As I survey the map of Northern California fires with little icons of flames blooming all over it, see the bright EXTREME FIRE DANGER signs at the trail heads and listen to the warnings everywhere of how perfect the conditions are for new wildfires, it's feeling just a little bit toasty here.
When the two recent fires here in Fairfax were burning, as I listened to the sirens, helicopters and planes of the fire-fighters doing battle, I thought about what I would grab if I needed to escape and what I would do if I lost everything I owned.
Here is the photo I took several days ago of a fire that stopped right on the edge of a trail I love to hike. I danced on this edge and honored the destructive power of fire. I sent gratitude to the fabulous Marin firefighters who stopped it, sparing my favorite trees and the nearby homes of friends. And I sent love to all of the wildlife who lost their lives or homes.
Whether a fire, earthquake, tornado, tsunami or some kind of life implosion like a divorce, injury, disease or loss of a loved one, scary surprises spring out of the shadows at all of us at one time or another.
In the middle of such an event I don't know anyone who says "oh thank you for this delightful evolutionary opportunity --I am sure there's a sparkly gift in this excruciating pain and I am so excited to receive it!"
But I have found that when the inferno has at least mostly going out and I start to sift through the ashes to survey my losses, if I am at least open to the possibility of benefits I always find them.
I am hopeful that when the next raging blaze (or at least the next brush fire) occurs in my life I will remember the truth of this and be able to surrender to whatever the fire needs to burn in me.
The following quote from Martha Beck came in my email this morning and if you substitute "firestorm" for "storm" it works perfectly:
"Contemplating this—that the Storm isn’t a curse, but preparation for the blessing—ushers me into the Calm. Right then, just like that, I feel the pain ease. Before the wind dies down. Before the argument is resolved. Before the disease heals. Before the rent is paid. The Calm doesn’t come because the Storm is over. It comes because I’ve moved into the truth."
As I look at the many disasters occurring in the world right now, I am superstitiously knocking on wood as I report that right now, for me personally, Life is good.
This goodness is partially due to my new service (assisting clients here in Marin with practical tasks and next steps during a crisis or transition) whichis spreading over my calendar like a wildfire. I am SO grateful, but it has burned up my writing time. So I'm once again offering you a previous post from one year ago.
Disasters can torch old stories and leave empty space for new and better ones.
🔥FIRE! 9/27/15 🔥
Fire is a both a vitally alive force in its own right, dancing gleefully and irresistibly impelling others to join it and also a part of the life/ death /life cycle.
I know many of you are experiencing your own versions of singeing flames, smoky clouds of confusion obscuring your vision, or scorched earth underfoot.
On the other hand, some of you are gratefully enjoying life, perhaps reveling in the colorful splendor of this new season of autumn - - or perhaps a combination of these two.
When we take the time to honor our experience, connect to natural cycles and the celebrations associated with these cycles, the fiery times become alchemically transformative and the times of grace and ease help set the stage for more of the same. The secret is to soften and gratefully surrender into the moment at hand, no matter what it is bringing you.
The seasonal changes, the cycles of the Moon, day and night, hot and cold, Sun and rain, life and death…NOTHING stays the same. Nor would it benefit us if it did! Nature and our personal evolution (which is of course integrally connected to natural cycles), is always on the move. The sure way to suffering is when we resist what is true. What is; IS. There is simply no way to fight, run or hide from this fact.
This is not to say that it is a good idea to blithely fling lit matches into dry tinder or that we should passively sit on sidelines watching our home burn to the ground when we have water to put out the fire.
But when there is a conflagration that is beyond our power to extinguish or a sudden implosion that that leaves us bewildered and despairing in a pile of smoldering ashes and rubble, then this is the time change the most essential things we can - our story and how we choose to show up in this moment.
If you haven't read it yet, here is the story of how I suddenly lost my husband/best friend, home, dog, job, children, community and more. It is also about how I subsequently turned this seemingly devastating disaster into an opportunity to rise from the ashes and then found greater joy than I had ever imagined was possible.
When I encourage celebration I do not expect someone who has lost everything to break out the champagne and dance a jig in the midst of a tragedy. Even if this were possible, It would be a terrible idea.
Every painful event needs to be deeply felt in every cell of our bodies allowing the full range of emotions that arise to move through us. If we can dive down to the depths while opening to the possibility of the gifts that will follow this is where the magic happens.