That Fire Was

“Ashes denote that fire was;
Respect the grayest pile
For the departed creature’s sake
That hovered there awhile.
Fire exists the first in light,
And then consolidates, —
Only the chemist can disclose
Into what carbonates.” – Emily Dickinson, Fire

I once climbed into a cave deep in the Grand Canyon and observed the soot accumulated on the ceiling from fires generations years ago. I’ve had similar observations in fireplaces in the castles of Scotland and the old forts of North America. And I’ve come across old fire pits deep in the woods. And I’ve often wondered, who gathered around this fire? What was their story?

With Autumn we start gathering around fires more often, warmed by the glowing embers and infused with smoky thoughts. Inevitably I think back on other fires I’ve gathered around, sometimes with the same cast of characters, sometimes with their echoes, and wonder where the time goes. The burning coals I stir become the ashes I scatter when they cool, like memories cooled with time. And I wonder, who will come across my own fire’s ashes?

And now, what coals are you stirring?

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