What Makes The Fire Burn

“What makes a fire burn is space between the logs, a breathing space.” Judy Sorum Brown

I was a fire child, a stealer of matches, a lighter of flames. I loved the way the match flickered and the way the flame danced, the blue of the base turning orange and then yellow. My mother caught me one day, clandestinely lighting match after match in my dad’s home office. I tried to hid the evidence, but the smell and the thin plume of smoke rising from under my thigh gave me away. Once she determined that I hadn’t burned a hole in my dad’s black leather office chair, she invited me in her lovely calm way to keep lighting the matches .. in an ashtray, in the kitchen, under her watchful eye.

Fire at night is like the ocean during the day. Something I can stare at for hours, mesmerized by the movement and changing colors. Fire means warmth, family, a gathering together after a long day, usually during or after a delicious meal.

A candle in a glass on top of a picnic table with the dark blue ocean and orange of the sunset behind it

I am not a calm person by nature, and I don’t settle easily. There’s always a counter to clean, another dish to wash, one more email to send. I get distracted easily, and I have trouble sitting still. Fire and the sea are what quiet me, help me back into my body, connect me back to the present. They are an invitation to be, to daydream, to lose track of time and let go of sadness.

Just like a healthy fire, I need space between. These days, too much activity, too many bodies and not enough air can leave me frazzled and spinning in circles. I crave the connection but also need time alone to write and think and be by myself. Buster is a fine companion as he patiently follows me around the house, waiting for me to alight somewhere so that he can curl up at my feet.

For the longest time after Jimmy died, I struggled to stay out of the present. The pain was too huge, the longing too great, the loss unfixable and unbearable. Spending time with those who love me, being listened to, talking about Jimmy, time and distance have smoothed the sharp corners of my grief, allowing me to edge closer to reality and acknowledge what is.

Time has given me back memories of Jimmy, memories that heal instead of wound. Reminders of how beautiful those days were. Confirmation that they were real and true and belong to me still. I am learning to accept my inability to see around corners and predict the future. To instead find ways to be here now and trust in what comes next. Jimmy’s flame is always there, helping me find my way. Reminding me of the love that continues to burn brightly between us, lighting the path, guiding me home.

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