Thank the Fire
So, where have I been the last 5 months?
It's Christmas Eve and rather than spending it with my family, I am sitting by the grey light of a large window, listening to the rain and reflecting on the strange way this year worked out. It was somehow both expected and unexpected.
My first post of 2012 included the mantra "burn, baby, burn!" and an observation of phoenixes. At the time I intended it as a catalyst for our creativity, to burn with a furnace inside so hot that you must create, get it out of yourself or risk turning yourself to ash. Since then I found myself tossed into a furnace and my life burned to dust, and I realized that sometimes nothing new can be created unless the past growth is destroyed. Like a forest fire. I think sometimes that when we grow, our branches reach for the light in the most direct way possible. Unfortunately, straight up is sometimes not the best route. If all the branches grow straight up, they become crowded and then some die in the shadow, leaving the entire tree stunted. Some of the branches have to take a slower, longer route, and be content with filtered light. It's a more balanced method of living.
I found myself grown like a stunted tree. Some of my branches were reaching desperately for the light, but they could not pull enough from the sun and I started to wither. The inner branches died. My trunk was strong enough that when the fire started, it survived and left me with a core that could grow again.
I left Georgia. I left my family. I left everything that we had built over the last five years. It's true that divorce is akin to death. The grief was crushing, aging me years in a matter of months. I learned, sadly, what friendship really means and who truly cared about me and who didn't. I walked into the middle of the forest and lit a fire. I sat in the middle of it (I had no will or strength to stand) and burned. Flames turned to black smoke, which gave way to ash and I found myself finally able to see the old growth again. All the desperate new branches were destroyed, their thin and weak twigs unable to withstand the fire. But the old trunks were still there, and they now had a tough new armour of fire-hardened bark.
That is the point when you start to grow new branches and you get to decide exactly where they go. It's scary. Exciting yes, but mostly scary. For me, I accepted that my marriage was strong, it just had a couple thick, parasitic branches that hogged all the light and needed to be chopped off and cauterized. The fire did that. What's left is just us, and we're able to start our marriage again. We're lucky, I think. We came close to not surviving the fire.
I haven't seen my husband in two and a half months. I am living in the Pacific Northwest, thousands of miles in any direction from family and friends. I love the holidays, Christmas, presents, lights, cinnamon and clove coffee and pumpkin cookies. But I don't get any of that this year. At the end of the week I'll load up my car again and start the long drive back to Georgia, and when I get there it'll be the end of a literal and metaphorical journey. I just keep thinking how lucky I am that we survived the fire and can start over.
There isn't a moral to this story. Everyone's situation is different. For me, for my husband and I, we needed to succumb to the Destroyer, let her hurricane of fire burn everything to ash. And in the end, the field of blackened trees is strong and serene in the sun as she turns away, satisfied.