On the last Monday of October I drive to work in pre-dawn darkness as deep as midnight. Rounding bends on deserted backroads past unlit houses, gaping stubbled fields, hulking shapes of farm equipment, shadowed barns, patches of woods, when off in the distance, through silhouetted tree trunks—fire.
A bonfire. Tall flames, bright orange against the blackness, undulating skyward. Startling. So Halloween-esque. Hauntingly beautiful in its way except….I can’t tell what’s burning. Probably trash. The fire seems large for that, and before sunrise? I am too far away to see anything but the fire itself. I cannot see smoke or smell it. No screaming sirens. No alarms. Only silence, stillness…should I investigate to be sure? The road twists and turns, demanding my attention, and as I reach a tricky intersection where a few sets of headlights from opposite directions approach and pass, I realize: I’ve lost sight of the fire now. I am not sure of its location. Somewhere close by it’s burning, consuming, destroying, I hope nothing precious, nothing of value… and so I cross the intersection, praying it is controlled until extinguished.
On I drive in the darkness, shivering.
I think of anger.
Fire, anger. The contrast of being controlled, purifying, and righteous, or uncontrolled to the point of destroying, intentionally or not, what is precious, valued, and loved. Thinking of that fire throughout the day yesterday—there were no reports of damage—reminded me of a poem I wrote last week:
Why I Pray
In the absence of peace,
When my mind cannot fathom
or even form questions,
When I am weary
of injustice, of sifting truth and lies,
when my inner well has run dry,
I pray for power beyond my own.
To overcome the red-hot dagger of fury,
that I should not wield it,
thereby scarring others
To knit words of healing instead,
one by one,
like snowflakes falling
to form a blanket of blessing,
a holy hush.
Freeing myself by forgiving
as well as others,
feeling the weight drop away.
That quickening sense of awe,
for even if I cannot call
fire from Heaven (thankfully),
I can move mountains of ice
in my own heart.
Because, as long as I live,
I will battle need, loss, and fear,
trusting that love conquers all
—its beating wings in my heart,
forever my reason
with thanks to Andy Schoenborn for the “Embrace your why” prompt and the mentor poem written by a student, shared on Ethical ELA’s Open Write last week.
and to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life Story Writing Challenge, always encouraging “a world of reflective writers”—so needed.
Photo: Burning fire at night. wuestenigel. CC BY 2.0