Friday, October 18, 2013

Where There's Smoke

View of prescribed burn on the way home from Monday's errands
Monday's midday sun obscured by smoke

We live near the edge of Fort Ord, a former U.S. Army outpost closed back in the mid-90’s.  Over the years since its closure, there have been many prescribed burns to rid the terrain of unexploded ordnances, and some of these fires have extended beyond their so-called controlled boundaries which was the case this week.  By Tuesday in the late afternoon, the fire was supposedly contained and smoldering, but later in the evening, the smoke grew so thick in our neighborhood that my husband drove to a vantage point just around the block to check on what was happening, and there were flames in view!  Although we weren’t in any imminent danger, the proximity of the fire was concerning, and of course, the resulting plumes of smoke and their unhealthy impact on our air quality has been very unwelcome, bothersome and also concerning.  We’ve heard the constant drone of helicopters (dropping water on the fire and hot spots) since Monday.  This week’s burns have cast an unsettled atmosphere across our entire week. 

With my newfound tendency to reflect on the symbolism of daily observations and experiences, I’ve been searching for a bit of inner clarity to emerge from the surrounding smoky haze.
Tuesday's view above our house
An otherworldly sky

I have always been intimidated by the power of fire and how quickly it can consume and destroy; yet, while fire can cause such destruction on a larger scale, fire can also be inviting and illuminating on a smaller (safer!) scale – a candle flame gently flickering, bright, crackling cheer in the fireplace, the inviting warmth of a beach bonfire, the festive light of tiki torches.  This duality of fire, how it can be beneficial or harmful, surfaces in its symbolism as well…fire as a represention of our passion vs. our rage, its impact on our spirit as energizing rather than extinguishing.  When we mindfully tend to the “fire” within us, we are fueled in powerful, positive ways.  By collectively lighting and nurturing our creative sparks, we can beautifully illuminate our world and wash over that which mars our internal and external environments (like the unease of this week's burns.)