Coming Home and the Karma of Flame.

Hello, lovely bluebirds!

I just woke up from the first good night’s sleep I’ve had in over two weeks. I got home last night from two weeks of fighting wildfire. As you know from the heightened news coverage, there are many fires burning in the western United States, which makes my job as a Hotshot both better and worse. I’m grateful to have three days off to spend with my family and Brandon and my dogs. I’m looking forward to running and riding bikes and spending LOTS of needed time in the hot springs and eating Thai. And listening to this mashup of the XX and Notorious B.I.G.

Fire has so much energy. And for every ounce of energy that fire has, it takes ten times the energy to stop it. I think that this rule applies for the way we treat others as well; for every good thing, kind thing, good intention that is done, it takes the same energy or less to spread it. For negative things, it takes karma ten times the energy to repay it. It’s easier to be good.

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The night we did this burn (in the picture above), I saw a deer running out of three flame fronts together. I saw about ten birds of prey floating on the drift of the smoke and vortices converging inside. I thought about them and the concept of survival. I thought about all the things that were dying inside the acreage we had burned…all the little things. The sage. The grass and their hoppers. The spiders. The roots that flow like circuitry through the ground.

But there is life in that.

I was thinking about that scene–my favorite fire vision of flame front and birds floating on its energy–and this poem by Joanna Klink, one of my very favorite poems and author of Circadian, found me this morning–perfect expression of what I had seen:

VIREO

And although I am afraid for the soil and silver hills,

for the root systems and breath systems, for those

who feed under cover of night, there is still a strange

borderless joy in the upper rooms of trees, as vireos

sail between branches, bobbing through the swept

white sky, acquainted with cloud-drift and the evermore

intricate breezework of space. A reverie

of hollow bones and strong taut feathers that whisk and

pivot with our eyes’ vitality, they elude each specific death

as hawks move like light through smoke, hanging without sound.

Innocents, the day has brought you everything you need,

and the depths that open up beneath you are of no

concern to you–the phlox growing up the rotting shed,

the slow scuttle of cars, each hometown blinking through

exhaust as the evening broods then descends.

We fail where you most survive, at the brink of air, pushing

hard against the pressures of the given. What do you

have, coming suddenly where all things are?

(A vireo, for reference, is a small African songbird).

On my last days off, I tried to take Brandon to my sacred space, the red gate. You’ve seen it on the Lyon’s Roar because I talk about it all the time. For those of you who don’t know, this is the gate:

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When we walked up there, I immediately broke into tears because it was gone. All the posts had been ripped out of the ground. I had an influx of confusing emotions. I felt like my temple had been destroyed. That place was sacred to me, and I had spent many hard times up there thinking and praying to my own personal gods. An entire world I had created in my mind had been created around the days I had spent up there. You know because you’ve read all my writing about it.

But Brandon told me that it was okay, because the gate was just a thing. The space was still there. The memory, the ceremony, the time was still there. The place was still there. We were there. The intention was what was important. The attachment was not important. The gate needed to go so that I could learn how to find peace in myself. 

I learned an important lesson about attachment and destruction. And watching entire ecosystems burn this summer reiterated that important lesson to me. Love things and people, but do not get attached to them because things do not last forever. You have to find peace in your own mind, and only then can you be constantly at peace with yourself and the world.

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Respect life…your own and the lives of others. Be kind to yourself and reach out to others. Let them ride on the energy you exude, like the birds on the edge of a flame front.

I have a bit of writing to do for Elephant Journal and I am probably going to make some Avocado Gelato today, eat some spicy food, find a high point to hike up to, and buy a new swimsuit to go hot springin’ in. I hope everyone has a lovely day…YOU DESERVE IT!

Fly free, burn hot, be spicy, and love endlessly!

Love always,

J. Bird

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