catch a fire.

Girl on fire, she writes and claims me as one of them.

Little does she know my arm was in flames last week.  My flesh taken over by the swing of combusted lip and tongue, kissing my epidermis in ways that are totally X rated.   

It’s a risk. This intimate dance of fire; being its master as well as its servant.

When I little it was less obsession and more a path, a communication with a part of myself.  During the dark months we ate dinner with candles lit in the center of the table, the light from well made tapers danced against green velvet damask wallpaper.  My mother would turn her back, walk into the kitchen to fetch desert leaving me at the table alone for a moment.  I’d stick my finger in the tendrils of flame and wait until I felt so much I couldn’t take it anymore.  With that inimitable burn and smell, I’d pull back in post-human satisfaction. My fingernail blackened.  My nerves in wild rumpus of tangled energy. I knew then and there if I were to die a horrible death might it be by fire.  I knew then and there it was my element of creation and sensation.

My father was a two pack a day smoker from age 11 to 61 when he fell over with a massive heart attack.  I remember getting the phone call that he was in the hospital.  I was 16 and in the basement of my best friend’s house, getting felt up under the bra and unskillfully tongue kissed by my boyfriend of the moment.  For the life of me, I can’t remember who it was but I can tell you the color of the couch {navy blue leather} and the pattern on the wall paper {golden bamboo} and what was on the TV {1990 Superbowl. The Buffalo Bill’s lost and apparently my father’s heart did along with it}.  This near death forced him to quit, but before that I’d steal all the matches he’d tuck inside the cellophane around the pack.  I’d lock myself in my bedroom and take all the Kleenex’s out of the box and burn them, one by one, just on the edge of an open window and then throw them out, flames flying like birds, slowly descending to a soft, small death on land in ash.  My mother never understood where her boxes of Kleenex went.  My father always cursed about his missing matches. 

My mother’s sterling silver bowl collection became my cauldrons.  I would sneak them out of the “only on special occasion” hutch and hide them under my shirts and run upstairs.  With stolen matches and ripped up journals :: those pages that told stories only I could see :: the fucking ugly stories of being 13 or 15 or 17.  Where life’s option is a consideration and boy craziness is practically institutional.  Away the myths sizzled, crisped into red, then black, and finally soot.  From my firebelly to my pen to the paper to flame to ash to nothing.  I’d dump the powder of what was in my chest, under all the photos and hope that new stories would somehow grow and form their own images in there.

 Oh she’s a fiery one. She needs to cool down. She’s gonna get herself in trouble… so much potential really, such a good girl when she tries.” They’d say. About me.  Me. What the fuck did they know about me?  That’s when fire started to light the end of a Camel or the bowl of a chalice, bad weed, buds held together with glue.  What they meant, I had no idea, still have no idea as I enter mid-life, but somewhere in there, back then, I got the clue that fire was my talisman, my teacher, what lived in me that needed to be exposed.   I got lucky.  The words they said made me flame up more and made me love those saying them even more :: they were my fuel, my instigators, my angels {those who don’t understand you are great teachers}

 I never saw my red, my veins, my temperature as a fault, only a misrepresentation of my passion, perhaps some gentle tempering might have been helpful, but any plan to extinguish failed miserably. What lived in me was something I was born to burn;  the place where anger dwells, where dreams from the other side ask for stoking. I became the catalyst to my inner fire and to the outer one as well.  And let’s face it; all good fires eventually have to burn out, even for a moment, so nothing was ever going to be a tragedy. We all need water breaks.

 The bonfire has always been a truth serum.  In the beginning it was at that Christian camp that I insisted on attending and almost gave my catholic family a heart attack.  We were Catholics, the old-school kind, and there was no bible talk, no born again business.  We lit candles to Mary and burned holy myrrh resin on holidays and holy days and funerals. We drank and ate as prayer.  Frank Sinatra and cannoli stuffing was testimonial enough. But part of my fire was to rebel, explore, expand, and seek. And Christ would be my adventure for a couple of years.

 At the end of each week of summer camp {and I went to many weeks all summer long, singing praises and watching Jesus walk on the lake’s horizon, balmy summer nights and 1 John 3: 16} We all gathered around the bon fire and spoke our truths.  I could stand at the edge of flame, closer than anyone else could, practically burning my LL Bean hoodie, embers rising to my aqua-net soaked hair. Hidden by the curtain of smoke,  seen by the heart of the heat, proclaimed my faith, prose into the fire, my first spoken word sessions, my tears gone wild, my fears shot out like a cannon.  The fire held and alchemized those moments. What burned within was caught without, fire catching fire.  And I was saved, not by the baptismal of water, but by the fucking hot of fire extracting the truth.

A decade or so later it was Seal Beach, CA far from my sleepy NY lake town. We all gathered at the same sandy spot for years, around the fire and Christ was not the answer. Love and Revolution was.  This time it’s ecstasy and straight up bourbon and many drums and we were barefoot, sand in pants if pants were on and an entire sea behind us in case it got too hot, even for us, and we’d sizzle our skin in the lapping white waves.  We were raw, worried and wanna-be-riotus, talking stuff like buying purple buses and making them our homes and digital media studios and traveling around in the name of roots and culture and justice and art.  We passed the chalice, bowing our head to the flames that brought us closer together, our ocean-dampened skinned  dried by glowing reds + oranges, wood laid in penance and built like a temple to our 20’s, a precise architecture that would ensure the fire burned until sunrise when we’d need to go inside and sleep.

 Around those bonfires anything could be said and done and the world -it was going to shift, it was 1998 and we were leaving this millennia behind.  We were the ones ready, carving paths, naïve + pure pioneering, so sure of what we were going to eradicated and re-build. It was around these fires I become an adult, a real one, with the hopes of children and raising them so very differently then the ones before us.  With the hopes of conscious evolution, eternal om, hot sex forever, paradigm shifting and dance parties until 4am.  I could look in red eyes of my people, my impassionaed tribe, mirroring the bonfire, and say to them exactly what the fire said to me.

At my wedding we had a fire in the middle of the aisle one walks down to greet their lover.  It was a Shinto ceremony to walk together, over water and around the fire three times.  We met before the kindle of nuptials, flame bringing us to the altar, flame bringing us to the eternal bed.

We made love to close to the wood stove last night I was sure my backside was going to combust.  I don’t like to do it in the water, or in the cold.  I don’t like chilly places, wet air, or damp ground when I open myself up and clear the pathways. I like to be hot, to dance to crackle together, to be tempted by  danger, to bring high temperature internal, an inferno of tangles, nerves climbing the roots of my body, creating branches of many oh yesses, and pleases and thank yous. I like wax melted by lit wicks, dripping down skin, shocking, burning and capturing the moments of need + desire and naked honesty.  Fire is the message that runs me, owns me, and listens to my commands, wishes and screaming prayers.  It allows me to hold it in the palm of my hand, in the between of my legs, against my shoulder blades.  Fire transmutes my fluids to Earth. Fire is my game of catch back and forth.

Last week I lit my poi.  I do this once or twice a year without much notice, so you can assume I’m not very skilled at this ancient practice.  I don’t do tricks.  I don’t care about hard transitions, and often I almost set my thighs aflame.  But it’s a practice, a calling of sorts, an exercise in relief and an offering of gratitude. It was my birthday,  he was playing drums. The night was a clear kind, so rare in this part of the world.  I decided to get as close to the earth as I could, but sending the poi above my head, as close as I could to the crystal sky, stars sparking in another world. I told the fire on the end of the chains to offer something up, something I wasn’t even clear about, and in return, to offer me a teaching for my new year.  And then something happened, the chains caught, they swung and twisted and the poi smacked hard against my arm.  My sweatshirt caught on fire and I could feel my arm hairs on fire.  I was on fire. 

There is something very humbling about bringing yourself to burn with a literal force.  I am not saying the Fire Lust and the rumbling tips of flame in the gut or the immaculate heart burning in hot love isn’t Real.  It is.  The heat of danger or creation is very real.   It’s all living on the Edge.  It’s owning the edge of the flame and playing the game of catalyzation, the game of transmuting energy, diving into your fire and rising it.  It’s mostly uncontrollable place we don’t manifest, but find ourselves in.

Fire deserves utmost respect.  But it cannot {and wants not} to control you.  At least not for long stretches of time because eventually it will burn out and then you have no idea where you are. But as co-creator, partner, lover, servant, friend, and muse to not be messed with, it’s an element that brings our passion incarnate.

It can and will destroy what we have built in our own way.

{Are you a firestarter? Do your thighs shake with the beginnings of popping ember? Does your heart feel like mercury rising when you are driving around that curve and an idea comes on and the rush isn’t water but it’s heat, so hot you have to stop, somewhere and either touch yourself or get out your notebook?} 

{Do you see the world’s work as a constant evolving flame, creation destruction, ash, re-birth?}

{Do you want to make anger into art and love your vehicle and words your weapon of mass explosion?}

{Do you think your fire within is the homeopathic remedy for the fire without?}

{Are you just hot with something? Something good and right and true and maybe just a little but wrong, and bad, and filled with glorious fiction and prose that will knock them down on their knees and warm their crowns with your heat?}

{Prepare yourself salve and don’t make something cheap.  Always know when it’s time to burn or when it’s time to blow or when it’s time to find the fast path to the ocean.  Prepare yourself to feel it in your hearts, in your eyeballs, in your throat, in your gut and at the base of your spine and even down some.}

{Prepare yourself to take off your shoes, no matter how hot they are, and walk on a bed of burning coals barefoot and make it to the other side.  All the way to the other side.}

That’s when your story is ready to tell.