Making and tending fire is something I’ve done for almost as long as I can remember. It was our only heat source during my upbringing. A huge amount of time was spent felling, chopping and stacking firewood, building fires, and feeding fires.
We also spent a lot of time preparing for wildfire. We watered all summer—the constant “ch-ch-ch-“ of the heavy old rainbirds, and we raked and trimmed and cleared and burnpiled, all under the direction of our father. He, unlike us kids, had the whole picture in mind.
When the wildfire came years later, he was ready. I’ve told that family story, and what my mother chose to bring, countless times as an introduction to the song, Kitchen Table and Chairs. I’ve told of our friend Roy’s trailer exploding in Silver Stream. I’ve talked about how we crave fire in Crash and Burn. Upon reflection, I’d say fire crept inside of me as a child and has never left. Of recent, I wrote California, who “smokes beside you while you sleep,” and crushes our hearts.
Right now, as many of us are fleeing fires or smoke, or fighting fires, our hearts are crushing. I find my ghost drifting off toward the forests and blazes, to the incinerating storms that turn everything to ash and fumes. One can sense their irreverence for our lifestyle, their hunger for renewal, and their sheer insanity in taking so many innocent lives. Fire, my friend, who becomes a massive monster with the excesses and mistakes of men. Just following fuel.
Fire can’t burn songs, which means, fire can’t burn spirit. Those who have lost their loved ones, and/or their homes know that. It can, however, provide a pivotal turning point for those in its path.
May we all truly grasp what fire is showing us, and where it is leading us. May we all recognize humanity’s mistakes. May we work to heal ourselves, our greater web of life, and our home. May we have the whole picture in mind.