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Every Dream is a Blaze
collisions of darkness and light
Two days after the Natural Heritage Are Centrewas severely damaged by a neighboring building’s fire, one of the owners started an instagram post with these words: Every dream is a blaze. I can only imagine what it’s like to get the news that the project you’d been dreaming of for twenty years, the one you’d built from the ground up, the one dedicated to ensuring everyone has access to the arts, the one that just opened its doors to the public three months ago, is on fire. It can be shattering when life hands you something you absolutely do not want. It can feel like the blaze of a dream has turned to ash in an instant.
In Collisions of Earth and Sky, I write about forest fire, which of course is a different situation that a building fire in a village. But I’ve been thinking about it in the last few days after my community experienced the impacts of flame.
There’s a sense of emptiness and mourning that gets left behind after a fire goes through, whether it goes metaphorically through a life or literally through a forest. Sometimes that emptiness allows a new space to be visible. When the old passes away, it points to a gate that leads to the world that lies beyond what we can see clearly at first glance. It’s a gate that invites us to open it, walk through, and figure out where we are supposed to go next.
Of course, one needs time, too, to mourn what has happened. Grief can’t be rushed—walking the path of healing takes as long as it takes. In my experience, trying to uncover the lessons or silver linings the moments just after a big loss isn’t especially helpful (especially when someone else is encouraging you to find those things and you need more time to feel what you feel). Ann Lamott writes, “It can be healthy to hate what life has given you, and to insist on being a big mess for a while. This takes great courage. But then, at some point, the better of two choices is to get back up on your feet and live again.”
After a fire burns itself out, the site is black and smells of soot and acridity. It can look pretty bleak for a while. As the months roll on, life slowly returns. And the life there was never totally gone. Under the soil, microbes and rhizomes and roots (even while the surface was scorched away) continued to live. Seeds that need heat to open were granted the gift of life. After a burn, new trees and plants are offered an opportunity to grow now that the sun can reach the ground. Eventually there is a tint of green mixed in with the black, and with the help of a little nourishment, the new seedlings begin to make their way to the light. Wildlife returns, and a new forest is born.
It’s been heartening to see the community rallying in support of both of the businesses impacted by the fire. Fundraising has begun, and there’s been an outpouring of support that sends a clear message: music stores and art centers are essential for a healthy community. Conditions for the owners of the impacted businesses remain hard, but they aren’t alone as they figure out what to do next.
Blustery and uncertain conditions are hard to navigate. They can be unpleasant. They’re inconvenient. They can be devastating. They can also offer possibilities.
Milkweed pods burst open, seeds taking flight.
Any serotinous pine cones in the burning forests released their seeds because of new heat.
We won’t know where those seeds landed until they sprout again, but they landed somewhere to take root and grow into something new.
No one wants to see their dream go up in flames and every dream is a blaze. RedBird Music Store and NHAC have both suffered huge losses and have life in them still. Devastation is real and possibilities arrive and grow with every new breath taken. Darkness can feel like it’ll swallow you up and light can find a way, despite everything.
As Maggie Smith wrote, “Yes, there’s darkness—in this world and in your one, small life—but there is also light streaming in from many directions. Some is coming from so far off, it hasn’t reached you yet. Turn your face to it as often as you can. No darkness deserves your full attention.”
Whatever you are facing today, whether it be anxiety to a life-altering decision to a problem that just seems too big to navigate, know this: You can do this hard thing.
It might not work out exactly how you want it to (most things don't), but the definition of impossible is being re-written all the time. Even if it feels really dark, the light is on its way.
It might take awhile to navigate what’s going on. It may be messy or painful or confusing. But maybe it's not impossible—maybe it'll just take a little more time.
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NHAC is the location the launch of Collisions of Earth and Sky was scheduled to be on Feb. 3rd. I’m in the process of looking at some alternative locations, and possibly dates. Stay tuned for more information in the week to come.
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