Wildfires & Bonfires

I have spent the past few weekends helping my brother clear out the fire hazards at our mother's ranch. We live in an area extremely prone to wildfires and we all take that risk very seriously. One of the things we do in the spring is rake up all the pine needles, broken branches, and other flammable yard debris and we burn what we can and drop the rest off at the landfill, for chipping.

Copyright 2017, Yancy Lael

Copyright 2017, Yancy Lael

As I was out raking, pulling in more material to throw into the burn pile behind me, I thought about how much we depend on our management of the land. It wasn't always this way - the land used to be free to manage itself (which it did quite well). It let the fires sweep across its plains, its forests. There was a reason for those fires - they cleared underbrush and other plant life that was competing with established trees. It was a clearing out that made room for other life to succeed.

We don't tend to be too keen to let Mother Nature manage herself on her own, anymore. We have our cars, our homes, the roots we have almost literally put into the earth. We don't want the wildfires to sweep through our land. So we do our best to control that.

Nevertheless, things happen. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. Tornadoes. And yes, those fires sometimes rip through the land, despite our best efforts. As my brother and I threw branches and pine needles into the fire, we talked about our own hurricanes and wildfires - broken relationships, recent disappointments, and all the new growth that was coming into our lives.

I wondered, though: Who was the keeper, the watcher of these wildfires and everything that came after them? Who held and protected the voles, the badgers, the deer, when fire ripped through their land? Who held my brother's hand or mine when the fires swept into our lives? Who is watching us? Who is protecting us?

And of course, it was just the right weekend to be around a bonfire what with today being Beltane Eve. Just the right weekend to be pondering the protective mother energy of this universe and all the new life and new growth springing up around us.

I feel so certain that there is someone or something that holds on to us during the wildfires. We are protected through the burn. We often can't see until later how much good the fire will do for us.

And now…spring is here. It's the time of year when we'll start to see the new life springing up in the areas that were burned. We'll start to notice that yes, someone was holding us through that entire process (even if that process lasted many years - or even a decade or two) and just waiting excitedly to show us what was going to spring up from the ashes.

We are always held. Always protected. Always blessed.

Even in the fire.

The Fine Line

This is it. The moment we cross the boundary from darkness back into light. A time of life, of activity, of busyness.

 

There’s always a fear in me when we’re at the opposite side of this event – the autumnal equinox. While I love fall and the onset of the holiday season, I don’t do as well in the darkness, especially if the weather is particularly bad (as it was this year.) It is my instinct, as I think it is with most people (since we were biologically designed this way) to sleep more, rest more, listen more.

 

Unfortunately, I don’t feel like I have that opportunity when we’re in the dark side of the year. Schedules don’t change. Demands aren’t altered to make room for these seasonal and biological needs. The world keeps moving along, as fast as if it were the hot, long, busy days of summer.

 

But at this time of year, my energy matches the expectations of the world out there. I’m excited. I’m energized. I’m ready to hit the ground running.

 

This is such an exciting time, with all the plants in the world waking up, reaching toward the sky, getting ready to put on one of their two big events of the year – The Great Blossom. I love the air in April, when it’s filled with perfume, when every breeze carries a whorl of fallen petals on its breath. It’s like the earth is reaching out a hand to us, telling us how much it loves us, and how much it longs for us to love it back.

 

Copyright: Yancy Lael 2017

Copyright: Yancy Lael 2017

We’re just at the threshold now. Everything is suspended in one perfect moment of balance. But just one. After that moment (Monday, March 20th, 3:29 am Pacific Time), we’ll be barreling toward action, drive, production, creation. Gardens will be growing, the ground will be warming, rivers will be running high with snow melt. And it’ll keep going until we hit the next equinox and watch the earth go back into sleep.

 

This is our dance. It’s certainly a nice thing to remember at a time like this, when some of us might see the world as so wildly out of balance.

 

But we only get one moment. Then the pendulum swings again. Spring comes to the earth now, but some of us feel that we are just entering a long winter. We can look ahead, though, with hope, because we know that moment of balance will return, eventually. The air will be filled with perfume again, blowing those petals all around.

 

For just a moment.

 

Prepare the space for inspiration

There is a stretch of time between the winter holidays and February that is dark, quiet, and bitterly cold. I often struggle in the days after Christmas, when the tree comes down, when all the pretty lights get put away. My soul knows it's not time, yet. We're still in the darkest days of the year and removing the evergreen, the illumination from our homes at that time is just too soon.

Thankfully, 33 days later comes the moment when the ember of warmth and light that we hold close to our chests during the winter solstice becomes the tiniest flicker of a flame. Candlemas (or Imbolc) is here. In pre-Christian times, this holy day fell between the winter solstice and vernal equinox, marking the halfway point of winter - the tipping of the scales when spring finally started gaining strength and crocuses were starting to push through the snow. The day was often associated with the goddess of inspiration, Brigid, who was later incorporated into Christian tradition as St. Bridget.

As Christianity overtook the cultures of the Great Mother, this day became a celebration of light, when baby Jesus was held by Simeon and declared to be the light of the world. The churches blessed their candles on this day (hence the name), and many people would leave candles burning in their windows throughout the night to commemorate this sacred time.

This is one of my favorite holidays of the year. It feels like such a deeply sacred time to me, a time when I long to keep the world at a bit of a distance, a time when I want to spend the evenings with family members and hold them close. Truthfully, and I mean no disrespect by this, I'd rather have a paid holiday on Candlemas/Imbolc than on President's Day.

If you look closely, there is such a beautiful magic in this time of year, even though it seems that we are still locked in the harsh embrace of bitter winter (which, itself, is an illusion - I'm convinced that winter is a gentle lover that some of us have yet to learn to appreciate). It's a perfect time to kindle the flames of inspiration that have been smoldering in our hearts all winter long. It's a time to appreciate the magic of the earth, the energy of the sacred feminine that is on the brink of succulent fertility, and the innocence of childhood.

Did you know that in the old days, people celebrated this day much like Christmas - by setting up a tiny bed near the hearth and leaving an offering of milk and honey for the goddess who became weary on Imbolc Eve, visiting everyone and touching them with her inspiration? Sound familiar? A little Santa-esque, right? This tradition of setting up a Brigid's Bed is so charming and magical, it makes my heart smile. Can you imagine living in a culture where our children were as excited about setting up a Brigid's Bed as they were about hanging stockings on the mantle at Christmas? What a wonderful thought.

It's a beautiful lesson for us all. Inspiration has been smoldering in our hearts and souls all winter long. It is waiting to flicker into a flame. But we have to set out a bed for it, first. We have to make a space for it. Whether that is literal or metaphorical, let this celebration of light, of inspiration, be our preparation for whatever is waiting to be born within us.