3. P h o t o. S t o r y
Like him, we watch the flames
Mesmerized by the containment of
Light so wild, yet so warm from its
Like her, we feel the brushes stroke
Hypnotized by its turns and loops of
Ink so dark, yet so bright from its
Like veins, we feel the pulsating call
Created by the blood’s pull toward
A truth so blurred, yet so aligned to its
Though distant, their backgrounds
Are positioned North
Though sight is unclear, their love
Paints the ever-shifting pattern of
Patiently traveling to places that
Will never be
What grasping the outstretched
Hand in dreams
I found a photo of my children around the fireplace roasting marshmallows. It was their first marshmallow roast, and mine. It was their first fireplace, and mine. The moment is with me now, and my skin warms at their enamoring of the bright flames, their gift of transforming something so cold and unappealing, to something so sticky, gooey, and sweet. Before that night, I’d never known the magic of places with fire, nor understood the attraction.
Maybe this is our power as human beings.
The ability to imbue brightness, warmth, transformation, and sweetness can be surprising attributes of wild things observed in nature. But observation is little more than recognition, and recognition is little more than a remembrance of self.
Early on in parenting, I decided that directing my child away from the flames would assuage only my perceptions of safety, and somewhere deeper, I knew that safety was a fictitious self-authoring of fear, drawn in shades of pain. So I let them decide how close they would get to the fire, and hovered over their tiny bodies on pins and needles, unsure where the line between childhood freedom and parental carelessness had been drawn.
When the warmth became painful, they retreated without my direction, finding for themselves a comfortable distance for observing brightness, feeling the warmth, and indulging in the benefits of transformation.
I think sometimes adults are the same, entering one another’s lives as fire, retreating as ink, yet remaining burrowed deeply into the hearts compass, inspiring us to become the sparks we once feared, and leading us to wear ashes of secret devotion.
This has been my experience at least. Sometimes I stand in a cold room with no fire in sight, yet feel warm and gooey all over, my eyes opened in wonder, craving to meet lips of a similarly fueled flame.