A single spark.
A single breath of wind.
That’s all it takes for everything to change.
While the SoCal skies have been filled with smoke and ash, NorCal is repeatedly shut into darkness with power outages to prevent the rise of devastating fires. Over five-thousand fires have burned already this season and I am again struck by nature’s unbridled power. A power that can both destroy and create.
A power that has reminded me three integral things to do consciously each day:
1. DROP DEAD DEBRIS
Drought and dry debris are most at fault for fueling the fires. When a tree holds onto dead leaves as the seasons change, they shrivel into a state that’s fragile… and extremely flammable.
I wonder how often we refuse to surrender our own old leaves to the wind. How often we cling to resentments or relationships, past experiences, guilt or grudge. Sometimes we might hold on because, in a way, we feel safer behind all those layers of foliage. But the longer we hold on, the more suited the debris becomes to feed fury to the flames.
It feels vulnerable to undress out of the past and let our branches be exposed with such raw and vulnerable hope. But it’s far better to let them go, than it is to wait until they are burned away and replaced with charred scars. Letting go of the old can feel frightening, but it is the only way to grow into color and blossoms with the new season.
2. PICK PERSPECTIVE
Constantly on edge of evacuation over the last couple months, my perspective has had a major reset. Disaster has a way of doing that—of reminding us what really matters. When I was strewn on the street after my motorcycle accident, everything that I had been concerned about that day vanished. My priorities were immediately clear.
But sometimes I can get so busy pushing through the pain, or so engulfed in the eternal to-do lists, so focused on the goal, that priorities fall into a haze. The evacuation warnings cleared whatever haze was there and had me thinking, if I had sixty-seconds to pack everything of importance—what would it be?
Now each morning I look at all the things that lie ahead in the day, and I ask myself about each: “Would I take this with me?”
And I don’t just mean the items in a suitcase. What things do you want to invest your time and energy in? I know now that I would take my health with me, but I had to feel the burn of that recently to be reminded that my health is as important as my work.
Let’s stop waiting for the burn.
Let’s stop waiting until flames are out the window to realize what’s important. Let’s consciously think about it every day. Let’s pick our priorities, pick our perspective. Let’s create our lives around those things, those people, those moments, that we truly value—every day, while we’re blessed enough to still have them
3. STOKE THE SOUL
The interesting thing is that while millions face preventative power outages, guess what they are relying on to ward off the darkness and the bite of northern autumn?
That’s right. Fire itself.
How can something so viciously threatening, also be so vital to life? A single spark has the power to rupture into a ravenous rage that destroys everything in its path. The same spark has the power to flourish into a light that warms and illuminates even the coldest nights.
It’s within you and me too—the flicker, the ember, the light. And just like any fire, it has power to destroy or protect and create. It’s outcome depends on how it is stoked, how it is tended to.
If drought and debris fuel wildfire, what about that illuminating fire in the hearth? It’s fueled with carefully placed kindling and wood. And most of all, it’s stoked with intention and care.
My kindling is gratitude, and connection with community. I tend to my fire with meditation, or with hikes in nature.
If we ignore the flickering inside, it will result in one of two ways:
One, like a wildfire, it will rage rampant, catching flame on the life surrounding you before you know what’s happened. And the longer you let it surge without taming or directing it, the hungrier the flames grow. It will feed on anything—gossip, drama, addictions, anything to fill that insatiable hunger it has, the same way wildfires hunger on houses and land, anything in it’s path.
And if instead you light a fire in a hearth but leave it overnight without checking on it once? It will have fizzled into nothing but ash of what could’ve been.
Light needs a source for existence—YOU are that source. So look within at the flicker and see what it needs…what YOU need.
May you stay safe from the dangers, and grow with the wisdom of the wild, the lessons of nature this season. May you find what fans your flames and stokes your soul, and may you fuel those flames so they may warm and illuminate your path forward.