|Words and photo by F LoBuono|
I think, perhaps, that is why, when we find ourselves within its warm embrace, we are mesmerized. Whether in a group or by ourselves, in fine voice or in total silence, we stare wide-eyed into the dancing flames. For me, a true fan of warm weather, time in front of a fireplace is one of the few pleasures that winter has to offer.
With this in mind, I found myself in front of one that I had going in the small fireplace at my house. It was a particularly cold day and the comfort provided by the raging fire felt especially good on my face. I folded my arms across the mantle, forming a cradle for my head. From here, I could stand directly in front of the fire and peer down into it. I found myself completely relaxed, absorbing the warmth right into my weary bones. The sound of the crackling fire made the only sound. The rich, deep smell of the burning wood filled my nostrils with a most pleasant odor. I was truly home.
With the trance-like effect now created by that atmosphere, I had the luxury of allowing my mind to wonder. Of course, I would never pass up an opportunity to take such a trip. I began to think: why are we SO connected to fire? What is it within its power that brings us to an almost altered state of consciousness? As I tossed a fresh log into the fire, I watched in silence as the flames overtook and began to engulf it. Eventually, it too became part of the greater fire. It was releasing a tremendous amount of heat and light and it felt so good. Why can't I take my eyes away?
It was then that it came to me: Beyond the obvious benefits, we are drawn to the fire because it is a metaphor for life and death. We are as the wood that we use in our fireplaces. Like that wood, we spend our entire lives storing up the energy we take in from the sun. from our food, and from our very lives themselves. After a certain time taking and storing, it is time for all of that energy to be released. In the case of the wood, tens of thousands of sunny days and hundreds of rain storms endured are now being transformed into a new form - that of heat on light. So, in a sense, the cycle is maintained. The tree from which the wood was taken is not gone. Rather, it has been recreated as pure energy.
I believe that it is the same for us. At the end of our lives, we don't "disappear". Our form just changes. Like the wood in the fire, when we pass, we release a tremendous amount of heat and light into the universe. We are no longer "wood" but a new state - that of energy. And, that energy continues in new, various forms for all eternity. All that remains from our previous state, like the wood, are ashes. So, in a sense, that is our immortality. Perhaps, that is what we are experiencing within the warmth of a fire - why we are so connected to it.
After a few more moments of self-indulgence (and another bourbon), I needed to enter yet another altered state of consciousness called sleep.