20 November 2018

Ode to the fires.

I thought I might share this writing from a friend who lost her home in the Taos area many years ago...In light of all the destruction and deaths from fires and the changing climate.

I am an early bird, blessed with an innate affinity with morning. Dawn is my church. First light is a touchstone, a sacred time that spreads a nourishing flood of grace throughout my bones and blood. At dawn, I am filled with the quiet light of hope.
This morning, I see and smell the lingering smoke from far away fires. Even in the midst of this, I feel the sacredness and hope. This feeling does not come lightly, for I have a very personal history with fire. I too have lost from it. Two dear homes were burned to the ground, one by a forest fire. And a third time, there was a near escape when my partner and I took down our tipi shortly before a fire swept through the canyon where we lived.
I have never lost a beloved person to fire, and am not speaking to that. But I have lost much. I have seen my earthly abode and possessions turned to ash. I saw forests of familiar trees turned to regiments of black sticks. The fragrant, earthly landscape of my neighborhood became inescapably grey and lunar. The bitterly pungent smell that lingers after a fire is indelible in me.
My heart is with those who have lost. I will repost a story/poem I wrote about the Lama Fire, which happened some twenty or so years ago. It is dedicated to you, to those who love you, and to our beloved land and all the creatures that have lived upon it.
“a storm of its own"
she awakens
to a windy spring day
with the wisp of a dream
the dark arm of a neighbor, 
his hand sharply motioning 
away! time to go!
she brushes the dream aside
and rises, 
looking out the window,
up the strong and familiar mountain
furred by a multitude of trees.
she is drawn outside,
into the sage filled yard,
a bowl of corn porridge cradled in her hand.
she sits in the rocker
and eats in the sun.
the wind 
has an irritating edge
as the morning moves on.
her dog barks, tail wagging,
and she gets up to greet a visitor.
in the midst of a hug, 
a glimpse of smoke 
on the horizon--
and deep inside 
she feels the stirrings
of change.
up the ladder to the roof,
they scan with binoculars,
then call neighbors,
and trundle down the dirt road 
for a closer look.
the smoke is coming from behind a ridge
several miles away,
but the wisp is
turning into a blackening column,
quickly gathering power,
spun on 
by the wind.
the possible loss of a well loved home,
of years of work,
is not something the mind
willingly contemplates.
it stays in a safely distant orbit
while arms carry furniture and clothes to the truck,
while children
are gathered in,
while animals are herded 
down the mountain.
before driving away,
she turns and takes 
one look back:
the column of smoke
is now a staggering, sweltering phenomena,
a mighty hiroshima mushroom, dwarfing
the immense desert and mountain 
as her eye lingers,
out of the roiling cloud 
a broad, glinting bolt of lightning
the fire 
has created a storm 
of its own.
neighbors gather at the bottom of the road
at the side of the gray highway.
they look up, 
eyes and mouths solemn and closed 
or wild and wide,
some crying and clinging,
others clutching anger 
like a solitary shield.
they have known each other 
long and well.
as they stand together, 
this witnessed power, 
roaring and unquestionable,
heaves the earth beneath their feet.
days later, 
when the roadblock is removed,
she goes home.
her driveway is a dirt track 
through a powdery gray moonscape.
the adobe house
a lone chimney 
surrounded by debris
and fallen walls.
even the wood stove, so stout,
built to hold fire,
is hopelessly warped.
out of habit, her feet 
start off down the path,
onto her usual morning walk through the forest.
she is dreading this,
and expects the sadness of the trees
to engulf her.
down through the gulch, 
scrub oaks gone, 
up the other side, to the ponderosas:
miles and rolling hills of straight black sticks
silently standing
in gray ash.
in pure quiet,
she listens.
she has never questioned 
the cycles of life and nature...
the expanding creation
of art and gardens and children, 
the dutiful and detailed maintenance 
of daily life...
but now, she has been yanked
into the edgy territory 
of destruction
and death.
she stands still,
and finally sees
its fierce necessity 
and stark beauty.
and the sorrow she expects to find 
in this former forest
is instead 
an immense feeling 
of clarity and relief.
the accumulated years of weighty growth
are gone.
the place 
is clean.
she moves out of the burnt forest and into the fields,
to the place that was her earthly church.
she sees her cherished grandmother tree,
now fallen.
one more letting go.
she looks down the fields
toward where her home once stood
and the green of the irrigated alfalfa
is shocking against the miles of blackness.
her eyes travel down the slope of them 
and are caught
by a slight movement...
she moves toward it, 
through the moist grassiness,
then stops 
at this sight:
an old man in blue jeans and plaid shirt
is crying.
he is on his knees, 
his eyes 
on a cream colored mare 
standing in emerald clover, 
her new foal, bright and white,
standing daintily beside her.
they are brilliantly set 
against the black remains
of a landscape,
on the fragile, sacred border
between beginning
and end.
robin whitley 
la lama, new mexico

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