There are some who believe that fire releases the sunlight that has been stored as energy in the body of the plant or tree. If this is true, and I believe it is, then my graduate school notebooks from 2003 to 2005 are sheets of sunlight.
Sheets of trapped sunlight is how I’d started to think about them and yet I kept them, along with notes from other courses of study that I’d taken over the years. It’s ridiculous really. Why would I need to remember which poet believed what and why or even who I was when I studied them? Don’t misunderstand me, I loved graduate school – the outlier professors and my talented peers – but like the trees in the forest, I’d taken in the energy (the essence of the teachings) that I needed at the time, did my own form of photosynthesis, and grew limbs, leaves, and roots, then ventured beyond.
Now it was time to let go. Who better to transmute scribblings and sketches than Fire? So earlier this month, on the Harvest Full Moon, I gathered rosemary wood, spent white sage branches, and a bundle of dried tarragon, and watched them release their own sunlight and then the sunlight trapped in the notebooks, until all that was left was a pile of ash.
I’m not advocating that we burn everything we have to release the light of our old selves, the ones that wittingly or unwittingly got us into this climate mess, but I am suggesting that remembering the essence of why we are here on earth – our nature-self – is going to take discipline because we live in a world of distractions. All the noise and interference of the 24-hour stream machine of entertainment is remarkably captivating and turns us away from what the Earth is trying to teach us, largely that we’ve forgotten her.
Before I burned the notebooks, I took one last look and found a note on Gary Snyder's collection of essays entitled, The Practice of the Wild (2003). He makes the distinction between nature writing and Nature’s writing. He points to how the text reveals itself in the curves and striations of the landscape. He suggests that lyrics play out on the wind. I’m wondering now about the new texts that reveal themselves in the voracious fires, monster hurricanes, sweeping floods, and melting glaciers.
Today, it is the autumnal equinox in the northern hemisphere. Harvest time. It is a time to take note and feel gratitude for the productivity of spring and summer. It is also the time when Daylight begins to forfeit her time to the Night. The darkness invites us to turn inward and contemplate a new vision. Perhaps it’s an ancient vision that we’ve forgotten. Mainly, that the root teacher is not the paid academic or eloquent author or social media star, but Nature herself. Her classroom can be found outside in the smallest city park to the largest forest. There is a seat for you there and you don’t need a pen or notebook because it’s a course in remembering and all you have to do is show up.