the cleansing burn of fire

by rebecca on April 17, 2010

Post image for the cleansing burn of fire

       Black soot covers my shoes as I race around with a white towel turned black from swinging it to hit the grass that’s burning to put out flames. The smoke fills my eyes and it stings. It’s a day of heavy lifting and sweat. So why do I feel so clean at the end of a burn day?

       We live on just enough property that the lawnmower can’t keep ahead of everything Mother Nature wants to grow. Once a year, in the spring, we burn just to start over. The irrigation ditches run more smoothly, the fence lines are tidier and, should an unplanned fire come, there will be less fuel to heat things up.

       There is nothing quite so energizing as flames racing across my property burning away what would take me weeks if not months to pull and stack and toss away. It’s gone in hours. I am free.

      I feel light and, with my new found energy, grab the rake to harvest the remains of last autumn’s fallen branches and leaves. I stack them into a big pile, planning a May Day bon fire.

      There are now huge black swaths across my land. It’s not pretty, but it is stark and I find it appealing for its pronounced beginning. I notice every blade of grass that pokes its head up through the embers. Several weeks from now the black will be gone and it will be lush and fertile here.

      This cycle of completely dead so that some more beautiful life can resurrect is poignant for me. Perhaps that is the reason for the clean feeling. It is a true beginning; life from the ashes.

      There are pieces of me I want to completely burn away. I tend to stack up dishes in my kitchen. I have too many shoes. I jump to conclusions when I wish I offered a greater measure of slack.

      How do I set fire to the part of me that is quick to assess? How do I create a black canvass to see the green blades of grass in my life each day?

      I think the fire feels so clean even though it’s dirty because it’s washing me and burning away not just the grasses on my land, but the debris in my mind. It’s true: I cannot burn my psyche where I make snap decisions or where I leap too fast to the next thing on my list to take the time to finish doing the dishes. But I can use the black canvass so prevalent in my yard just now.

      It is my altared space helping me to see what needs to die and burn in the spring cleaning fires and what blades of new life I’d like to see resurrected in my life as I go forward into a new season of growth.

      What would you like to burn away this spring? What new blades of green grass would you like to see emerging in your life amide the black ash?

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese April 20, 2010 at 9:44 am

What a beautiful piece, Rebecca. Thank you for sharing it.

I have always been mesmerized by fire, but until now I hadn’t given much thought to its powers of renewal. I appreciate the connection you make between your annual burning ritual and the cleansing possibilities it presents.

Personally, with two small children at home and all of the stuff that’s taken over our house, I feel tempted by your post to hold a ceremonial “burning” in which we assess what we really need and what is merely taking up space we don’t have – and then give the “ashes” to those who might be able to put them to better use.

I am new to your site and enjoyed my visit. Thanks.

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