In preparation for our winter carbon party today, Jason wrote the following meditation:
We Kindle this Fire: A Winter Solstice Meditation
We kindle this fire for gratitude. The wood we have gathered to burn is the flesh of plants, our partners and providers on this earth. We gratefully acknowledge that we need them more than they could ever need us. May the placing of each branch into the flames be an act of thankfulness for the sustenance we have received by way of their work this year, and a supplication for the provision of our needs in the year to come. May we use well the energy they have harvested from the Sun. We kindle this fire for gratitude.
We kindle this fire for memory. We know that without fire, our species could never have become what we are. To be human is to burn wood; to use its power to change things to our advantage. We think of the long history of human life in this place; all the fires that have burned here. We try to imagine what this place was like in those ancient times and learn what we can from the little we know of the people who inhabited this land then. We kindle this fire for memory.
We kindle this fire for light. The trees and vines that made this wood lean and climb towards it, and when they succeed in finding an opening to the sky, they produce a leaf in that place to bask in the Sun’s rays, and take their nourishment that way. Through the plants and like the plants, we need light: to fully understand our world our eyes need to see it reflecting off of our landscapes, and we need it striking our skin to promote our health. Even in our languages, light is truth and shadows are ignorance. In this shadow time of year, the light leaping from this fire will be a comfort. We kindle this fire for light.
We kindle this fire for warmth. As flames spring from the branches burning here, we will eagerly hold our palms out to face them like leaves, absorbing a small fraction of the heat released there. This world is our home and we know no other, but it can be a cold place, too. When the summer sunlight has waned, and we are walking over the chilled and wet or frozen soil of winter, we need a fire to gather around every so often. May we, like branches in a fire, each warm the other and, once warmed, respond with fresh warmth of our own, together producing and becoming something more than we could have been alone. We kindle this fire for warmth.
We kindle this fire for life. As the smoke rises, we will be reminded that life changes form; it is always being lost and destroyed, it is always being reborn. The metabolic cycles coursing between tree roots and these branches were interrupted by disease, or by tools in our hands. As they laid in the heap awaiting burning, fungi thrived by invading their interiors with hyphae and unlocking their storehouse of energy. Insects chewed their way through bark and wood, feasting and growing. The thick layer of duff generated by their activities is a rich haven for the roots of trees and all the soil creatures. And now, through burning, a portion of each branch will return to the air as carbon dioxide, and plants all over the world will take and convert it to sugars and new fibers in their tissues. The char that is left will be used to enrich the soil—a stable place to store nutrients and habitat for soil organisms. We kindle this fire for life.
We kindle this fire for healing. In these times too many of us are neglecting our connections to the soil, to the plants, to the Sun. Our willful ignorance has cost us so much; has been so destructive. We hope that this one small act of burning a char fire can be a part of a trend of restoration. We know that humans, like all life on earth, cannot live without benefitting from the misfortunes of other creatures, and that no creature has more fully exploited this—has learned better how to induce harm for its own benefit—than we. We acknowledge that we have gone too far. And so we are attempting to put our ingenuity to better use. May we learn to be attentive to each opportunity as it passes by for the building of health and the cultivation of vibrant life in our surroundings. May we learn to be agents of good things. We kindle this fire for healing.
We kindle this fire for our descendants. Throughout their lives trees shed leaves and branches and root fibers, and exude substances through their living roots to nourish the soil community for their own benefit and for the benefit of their offspring. Building on the richness they inherited, they leave their place richer than they found it. We too live by the gifts of our ancestors to us; gifts of resources and knowledge, skill and values that were a response to their time and place. We have adapted these for our time in this place, and we know our descendants must do the same, accepting the gifts we pass to them and adding their own. With this fire we mark our desire to leave to them a world that supports their thriving at least as well as it has ours, and our willingness to work to make it so. We kindle this fire for our descendants.
For gratitude, for memory, for light, for warmth, for life, for healing, for our descendants, here and now, we kindle this fire.
We welcome the last day of fall tomorrow and the start of a new season the following day. It was good to spend this day with friends, young and old... We head to bed with that good, tired feeling!