Accepting What is and Walking in the Flames

I see it from the kitchen window. The plum tree behind the what-used-to-be-the-chicken-house. It exploded into fragrant bee-laden blooms overnight.

And I know those tiny bunches of purple-puckered balloons weren’t there yesterday.

Last year I forced forsythia inside because I was so desperate for joy color. But it’s already burst into fire in the shade behind the fence. Flame tongues lick the breeze, and I come close like Moses drew near the burning bush.

Something flickers inside.

Here I am.

Do something with me.

The weather is crazy warm. Hot even.

My mom would have loved it. And the birds. I don’t remember her taking such an interest in birds before those last weeks.

I choke a little as I begin to fill with the smoke of grief. And not just the loss of my mom, I think, but grief over what could have been and what is not.

The book we’re reading over at Tweetspeak Poetry focuses on “poetry and the preservation of the soul in corporate America.” It presents these questions.

Has your work lost its meaning?

Have you forgotten the goals you hoped to achieve when you began your career?

Are you afraid of pursuing your dreams?

Maybe this book is not for me since I no longer walk halls with a stethoscope draped around my neck or a syringe in my hand.

I wish I’d read it years ago, before my work as a nurse lost its meaning. Before the fear of responsibility for a life overcame the joy of caring for a life. Before the calling became a job. Before my soul got swallowed in paperwork and speed and numbers.

Back then I’d leave whatever shred of self-image I had at home to change into OR scrubs and shoe covers and wonder which doctor would yell at me that day. Which doctor would throw an instrument. Back then I was afraid to sleep in the OR lounge when I was on call because of the anesthesiologist who pinned me against an OR table after a late night case.

And I stopped writing.

Later in a job I thought I’d never leave, and after poking thousands of needles into tender skin and checking hundreds of heads for lice, I came home to care for needy adolescents–and now for grandgirls.

It makes me sad sometimes. I think I’d dig deeper and see deeper today. I’m more confident in myself. But this is my work now in the Corporation of the King. Finding poetry in a spaghetti-stuffed bib, a plush Minnie Mouse, and a Ragu-pinned bat.

David Wythe says we need to embrace our grief and our failures as well as our joys.

“It is the embrace of failure and grief, harrowing as these are, that forms the vessel for the joyous votive flame of creativity.”

Accept things as they are, he says. The gold lies within. “We must make a hearth and home [for our creative fire] at the very place where the life we feel we are stuck with and the life we desire meet and overlap.”

Without the fiery embrace of everything from which we demand immunity, including depression and failure, the personality continues to seek power over life rather than power through the experience of life. We throw the precious metal of our own experience away, exchanging it for the fool’s gold of a superimposed image, an image of what our experience should be rather than what it actually is, the final element in the act of creation. ~p.113

Wythe tells the story of an old master potter whose whole life focused around finding a new glaze for his porcelain vases, but no matter what he did or how hard he tried, he could not achieve his vision. He could not create the beauty he imagined. Finally he gave up. He decided his meaningful life was over and walked into is own oven. “When his assistants opened up the kiln and took out the vases, they found the glaze on the vases the most exquisite they had ever encountered. The master himself had disappeared into his creations.”

Work is the very fire where we are baked to perfection, and like the master of the fire itself, we add the essential ingredient and fulfillment when we walk into the flames ourselves and fuel the transformation of ordinary, everyday forms into the exquisite and the rare. ~p. 113-114

Something stirs inside me there in front of the forsythia, and my heart is strangely warmed. Maybe it’s time to walk into the oven.


Joining my friend Lyla and the Tweetspeak Poetry gang in the study of David Whyte’s The Heart Aroused. I’m lagging behind. They’re on chapters 5 and 6. I’m still hanging in chapter 3, “Embracing the Fire.”










    • Sandra says

      I remember when we were still in school, we’d talk about how even after we had families, we’d work at least a little to keep our hands in it. I’ve worked on and off in a lot of different areas, and though I don’t have a “career” of it, the nursing part of me is still here. Maybe it’s part of my need to fix things.

  1. says

    You had me at “I choke a little as I begin to fill with the smoke of grief.”

    Geesh, Sandy… now I’m going to have to read the book. I SO get this.
    Patricia recently posted..Tiny Town

  2. says

    Sandy, what a thoughtful consideration of this chapter. It was so full for me — I could hardly scratch the surface with my post. And you’ve pulled some things I didn’t even see.

    And the idea of finding power through experience. This is such a profound but overlooked (or swept under the rug) truth. No matter the experience — joy or grief and anything around or in between — these experiences are what make life what it is.

    Take your time through the rest of this book. And then go back and read it again. I think I’m going to have to. 😉

    Thanks so much for adding this.
    Lyla Lindquist recently posted..Live Into This

    • Sandra says

      Such a deep read, Lyla. I don’t feel near intelligent enough to do it justice. And don’t feel qualified to write in relation to corporation (though I did work from home for a medical transcription corporation and spent a few months selling life insurance), but there’s so much in there for every day life and work. I have so many books piled up that I’m afraid to not soak in this as long as I can for fear I won’t come back to it for a long time.

  3. says

    Oh, my Sandy. this is just amazing. So real and true and powerful. Thanks so much. And I’m with Pat – you had me with the ‘smoke of grief.’ I also resonated with the job part – I’ve had some good friends in nursing (even considered it myself for about 10 minutes) and these very things touched, burned and ultimately deadened them.

    And this life you lead – which looks so much like my own right now – Sandy…it is a beautiful life. You go deep and you mine gold. Yes, you do. And I thank you for that.
    diana recently posted..A Lenten Journey: Cllimbing to the Cross – Day TWENTY-FIVE

    • Sandra says

      You know, I’ve considered parish nursing. Or even hospice after being with my mom. But I think here is where I need to be for now. I do keep my license up. I have visions of giving immunizations someday in some far country.

  4. says

    There is so much richness in what you’ve brought to us in this, Sandy. ”We must make a hearth and home [for our creative fire] at the very place where the life we feel we are stuck with, and the life we desire, meet and overlap.” This speaks to me about contentment and recognizing the part we play in living out our lives. And I identify with the the other comment, that it’s not “power over life” that we need, but “power through the experience of life.”

    I admit the “walking into the fire” image at first felt gruesome, but when I consider it in light of The Refiner’s Fire, and being purified for Him, the image turns positive.
    Carol J. Garvin recently posted..The Lucky 7 Meme

    • Sandra says

      There is so much richness in this book. And I had to read through the potter story several times before I began to “get” it. And then there’s the idea of the fire inside us, especially if you think about writing (and I think about Timothy, too) that needs to be fanned in whatever circumstance we find ourselves.

    • Sandra says

      The rest of the group is writing on chapters 4 and 5 today. I’m still stuck back here, chewing on it because I didn’t know how to write about what I’d seen. I was a little surprised at what came out. Now I have to chew on it. :)

  5. says

    That smoke of grief, you just have to inhale. Let it in and let it dissipate through your body. Then let it out just like you’re doing here–in words or photographs or grandgirls or even a new thing.
    Megan Willome recently posted..Lents I Have Known: 4

    • Sandra says

      And I know that you know this well.

      I posted just above you at Lyla’s place today and got all happy when I went back and saw your sweet face. It just makes me so happy that you wanted to use that picture. 😀 xoxo