The number of wildfires burning in B.C. this past month surpassed the record number of wildfires we experienced in 2017. And we are told that “this is the new normal” as the earth continues to heat up. Unfortunately, even though the vast majority of these wildfires were ignited by lightning, a significant number were directly ignited by humans.
As a retired psychologist, I tend to look at the symbolism of what I am witnessing in my immediate environment and try to understand the deeper message. Thus, in this month’s article I invite you to accompany me in thinking about what fire might be saying to me personally. Nature’s message is always personal but openness is required to hear the personal message nature has for me. In my January Chemainus Valley Courier article, I invited you to hug a tree. Hopefully, you actually did hug a tree and experienced the unique energy the tree had for you.
As you are well aware there are four key elements in nature: earth, water, air and fire. While these elements are often thought of individually, they are nonetheless relatively inseparable. Our firefighters had to use water to quench the flames, dig ditches in the earth to prevent the fire from spreading and were constantly monitoring air currents and air quality.
For readers who are conscious of astrology, you will know there is a belief in astrology that each human is born under a Zodiac sign according to his/her birthdate. One of the four earth elements is attached to the particular Zodiac sign. Thus, the Zodiac signs of Aries, Leo, and Sagittarius are associated with the element of fire. Fire has both positive and negative characteristics. Or perhaps more accurately described in Jungian psychology as “the self” and “the shadow” aspects of the person.
However, one does not necessarily have to be born under the Zodiac sign of fire to demonstrate its destructiveness or its creativeness. In a sense, fire as one of the four earth elements stands alone in so far as it is not an essential element for daily survival as is water, air and earth (food). For example, if you find yourself in hospital you may be given IV fluids, oxygen and, if lucky, food. The same for airline services, but neither service is likely to light your cigarette.
We are only too aware of the destructiveness of the wildfires but perhaps we are not so conscious of the destructiveness of our fiery speech, words that are sarcastic, cruel, cutting, gossipy and insincere. In counseling sessions, I would often ask a client “How did you know the person was angry? What did you see? ” Normally, the response was “I saw a clenched fist, clenched jaw, red face and heard a raised voice.” Yes, just like the wildfire is visible so, too, are our fiery personality traits, our aggressiveness.
Our firefighters often have to stay after the wildfire is not visibly burning because of the underbrush and smoldering that is not so visible. The wildfire is said to be “contained.” The other day when I was in a cafe, a young woman shared how she has a very supportive relationship with her sister but lacks a closeness with her mother. When I asked “How come?” she said, “Oh, I love my mother but her behaviour is passive aggressive.” I was surprised with the response I heard from this youthful face (she was totally unaware that I am a retired psychologist). I then asked if she really knew what “passive aggressive” meant. To this, she responded “she says hurtful things, then pretends she was joking.” An accurate description of passive aggressiveness.
Are there embers smoldering inside me from unforgivenesses, resentments, jealousies, angers, hurts, annoyances, broken promises and/or unfulfilled dreams/personal goals? As self firefighters, we are the only ones who can extinguish these embers within us. If we allow them to smolder (as they have perhaps for years) they will lead to fatal health problems eventually because of their toxicity. Most non-pathological depressions are caused by embers from the past that are affecting the present.
But as we know, even the wildfires have a positive transforming energy. In the article ‘The Science of Wildfires’ on the Transformation of Fire website it reads “Fire-resistant seeds and reserve shoots that sprout after a fire encourage species preservation….” “Smoke, charred wood, and heat can stimulate the germination of seeds, in a process known as serotiny.” “Grasslands in Western Sabah, Malaysian pine forests, and Indonesian Casuarina forests are believed to have resulted from previous periods of fire.”
Similarly, each one of us can let the positive transforming energy germinate seeds of empowerment, contentment, radiance, joyfulness and even prosperity. Again, it is totally up to me if I am going to have toxic embers rule my life or allow them to germinate into something beautiful. The wildfire is mine, will it push me to smolder or to germinate?
(Kathleen Kelly is a Chemainus resident and author of the book ‘The Tornadoes We Create.’)