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Called to the fire

 

Its been more than a year and a half of being called to the fire and I’m beginning to share what I have learned on this journey which started on a brutally cold February night in 2017. It was a low point in my experience, feeling great loss and confusion both within my personal life and also in the culture at large. I wanted a practice, some kind of ritual of self care that was significant enough to hold my attention, something to help me heal and also to deal with what felt like significant cultural trauma. I was heart broken and the United States appeared to be on a crash course with significant injury. I needed something to thaw the numbness and I began to build fires as often as I could, outside in the uncomfortable and freezing winter landscape of rural Vermont.

That is where this fire journey began.

The following June I began to learn about seven wisdom teachings during a week long journey in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It was on that journey that I began to understand my relationship to fire, the building and keeping of fire, the lessons it held and my responsibility to share what it had taught me. The fire had called me, and I had received the gift of its offerings, I began to understand it as a connection to being human, to myself, to my own nature,  and to the spirit of nature.

Fire and 7 teachings seemed so simple and yet they were not at all simple. Courage, Love, Humility, Honesty, Respect, Wisdom and Truth…

2018, another year and another tragedy. Again in deep sadness, from my own selfish need and as an offering for all of the pain being experienced in that time, I set out in the icy cold landscape to build and strike a fire for Courage. I struck that fire for myself and for the world and from that first intentional fire, set as an offering and to deeply consider Courage, I knew I had began my seven fires journey.

The Courage fire led to the fire of Love, and then Humility, Honesty, Respect, Wisdom and finally Truth, in that order.  Each fire taught me so much and still burns in my experience.

~

I offer these reflections on the fires and my learning of the 7 teachings, not as evidence of expertise of any kind but rather as seeds of ideas that might settle into the fertile soil of humanity, where perhaps we can return to the natural trajectory of life, return to our one nature and begin to rehumanize.

I am a commitment to fire and sharing its teachings.

~ My spirit name in Ojiibwe is Giniw Ode Ikwe, I received it at a naming ceremony at a sacred fire on the shore of the lake of dancing spirits, I was welcomed into this name surrounded by lady slippers at edge of Kitch-iti-kipi in the upper peninsula of Michigan.

Many blessings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Truth

May (fire river  journey) notes and recollections.

Truth called me again to the river, early in the day.

I packed my fire bag supplies, again as I did for wisdom.

I carried them down into the glen across the river bed, through the “creek” side of the river and then up to where I had built a truth fire circle the day before.

I went to the wisdom circle to retrieve the coal, which interestingly seemed to have a blue cast.

The morning was cool and damp, and the sun was shining. I collected wood from the land, without adding any harvested wood from my wood pile. As I constructed the fires fuel, I added small things that I had collected during the year long fire journey, a peice of birch bark I had brought from the woods, pieces of false tinder mushrooms, and skataghan that I had gathered on a hike but that was too dry to catch a spark, dried leaves and a grass nest, along with the 4 medicines from my medicine bag I’d filled in Michigan.

23 strikes

very smokey.

Truth’s first lesson: truth needs attending but there is no need to add anything, just work with what is there.

Truth is work… and you have to work with truth. It needs space to open up, room to breathe. Truth has lightness.

As I sat with the fire of truth, I observed it’s complex and lacy smoke, like a beautilful weaving of the teachings and their truths. As I sat with truth it occurred to me that kindness is the evidence of the seven teaching integrated, kindness to ourselves, to each other and to our environment. I spent the day with truth, dipping in the river to refresh now and again, between attending the fire and its needs.

The fire of truth must be fed and to be integrated the teachings must be fed.

Truth is was not a predictable fire, it didn’t  follow a particular structure, and it needed room to breathe to get to the essence of courage, love, humility, honesty, respect and wisdom.

seven fires, seven teachings, one way of being in the world in this one life

Wisdom

May (fire river journey: river)

Notes form my journal

1 strike

I struck this fire for wisdom, it was a strong fire that wanted to spread it sent feelers to the edge to the fire circle. This fire opened up flames and invisible gasses, the mirage of heat was visible in this fire, struck earlier in the day light because of my desire to have this fire at the river.

This fire showed me that Wisdom is everywhere, holding space in the unseen places. Wisdom is tucked in and under and when it opened up again it was eager to share more. It is easily moved at having attention, the wind calls and it wants to wander and dance.

wisdom knows, is eager, hot and consuming, immediate – ready to offer when asked

FIRES AT THE RIVER ARE DIFFERENT

The Wisdom fire called me to create more ceremony in its building, and it to strike it at the river. I carried to the river: nature’s book of wisdom an odd collection of dried compressed leaves I’d found at the river and brought to the studio the previous fall,  coal from the courage, love, honesty humility, and respect fires which I’d struck in a copper fire bowl, my medicine bag with the 4 medicines, and harvested fire wood.

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I opened the circle where after coming back form Michigan I’d struck my first intentional fire (i never felt that i had the privilege to call them sacred). I stacked the wood and placed natures book of wisdom in the stack, collected the kindling and set the nest on top of it all, I offered the 4 medicines (cedar, sage, tobacco, sweetgrass) and in pulling the medicines out of the medicine bag I also pulled out a small piece of birch bark that I’d written my spirit name on the day after I’d received it in Michigan 11 months before. When it came out of the bag I knew it had to be part of the offering. So I tucked it into the nest along with the coal I had brought down from the copper bowl. And in setting my intention for learning from the wisdom fire, I closed my eyes and asked for permission to both strike the fire and also to share what i learned. In that moment I began to hear singing in my mind and could only voice what I was hearing aloud to nature, and in my minds eye I was met by an unfamiliar man with many feathers who mirrored my motions in striking the fire…. the spirit of the fire and of the river and of the intention of sharing the gift of wisdom all met me in a deeply grounding way. And so I struck

1 strike

Respect

May (fire/river journey)

Notes from my journal

12 strikes

A blanket of smoke hugged close to the land, I watched as it moved across the field, and into the distance with a kind of settled assuredness.  Fire washed over the wood, it came up evenly, with strength and fairness.  There was hidden power in this fuel, and it startled me with strong certain pops.

This fire burned most beautifully with what seemed a completely even duality, self and other

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This fire needed no tending and offered completely engaging warmth, it made minor adjustments which seemed to be an interplay between offering and receiving. This fire offered sparks to the stars and as I looked up it occurred to me that I was seeing fire in the sky, and considered the possibility of this fire, being received at such a great distance, and in that moment remarkably I received a response in the form a shooting star.

Gazing at the stars I began thinking about my relationship to the eagle, to its ability to be both be of the land and part of the spirit of the sky. I found myself considering the intensity of these earth fires, and how my intentional and directed focus had been specifically on physical fires and what each represented for me internally.  But in looking to the sky my focus shifted from the internal to the external, to the universal, to the cosmic, and to a respect for being in this singular experience and belonging.

This fire of respect transported me back to Michigan to a sacred fire circle on Council Lake where the moonlight lit upon the water, and sparked like a mirror for the stars overhead, that fire too snapped and popped offering smoke and sparks to the stars offering completely and knowing its worthiness of being received.

This fire taught me that respect is a duality, it is a relationship between offering and receiving, it is about the intrinsic and extrinsic, it is about the fluidity of giving and receiving completely.

 

Honesty

May (fire/river journey)

Notes from my journal

Honesty feels like an important fire, I have been resisting building it… am I being honest with myself? I’ve built this fire in my mind for months, I have really been living in the fire of honesty, and I am unnerved by it.

The fires structure is precarious, not a log house style, but rather a tepee. I strike this fire like I did before Courage. The nest made from dried grass from the yard and offerings from my medicine bag is tucked up under, rather than set atop. Its the first fire of my fire/river retreat, my solo journey, at home/away. A journey I’ve planned in order to strike the remaining seven learning fires.

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28 strikes

hot, lapping, engulfing flames. The fire appears strong to begin, but then begins to seems frail until the stack falls and shifts to a more settled position, one where the embers can grow and catch to a warm authenticity… the ease emerges and I am encouraged to rest my eyes, to close them with comfort to drift into this being, this honest space of myself.

This fire is warm, it is consistent it comforts and soothes, there is no pretense.  This fire of honesty focuses on and only accepts what is, not the tower or construction that was set up, but rather a natural collapse in to be-ing into is-ness A settled slow, warm, centered constant burn.

the evening is warm, it is spring, and honesty feels essential

Humility

February 25 (Originally posted on Facebook)

Last night I struck a fire to consider humility.

Let me say now that not all fires or lessons are easy… This was the first lesson the humility fire taught.

Humility was built atop the fire of love, which was atop the fire of courage. Built on a deep bed of coals, and bits of the love fire fuel that did not completely burn, the stack was a bit lopsided, not pristine or even.

It took 16 strikes to light my nest, and I tended the way I did with love and courage, but humility needed considerably more attention. It needed presence in a whole different way, I was not allowed to slip off into my own thinking. It required me to be with it, to consider it, to consider the other. Humility requires presence with and awareness of the other.

This was not what I had wanted from this fire, stuck before dusk on the warmer night than the recent fires. I was not allowed to be passive with humility, it insisted that I stop trying to direct the experience I wanted to have, something of ease and tenderness. Humility taught flexibility and letting go control.

And so I gave in to humility, I let go of my ego and moved into listening, watching, nutruring and feeding the fire I let it tell me how to help it grow and catch. And then this fire became very warm and very gentle, it became extremely consistent and it lasted a very long time. So long in fact that I became agitated and my ego flared again.

Sitting with the fire of humility was hard, it’s smoke consumed me, required that I adjust my position a lot and give up control, it provided tremendous and consistent warmth, but required that I not to get too comfortable before I felt the stinging heat. This fire was full of air and sparks and pops, it sent tiny coal bits high into the sky, reminding me to look up, to see the sparks and stars and to remind me of my place in the cosmos, which is not just tending a tiny fire of humility for myself but also as a reminder to tending the humility of humanity.

Humility was a challenging fire… It’s lessons are lingering in me.. The agitation has not completely gone but the learning has burned itself into me, and into my understanding of the importance of my fires.

Humility is an ever changing practice…

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Love

February 18 (Originally posted to Facebook)

Tonight I will strike a fire for Love.

A story on the radio about how people show up in times of deep heartbreak to offer of themselves, their own blood, so that others can survive. How can we not see that we are one system when this kind of giving is even possible, to love each other and ourselves in times like these. The awe and wonder, the deeply connectedness of love.

Fire Lessons on Love:

The wind was strong enough that I questioned striking the fire, it was dark and I couldn’t find my headlamp. It was in the low 20’s but I dressed for the occasion.

I stacked my fire wood added kindling and some cedar chips, offered it for love, awe and wonder, and started to strike….. And strike and strike…. It took 71 strikes until the nest caught. First lesson. Love has a lot to do with patience and being present.

The fire stack was very open, I thought perhaps too open, I worried that it would not really have enough intimacy to keep the flame going… This was not ever the problem. Second lesson, love has a lot to do with openness. Open heartedness, being able to receive while also offering warmth. Love is not smothering.

This fire was stacked with 4 strong logs, much bigger than I realized, each of them having within them plenty of fuel to make for a long fire, each burned independently within the stack. And the relationships between the flames encouraged the others. Lesson 3 we all carry individually the fuel of love, it is our primary resource, it is tucked in our hearts where the fire cannot be lost and the potential of offering and receiving is always within us.

The wind was strong and the air bitter cold, and this fire had endurance, it took the adversity and became hotter and more determined. Lesson 4, love uses adversity to grow, love doesn’t relent under challenging conditions, it is tenacious, determined and still maintains its warmth. When we love we fight to survive and to offer out our greatest potential.

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I had to say goodnight to the fire as my toes began to freeze and my neck and back ached from the cold and wind, I made an offering of thanks for these lessons. And as I watched from the window still the love fire lingered like a glowing red heart in the cold winter landscape, still offering warmth and lessons as it returned to glowing embers like the ones we all carry in our hearts.

Xoxox

Courage

Feb 15, 2017 (originally posted to Facebook)

Tonight I’m striking another fire… I’m offering for our collective and individual wounding. Healing for personal and societal ills and harms. So much deep heartache to take to the fire tonight.

Tonight, a fire for courage.

~

Its been a weird couple of days, lots of shifts happening, and I was seeing a lot of people in deep sadness and hurting.
Tonight I offered a fire for those feeling deep sadness, and for our collective spirit of courage and knowing. I took my flint and striker outside and made a lot of sparks trying to start my fire with a fire starter to dry to catch, at least I think. I pulled out my faro rod, which I had never used before and it was a kind of startling magic how it lit my stacked and prepared wood and kindling atop a bed of ice.
A tiny spark and the fire with exuberance and maybe a bit of anger came to life, it ran and danced across the wood, it threw embered glitter into the sky, it mesmerized me and reminded me of community and people’s need for each other. It reminded me to live in the present and to do so with Love and Humility, with Courage and Honesty, Wisdom and Respect and with the Truth of an integrated life.  We need these lessons now in our cold and disconnected times.
remember to love with awe and wonder
to be courageous with ferocious tenderness
to be humbled by your place in the cosmos
to respect that what you have to offer is worthy of reciept
to honestly show up in your own authenticity
to share your personal wisdom with your community
and to live these things as truthfully as you are able.
Fire‘s warmth and intensity heals many primal wounds, it laps at our souls, fills our hearts and tells us ancient stories.

Feb 16, 2017 (originally posted to Facebook)

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Last night I stuck a fire for Courage. It took 25 strikes before my nest caught the flame. It came up in a rage and then felt timid in the wind. It quieted. And again became brave and lept out in defiance…. This rhythm happened several times until the flames were certain and strong. It was a sharp and winged fire, it flew over the wood. It insisted and demanded and wrapped it self around its passion….. And then it settled, it consumed all that the fuel was prepared to offer and then the flame became warm, and tender, gentle with still the potential for ferocity, but seemed to tame into itself like a mother bear tending her cubs. And we sat together for a long time together this way.

This fire was the perfect lesson in courage. What it takes, how it appears when uncertain and how it builds on itself until it settles into its knowing.

This fire was such a beautiful teacher and I feel so lucky to have been its student.