I. Stoking the wood stove hour after hour comforts me. The repetition feels soothing, logs clinking upon logs, flame burning, heat rising.
II. Writing sentence after sentence burns the same way inside me. Joy builds with each unexpected word. Delight tingles when two opposing ideas reconcile. I am stunned silent before the power of words, and always grateful for this craft, this stoking, this amazing possibility of tinder and flame.
III. Photography takes my spirit by surprise. I never think about taking pictures. Days and weeks and sometimes months pass without interest in capturing sight, curve, flash, energy. Photography inhabits my body sometimes, takes over, grabs the camera, insists upon expression. It’s not me. I’m its servant. When it lights its match, I’m putty in its power. People glimpse me with a camera in hand and think its me. They see joy and think its mine. They don’t know I’m simply the log burning itself to ash in those moments.
IV. Another hour, another log. Burn, my child, burn. You’re not losing anything. We’re gaining your precious heat.
V. Have you discovered your inner monk, your inner hermit, the one who wants to live alone and worship the divine as it appears now, now, now? In a former life (only remembered in flashes of dreams, in glimpses of brown robes) I prayed without ceasing. God stoked my fire. He kindled the logs of devotion. Today I stoke the divine, prayers of firewood tumbling out of these lips: please, thank you, please, thank you…
VI. Have you discovered the part of yourself which won’t burn to ash without sharing your precious gifts? You won’t die, I swear you won’t die, until you’ve given up resin and root, branches and leaves, and every lasting bit of your sweet sap rising toward the heavens. Burn, baby, burn.
VII. How to start the fire under you? Sizzle match against dream, kindling against desire. Where else can we start except by longing? We need heat in winter or we shall die. Our hearts shall freeze solid. Even Valentines Day won’t melt us. Therefore, be not afraid of your longing. Be not afraid of your desire. Even if you’re 92 years old and running from death’s doorstep, it’s not too late to light a match to that longing and discover its eternal flame.
VIII. Talk to yourself. Every time you throw a log on the fire, ask your longing what it wants. Don’t take it literally, although you’ll be tempted. Ask sixteen thousand times, in sixteen thousand ways. Find out how you’re afraid to burn your fingers, how ashes multiply, how sparks scatter so quickly, only seeming to destroy precious dreams. (Here’s a secret, dear fire tender: it’s not the fulfillment of your dreams and expectations that matter. It’s that you CAN dream! It’s not whether our dreams come true. It’s our spark, that very first flame, that can never be extinguished. Follow the flame to the beginning again and again and again. That’s where you’ll find what you’ve been searching for in the heat of your fire.)
IX. Speaking of ashes, just because they excrete from the burning fire, they’re not bad. They just are. Just like you simply are. Use the ashes of yourself. When your driveway is slippery, they’ll keep you from falling. Nothing in life is useless. What compost exists in every burning!
X. The wood stove calls me down the spiral staircase of life once again. The wood room sings its growing-empty song, the song we know means lugging in more logs. Outside, the logs sing of springtime and wood splitters. I almost smell wood shavings. Chipmunks will scurry in the logs come spring and so shall we. The cycle of life turns. Burn well, my friends, and heat us all with your precious spirit. There is only one log of you.