Transformation by Fire

In ancient times, fire must have been a deeply mysterious and awe-inspiring force to us humans. It was flung from the skies in the form of lightning. It erupted from the innards of mountains and became a glowing lava river of destruction. When we finally learned to harness fire, it transformed our existence – we were able to cook our food, vastly expanding our culinary options; we were able to warm ourselves when it was cold outside which allowed us to move into the coldest climates on earth; and we were able to wage war with fire and produce greater degrees of pain and destruction. Fire allowed us to refine our weapons and tools, to harden our cooking vessels, and to fly into space.

Fire warms, transforms, and illuminates, but can also bring pain and death reducing everything in its all-consuming path to ashes.

Is it any wonder that we created symbols of divinity connected to fire? There is Agni, the Hindu God of Fire who exists in three forms: fire, lightning and the sun. The Hawaiians know Pele, the Volcano Goddess, who created the Hawaiian Islands with her enormous powers over fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes. The Greeks had Zeus, the God of Lightning. Many religions honored a sun god or goddess for the sun’s life-giving fire.

Fire is also a symbol for creativity, passion, and sexuality – do you remember “Light my Fire” by the Doors?

Fire bridges the gap between mortals and gods. We can now use fire for destructive purposes that, in the past, would have appeared god-like – rockets, missiles, atom bombs. On a more positive note, fire becomes the symbol of inspiration, purification and spiritual enlightenment in our higher spiritual pursuits. Our plane of duality is perfectly expressed through the dichotomies of the fire element.

No matter our personal knowledge of or experience with Fire, when Mother Nature unleashes her fiery minions – lightning, wild fires and volcanic eruptions – we stand in awe, reminded of the true scale of our existence.

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The Boldness of Pussy Willows

Earlier in March, I cut a few branches from my pussy willow shrub and brought them inside. The warmth of the house quickly turned the silvery white pillows of the catkins into yellow caterpillar creatures.  They seem so alive, they almost appear to be moving and twisting towards the sun.

 

When the honey bees are lured out of their hive on a sunny winter day, pussy willows provide the first pollen of the season.

They seem to draw the sun’s light into their little furry bodies and keep growing and expanding. Boldly, they lead the way, undaunted by howling winds or snow that covered the first crocuses and daffodil greens, until yesterday.

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Bark on Fire

Passing by a young river birch, I noticed that its bark was peeling off.

river-birch

The late afternoon sun turned the loose bark into tongues of fire running up and down the branches.

Or is it a papyrus scroll holding ancient secrets to be deciphered?

river-birch-bark

Ailsa’s Travel Theme: Bark.

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Beauty Break

An unexpected visitor – a debilitating backache – appeared four days ago. I suspect that over-consumption of toxic political news left the back door open for this unwanted house guest to slip in. It reminds me of another house guest that almost disappeared because it felt so neglected – self-care. I want that one to stick around, we really have a good time together and have gone through thick and thin. Self-care reminded me to let Beauty back in. And, already, I feel like I can breathe more deeply.

I have a very small collection of four orchids. One of them is this Miltassia hybrid which bloomed back in December delighting me with its intriguing speckled petals.

Miltassia hybrid orchid

Miltassia hybrid orchid

After a few short weeks, the petals began to dry up, now looking more and more like spidery insects.

Dried orchids

Dried orchids

With the help of a Photoshop artistic filter, it turned into a painting:

dry-brush-of-3-dried-orchids

and then into this, almost abstract image, still imbued with a strange beauty:

sumi-e-of-3-dried-orchids

If you ignore beauty,
you will soon find
yourself without it…
But if you invest in beauty,
it will remain with you
all the days of your life.

Frank Lloyd Wright

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Resistance and Re-Purposing our Lives

I cannot remember the last time I participated in a demonstration – before the Women’s March in Washington, DC, that is. It must have been decades ago. What is it that drove me and millions of others (women AND men) to ignite this new resistance movement? And how to understand that concept: to resist?

The dictionary tells us that resisting is about withstanding the action or effect of some other force; it is about opposing or striving against, to take a stand against. Synonyms include confronting, counteracting, and rebuffing.

DC Women's march

I resisted the idea of including this overtly political post into my blog for over a week, torn about whether it actually fits with the mission and purpose of my blog. Four years ago, I declared on my About page:

This blog is dedicated to the discovery of beauty in all its ordinary and extraordinary manifestations. May we all learn to become more present with what is inside of us and around us, the subtle nuances of experience, the savoring of simple pleasures, and the celebration of what makes us unique and life worth living.

Participating in the Women’s March in DC was an extraordinary experience – to witness and feel in my body the cohesiveness and solidarity of a huge crowd made up of people of all ages, religions, races, sexual identity. We marched as one, we cheered as one and booed as one. Where else in our day-to-day lives can we experience the power of a united humanity? When was the last time I felt so viscerally connected to such a large body of people? – this was the beauty of human connection and solidarity in its extraordinary manifestation. The values advocated by this crowd of people ranged across reproductive rights, immigrant rights, inmate rights, religious choice, equal pay, earth justice, and many more. These shared values are what “makes us unique and life worth living” as a multi-cultural society.

Today’s Daily Prompt “resist” was my final nudge!

Like millions of other people, I have been engaged in resistant acts in the last few weeks – contacting politicians to oppose the selection of unfit, unethical, conflict-of-interest ridden individuals for key positions in our new administration; spreading relevant information through social media; joining local groups of people interested in making a difference.

two-women-in-tree

dr-seuss

I thought of all the resistance movements and resistance symbols I have seen in my own lifetime. This anti-nuke pin has survived four decades that included cross-continental moves. The pin symbolizes the beginnings of my political activism in my teens, in Germany. It shows a nuclear reactor with the word “nein” written across it (the word “no” in German).

anti-nuke-pin

Of course there are many more symbols of resistance: Mao, Che Guevara, Steve Biko, Nelson Mandela, the keffiyeh (Palestinian black and white scarf), Black Panther berets and raised fists, coat hangers for illegal and dangerous abortions, and, most recently, images of Native Americans braving militarized police who defend the interests of pipeline companies.

How I see the current situation: the fire alarms have gone off, we have a fire emergency and the fire needs to be put out to prevent massive damage to our democratic structure and social system. So I will help carry water and try to douse the fire in whichever way I can – taking a stand and dedicating a substantial part of my life (re-purposing my life) to political activities.

However, I am interested in more than merely putting out a fire. I want to understand the underlying reasons that caused this fire and I want to assure that the remaining structure (our democracy) becomes more fire resistant. Some people are arguing that we need the fire to burn down what is not serving the people, that the fire has been smoldering underground, regardless of what political leanings the inhabitants espouse.

I don’t want to merely follow some group’s five-point program to engage in resistance – although that is valuable, important, and gives us a sense that we are actually DOING something. I want to re-read writings of the resistance movements of the past and understand the underlying principles, gleaning from the freedom fights of the past what might work for our contemporary struggle to regain true democracy (did it ever exist?).

In my mind, the end goal of this resistance movement is not to replace the Republicans with Democrats again. Politicians from both parties have been bought by the large banks and multi-national corporations and are unlikely to truly represent their constituents with the obligations engendered by so much corporate money. As much as I liked our previous president as a person, wars continued under his administration, drones killed innocent civilians, citizen surveillance was expanded rather than discontinued, the bankers who caused the economic crash of 2007/08 were never held accountable, police profiling and brutality against African Americans escalated, the upper one-percenters continued to reign and vacuum up even more of the wealth of the middle classes, government expenditures continued to increase to dangerous deficit levels.

Furthermore, we need to educate ourselves about the true nature and insidious power of the Federal Reserve System, which is a private banking cartel, not a government institution. We need to investigate and expose the behind-the-scene and difficult-to-follow machinations of the Federal Reserve that enable the crushing stranglehold of corporations over our political apparatus. When we start a movement to separate politicians from corporate money, we may have a chance at a functioning democracy again.

I was inspired by Amanda Witt’s passionate speech at the DC Women’s March. She left us with the question: “What will YOU do with your fire?”

our-rights-are-not-up-for-grabs

The Daily Prompt: Resist.

The Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge: Repurpose.

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