She was there right before I was born, beautiful streams of light in the sky, celebrating our country’s birth, a perfect preface to my birth, being born into the year of the fire dragon.
When I was 2, she came into my room in the middle of the night by way of a candle flame, left to burn too long, until the wax was gone, and all that was left for her to consume was the tablecloth beneath, then the table, then the wall…for she always wants it all.
I remember gazing into the flames, mesmerized but with no fear, until suddenly my mother was near, swooping me up to take me away from her hunger.
When I was 8, I used to play with her, laughing at how she lit up the night with my name as I twirled her on a stick high in the air. Feeling exhilarated with excitement of fear… as my brother chased me with her in the lead. So close I could feel her heat on my back…just a few inches from the possibility of actually getting burned, or an eye turned black.
When I was 12 I was assigned to be her keeper while my mom held sweat lodge ceremonies. I felt important and powerful in this position, but it was she who had the power, the warmth I needed, and on those cold nights we sat together and told each other secrets. It was then I thought she had become my friend till the end.
When I was 18 I left her alone to guard my altar, and this is where my trust in her began to falter, for quickly she left her post, and my wall was toast. This led to a call being made to the fire department…streams of firemen in and out…questions…sleepy neighbors in pj’s…more questions…Her hunger and quest for freedom and fame my embarrassment for thinking she was tame.
When I was 28 we came home to sirens and yellow tape, and I knew then from her betrayal I could not escape….for this time she took life with her need to consume, and my neighbor and friend lost her beloved pets and home. We were displaced for a month due to asbestos release, all because of her need for a feast.
When I was 34, I never could have imagined what was in store, for I was still somewhat naive to her power. I woke up smelling smoke in the air, and was filled with despair, as I heard the helicopters flying in. She started in the canyon down below, but the winds were blowing that day, and before anyone could know, she was raging and running, consuming anything in her path in order to grow. My dad had to leave the home he built with the clothes on his back, but in her rage she would cut him no slack. She consumed acres and acres until the wind ceased to blow, until finally it ended and then we would know, the extent of her wrath, the destruction of her path…168 homes lost, both the home I was born in and the home I grew up in my personal cost.
A few years ago I returned to the land and let my tears flow. I cried for what was, is and never will be. For all that is now only a memory. A house that was there for over 30 years….gone….but as I looked through my tears…I began to see, all the new growth and life surrounding me. Green grasses and wildflowers, birds in the trees. I was reminded that sometimes things happen to make way for new things. I forgave her that day, for causing such chaos, and for creating for so many so much loss.
Yesterday I drove by and there is a new house being built. I was flooded with all the emotions I’ve felt. Good and the bad, old and the new, but through it all I remembered what is true…that the cycle goes on and life is renewed.
Now as I gaze into her flames I know…she is neither friend nor foe. She is simply life, death, a part of creation. Nature’s partner in power, a humbling force of realization. Reminder of impermanence. Bringer of change. Giver of warmth, light into the dark of night. Inspiration for new birth, as the cycle continues on this amazing thing called Earth.