Since my ignition, a fire has burned bright and high in the world, and I have watched it dance in the night. I was constantly aware of the heat of possibility and so I built a bonfire of fascination with the magic of things. A wild fire, burning all in its path, and clearing a wide space where it grew, glowing marvelously. I have been rich with ideas and pipe dreams, confident beyond reason and a child of pure imagination. I stretched and shifted, and worked my daydreams into realities, chasing the world I sought, ever-creating myself to become some new thing. I worshipped at my fire, tossing in the emblems of a each past life, hauling logs of love to its base. I created an unbreakable stone circle around this inferno of self. The heat was all-consuming, and I was captivated by the blaze. I created this magnificence with the willfulness of a young girl, determined to outshine and eager to equal the intensity of the fire I loved. I regularly moved about it, taking on new angles, hopeful the light would dance newly across my being, lighting my way with burning. The fire raged, and I called it my own, and I felt as though I was creating, but as girlhood became womanhood, I was left with sticks for kindling and uncertain of the purpose for stoking these dying flames. The embers slowly died out over what I thought my fire should be, my arm growing weary from the business of keeping burning alive.
In the chill of dawn, my stomach turned sour as a I surveyed the ashy wreckage. Picking through the dust, fractured bits of a former soul lay broken and bare in the grey light. Alone and uncertain in the vast clearing, I stood waiting, trembling. For the deafening silence of a fire run cold is not nearly as lonesome as the sudden wondering that the source of warmth in my life had been outside myself.
And then the graceful sun rose, assuredly and with a steadiness born of ancient confidence. Bending around corners and breaking through cracks, this burning light kissed the earth and enveloped the wide world in her embrace. Standing in the beams of glory, I grew warm with the knowledge that I have loved – dreams, ideas, mornings, words, kisses – and I have been altered by it. The fire I tended was my very self, not the lone love I longed for. It was my soul which I fanned – chucking in the dalliances of youth and the freedoms of girlhood, with lovers at my side or far from me. It was my essence reaching skyward. It was my very spirit which burned so bright. I had so lost myself in the tending, that I could no longer see that which I minded. I am no victim to the flames of love or girlhood or dreams; I am a phoenix reborn in fire and ever grateful. Fires are untenable beings whose entire purpose demands culmination; no fire last forever, nor any sunrise, nor high noon, nor sunset, nor night. Each stage is a blessing and challenge in its own right.
Firelight illuminates the darkness, casting long shadows and sending flickers of wonder dancing across the night. Fire promises magic and makes the ordinary brilliant. For so very long, I was held in its grasp, entranced by the amber glow of passion and fantasy, of searching. Water in the form a round girl child doused the fire that for so many years I tended, awakening my soul.
Perhaps words of mystic metaphor are too delicate to encapsulate my meaning: I had been lost in longing to be magical; to be adored; to be desired. I was spellbound, and sought all manner of external inspiration and focus. I tended to the fires of the world, and thought little of the fire within. Until one day, it was no longer possible to ignore my purpose and calling. As I sat in the sunlight that morning – the morning of my rebirth – I found myself anew, and not a bit alone, for within my heart and womb grew a tiny flame. No single moment is clearer to me than the awareness of my child beneath my heart. No poetry sultry and smooth enough to merit the consuming splendor of her existence. The grandeur of the blessing she bestowed upon my spirit swiftly removed all concern for that fire pit. I walked in from the clearing and put away the fans and drew a warm bath, soaking my feet. It was the first act of motherly love I bestowed upon myself, hopeful the love I showed my weariest bits would seep deep into my being and bless the child who lay within.
I imagine one day she’ll wander deep into the woods, with only a torch to guide her way, and the dancing light with play tricks on her eyes, planting worry and wonder where once was peace. I know she’ll stumble into clearings and dance about the fires she finds there, doing her part to keep the magic burning and falling in love beneath the stars. I have walked that path, and there is no shame in exploring heat of the world. Indeed, it’s only through this that we may find our way to a brighter, steadier warmth. There is a place for fire, in all is wildness. There is delight in allowing oneself to become engulfed in the flames and consumed by the heat. But fire is a trick of man which I may conjure and stoke at will. This ephemeral joy is a too impermanent to build a world around.
Fire alters the essence of a thing, and has transformed me anew. In the journey to now, my core was melted to a puddle and reformed, reshaped, redefining itself. The fire of youthfulness has burnt me, scarring me. My body bears the marks of these trials, those loves. I am proud of these stretches, the discoloration, the visibility of time. This body of bumps and rolls. This body loose and stretched. I own this. In the end, my story will be one not of love lost or fiery girlish desires, but of resolute and steadfast constancy in the eyes of a girl. This is motherhood.
Written by, Adrienne Oliver
Photograph by Casey McMurray Photography