The glow of burning embers in the early morning darkness, when it seems all the world’s asleep, stirs ancient reflections. I toss another piece of wood on the coals and soon the fireplace is ablaze, filling the room with light. I think of how many campfires, wood stoves, and fireplaces have defined my life. The waft of woodsmoke hanging in the air on a frosty morn, a cup of a hot beverage, and the anticipation of the sunrise invoke something primal within me. It’s something so basic and commonplace that it strikes me as extraordinary.
The miracle of fire is mostly taken for granted.
Yet gazing into this morning’s blaze shows me the incredible interconnectedness of all things. Fire is simply condensed and released sunlight hidden within a piece of fuel. Tossing a piece of wood onto the coals, I think of how the tree, thirsty for light, spread its branches and opened its leaves to receive the light as solar photons. After completing its cycle of life, it fell to the earth to be reabsorbed. I then gathered the branches and cut and stacked the wood for my fire. When I was ready, I built my fire. Joyfully, I now bask in the light as the burning wood releases those solar particles that the tree saved.
Hidden within the fire are ancient and primal memories that whisper of the very faraway, distant past. I gaze into the night sky with eyes of wonder, just as our ancient ancestors once did while warming themselves by their fires. Did I just say “very faraway, distant past”? It seems that way, but let’s put things into proper perspective. If we fit the history of the cosmos into a time slot of one calendar year, the vast void and the Big Bang would be on day one, followed by the formation of innumerable galaxies with stars beyond number, many of which no longer exist, although their light is just reaching us; all of human history would be but the last few seconds of that calendar.
Untold numbers of suns have been born and died as new lights appeared. We are a product of the stars. We are animated stardust. We are living lights born of cosmic fire. Gazing deeply into the flames, I feel the deep stirring of these primal memories. We are more than just the dust of the ground: we are a product of the heavens themselves. And just as the universe continues in its great expansion, we also are expanding with a vision that we are an integral part of the whole.
Sitting before the fire, I realize I am more the released light than I am the wood—a brightness that swallows all that can be seen or imagined. In the wood burning to release its light, much like a candle flame melting its own wax, one can see the law of love and giving. The wood burns, becoming ash and returning to its source. The wood gives itself so we can be warmed by the flames, and the candle melts so we can see by her light; shouldn’t we also share our light so others may see?
That primal memory that called our ancestors to sit close together by the light of a campfire also calls us. When we bask in the light, we no longer need fear the shadows on the cave wall, but see that we are starlight reaching the vast sweep of the heavens. It is that deep calling of our infinite home which I believe speaks as a primal memory as I sit before this morning’s fire. If you feel that same indescribable calling, then an awakening kinship has been kindled in the flames. Primal memories, the language of our long forgotten home, call to us from the flames.
Reflections from Turtle Lake,