Fire – ouch!
I find this one very difficult. I have extremely mixed feelings about whether or not I truly wish to be like the fire and struggled making the collage that represents it. As a symbol it makes me wary and uncomfortable.
As I’ve said before, I have absolutely adored this story from the Desert Fathers for many years:
Abba Lot went to see Abba Joseph and said to him, “Abba as far as I can I say my little office, I fast a little, I pray and meditate, I live in peace and as far as I can, I purify my thoughts. What else can I do?” Then the old man stood up and stretched his hands towards heaven. His fingers became like ten lamps of fire and he said to him, “If you will, you can become all flame.”
I suppose I love the story because of that burning, intense passion for the divine, that sense that one’s devotion can be so pure, focused and whole-hearted that we can be totally set alight by it. And yet, and yet…
There is so much in me that fights against the idea of being like fire. For me it symbolises many characteristics I both desire and at the same time spend much energy trying desperately hard to steer clear of. Despite fast approaching fifty, I still baulk against the idea of raging, burning and searing, against consuming, annihilating and destroying – even when there is every good reason to do those things. There is still a large part of me that believes that good little girls should always be calm, placid and nice, pastel-coloured, kind and innocuous. How insipid, how un-firelike.
But deep down (very deep down most days) there’s a part that knows we need fire in our repertoire too, despite the fact that it’s scary, visible and powerful.
Fire is passionate, wild, alive and glorious. It burns up what needs to be destroyed and warms up what is hard and cold. It brings out flavour and creates colour, bringing a light to dream and dare by.
Just thinking about this symbol in this post has made me want to reflect on it some more. If you want to join me, here are a few ideas:
- Build a fire and then spend some time looking at the flames. What pictures do you see? What does it make you dream of and long for?
- Sit by a fire with a good friend and tell each other some of the important stories of your lives.
- If you have any things you want to let go of, write them down on paper, scrumple them up and then burn them.
- Light a candle and meditate on the flame.
- Reflect on the symbol of fire and think about which things you passionately long to pour energy into in your life. Are there other things which need to be burned up and destroyed before you will have the energy to do this?
The only technique I’ve used in this collage which I haven’t mentioned when discussing ‘earth’ and ‘air’ is the use of bleach on photos. It creates an interesting effect, but one that is impossible to predict, so try it on spare photos before you stick them on the collage (or be prepared to build layers over the top if you don’t like the result). You just brush neat or diluted household bleach on to the photo and then quickly wipe it off with some kitchen towel. The colours will change and smear in interesting ways, but if you leave it on too long you’ll be left with a white sheet of photo paper…!
Thank you very much for reading.