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Burning It Down

Growing up in my rural Utah town, my Sundays consisted of going to church from 10 am to 1 pm, coming home for a tune fish sandwich and then going for a drive into the mountains with my father. Most times we drove up one of two major canyons just minutes from home. He would point out to me the various mines and tell me stories about the ones he worked in or people he knew associated with them. Sometimes we would be collecting and cutting firewood. These trips were usually him doing that and me running off and playing in the woods.

I remember one time he was teaching me to shoot a shotgun. I can't recall the gauge but suffice it to say it may have been too much for my little body. I held the gun. He stood behind me and held onto the gun as well. I pulled the trigger, missing the pop can by the way, and the kick from the shot threw me backward to the ground. He held on to the gun knowing exactly what was going to happen the first time I pulled that trigger.

Another time we were camping on top of the mountain, literally. The drive isn't far or long but the road climbs the side of the steep mountain. It's so steep that there are very few places where two vehicles may pass each other. I've had friends ask to go back down the mountain because it can be that unsettling. We made camp on top and had some dinner. We were sleeping in the back of the truck under the truck canopy. The coyotes howling freaked me out. Their songs echoed through the forest and chilled me to the bone. I asked to be taken home and my dad did so. He drove down that steep and narrow road to take me home.

These are just some of my early memories. Taking drives up the canyon as an adult has always been refreshing and spiritual for me. My family has a special place where we honor our dead. There are places where I've drummed with my community sending our voices into the night air. I've experienced ordeal work (flogging) helping me shed old patterns of behavior and leave the forest renewed. Those trees that held me during that experience are gone.

In July 2022, which happened to be the hottest July on record, a fire erupted that took weeks to contain. My heart was and has been so heavy thinking about the loss from the fire. I guess, my heaviness is mostly connected to the memories I have of those ridges, valleys, meadows and streams as well as the future memories to be made. As of this blog being published, I have not seen up close what the terrain looks like now. I may not be ready.

There is beauty is fire. There is beauty in charred tree trunks and soot covered rocks. There is beauty in the brightest green seedlings breaking through the blackened ground. Sometimes, to the extreme, our lives have to be burned to the ground for us to allow the new growth to happen. Most times we do not have to burned it all down and leave with nothing, not even our name. We can look at these fires as controlled burns. We can actively work with the fire. Now, of course, this is extremely dangerous as we can not always see how the winds will blow the flames, but necessary nonetheless.

Fire is but one way to clear things. It is unforgiving. It cares not for your feelings and pains. It will transform instantaneously. Cweorth is the Anglo Saxon Rune of the funeral pyre and embodies this power to transform. It consumes everything leaving only slivers of bones in a pile of ash to be blown away by the wind.

Which aspects of your life are in need of a controlled burn? Where on your mountain is it time to clear some old growth to make way for new? Fire may not be the appropriate way to accomplish this; yet again it may be the only way to let go of what is to make way for what you desire.

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