners.  They listened to the lions’ roars and the zebras’ response.  And they listened to the plants’ whispers and the dirt’s quiet tones.  And they listened to the constant chattering symphony of the sun and the rain and the wind.  But mostly, they listened to the dragons.

No, now don’t be afraid.  Back then dragons roamed everywhere as guardians of peace and healing.  Whole towns would befriend several dragons as treasured cohorts.  The dragons joined in the town dances, lit bonfires when necessary, and generally led a joyous life.

But then, the people changed.  Some who were jealous of the dragons stopped inviting them to the festivals.  “Who needs to listen to those scaly old beasts, anyway?” they’d ask. 

And so more and more humans stopped listening.  Worse, they started talking.  And much worse, only among themselves.  No longer did they hear what the lion had to say.  Nor did they care for the rustlings from the plant realm.  Nor did they heed the pleadings of the sun and the rain and the wind.

Soon these humans decided that if they could talk for themselves, then surely they could take care of themselves.  And so they made more and more human things, which meant less and less room for the plants and the animals and the dirt. 

The dragons, one by one, disappeared.  Many died from broken hearts.  Others hid away in the places humans didn’t want — high on snowy mountains, deep in the oceans, enveloped in the desert sands or dense jungle vines.  A time of great sadness settled over all the earth.

But don’t cry my loves, all was not lost.  For there lived always a group of humans who remembered the dragons, sharing their stories of the old ways around the fire circle.  They were people like you and like me.  They were people who understood that dragons reflect the human heart.

So these people worked very, very hard.  They remembered to cherish the things the world gave them — water and sunshine and food and trees and animal companions for the mysterious nights and playful days.  They remembered to take only what they needed to live, as the lions have done since the days of old.  They remembered to listen as well as to talk.  And slowly, year after year, as these people lived in connection with the earth in all its mystery, tales of dragon-sightings grew.

I tell you this story that my mother told me, and that her mother told her, that you might never be lonely or scared.  For you are a human being and you are a part of this world.  As natural as the lions and the zebras and the trees and the plants and the sun and the rain and the wind.  As natural as the dragons.

Those wondrous, scaly beasts of old, the ancient guardians of peace and healing, do exist.  And if you are pure of heart, as I know you are, you need only call on them and I promise one will wing its way to you and let you catch its tail.

Around a fire, we remember we are the story tellers.

So as the nights’ lengthen and the wheel turns into winter, I challenge you to approach fire with love.  I trust you to intend no harm, to respect the power of fire and to act responsibly.

If you are able to have a warming fire on your own land, exercise your liberty and do so.  If you have a fireplace or wood burning stove, use it.  Or simply light a candle.  Then watch and see who comes to your fire circle.  Notice the stories you tell.  What does mystery hold for you in the flickering light?

© Jennifer S. and harvestliberty.net, 2012.


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