Is Your Life Burning Well?
There was a time when I knew my life was burning, if not well, then at least it was burning.
“Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”
― Leonard Cohen
But just as a fire will blaze and burn high at the beginning, and then settle down into a steadier heat, so goes the creative life. There are times when you tend the low and elusive embers, and there are times when the fire is fed, there are times when sparks fly. It’s strange to talk about creative sparks, such a cliché right? It’s probably best to keep quiet about them.
“I want to say words that flame
as I say them, but I keep quiet and don’t try
to make both worlds fit in one mouthful.”
Leonard Cohen has it right though when he talks about the creative output as being the ash. It’s your entire life as a creative person that you have to tend, not just the poetry, or the photography, or painting.
My writing ritual for many years, when our daughter was young, was to work on Fridays. All week I would gather notes, read anything that pertained to what I was writing, and read work by those who inspired me. But the actual writing, that was done on Fridays when the house was empty. As Rob and Chloe would drive off to visit various grandparents in various homes, hospitals, or cafés, I would joke to friends over email (oh, the days pre-social media!) about how it was time to light myself on fire. And it felt a bit like that, stoking the embers I’d been tending during the week, adding some fuel, and seeing what would happen. There were days when I felt I was inside the flames, sparks flying everywhere. I thought that might go on forever. It hasn’t.
These days, my creative fire is low and mostly steady, but sometimes it’s hard to discern the embers. Some days the embers are under a layer of earth. I have to dig down a little. There they are. It’s lonely. I’m afraid.
“Do not feel lonely, the entire universe is inside you.
Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.
Set your life on fire. Seek those who fan your flames.”
How do we fan our own flames, let alone those of another? I think, as Rumi says, we have to stop thinking so small. Let’s strike matches everywhere!
“Each of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can't strike them all by ourselves.”
– Laura Esquivel, from Like Water for Chocolate
“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”
– Albert Schweitzer
Let’s create sparks everywhere we go, lifting each other up, rekindling soul-fires, heart-fires, the love of making rigorously beautiful and difficult and astonishing things. We’re going to be walking through the fire that is our life. Let’s help each other do it well.
“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”
– Charles Bukowski