I miss building huge bonfires, where, in the midst of 60 acres of Maine woods with good snow cover, we would set match to paper and twig, urging spark to flame, then fanning to a crescendo of conflagration. Stepping back to avoid singeing hair and nostrils, we’d observe flames consuming dead, heavy 4’ wet logs without losing momentum. These fires were big; too much for anybody paranoid about setting the forest aflame, but we lived in tune with nature enough to respect certain laws and boundaries. The process went on seasonally for years.
There is something about the contrast of icy skin rosy with sweat under layers of wool, the smell of woodsmoke and ash, flames shooting twenty feet in the air singeing tips of hemlock boughs, the crack and groan of expanding ice on the nearby lake, and the intense heat and raw energy of a confluence of elements in nature. It pushes everything else out; a cheating husband, an unexpected pregnancy, a friend’s betrayal, the fear of loss and change. There is nothing but action and vigilance and focus and presence, all desirable to me today as I ponder the ending of another year of life on this magnificent planet.
Today while riding my bike, I found myself building that bonfire, fanning and feeding it to a glorious blaze while tossing into its cavernous mouth each negative thought and impulse as it arose. In preparation for clearing a path for renewal in 2016, I smelled the woodsmoke, felt the heavy wool-lined rubber boots on my feet, wiped the sweat from my ash-streaked brow, and tromped out into the cold for more crackling brush. I was assured in the rhythm of slippery steps and a beating heart and heaving lungs that in nature abides the perpetual promise of renewal. And while most challenges I have faced down in six decades of life sneak in innocently enough, their transcendence roars out and through me like a bonfire. Or a lion. And 2015, at least for me, is going out just this way.
Perhaps 2016 will reveal unity rather than separation, as we collectively realize it is to this amazing earth we owe our life and breath. Maybe it will become clearer that working in harmony with nature and one another is the surest way to purge ourselves of the discomfort of disconnection. And this, dear reader, is my hope, as we step into the future together.