Holding Fire

by Sarah Lyn

Last May, I stood in a field during a large community ritual, swathed from head to toe in gloves and sunglasses and hat and veil. I was fully protected from the sun. I was standing in the field. That was a feat for me.

Just six months earlier I had been in a freak accident. I had been on fire. I almost died. I almost lost my legs. I was in a coma. I woke up. I have fought every day since for my strides back towards independence.

Strands of a web were rolled out, followed by calls for those who would hold specific energies for the community, both in ritual and in the world-at-large after. These people were invited to come and hold the end of a strand.

They called for those who would hold Fire for the community. I was the most surprised when I stepped forward. One foot in front of the other, I began walking across the field. A few people around me gasped. I understood.

There I was, walking slowly but surely across the field to hold Fire for the community that so tenderly and urgently assisted me and my wife with deep, death-defying healing. I held the strand so that we could build a web of community. For me, it was a physical manifestation of the web of healing energy that had been created for me.

I could hold Fire for them. I had already become it and survived it.

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Photo by Trevor Hurlburt, used under a Creative Commons license

I can’t lie, though. As I was walking across the field, even before I held onto that ribbon, I wondered how I would hold it over the course of the coming year. It’s easy to be brave in the moment. How could I hold Fire when I was actively trying to heal from it?

What work would Fire and I do together through the year?

As far as outreach goes, I have been actively promoting and educating about fire safety, even though it was not a factor in my accident. Awareness matters. And I am currently on the search for the first responders who saved me. I want them to see that life exists on the other side of the fire. I want them to see the life they saved. I imagine they don’t always get the chance to see the good outcome. Without them, I wouldn’t be here.

The other work I have been doing with Fire has been simple and personal. I had been partially devoured by the elemental. No one lives through such trauma without fear, but I was determined not to allow that fear to creep into the spaces the fire cleared away.

I am pagan. I do not blame the fire for being fire.

I understand the fear others felt for me, for my life, for my mental health. There was reason for that fear.

But my community used that fear as a catalyst to come together in prayer and healing for me. I felt it. It pulled me out of the darkness I was drowning in. I stepped up to the challenge. I answered fear with love. The speed of my healing was unexplainable. Miracles happened. Not just for me.

Fire devours, but it also ignites. It sparks transformation.

I had to hold myself accountable for being the catalyst for my recovery. If it was going to get better, it had to start with me. Every time I stood up, even though I couldn’t feel my legs beneath me, mattered. Every time I walked an extra lap mattered. Every time I thanked those who were taking care of me, even when they caused me pain, I changed the trajectory of my journey. Every morning I get up and get outside and walk means I will recover.

Many times, in the hospital, the nurses commented about what a supportive community I had. One of my favorites went so far as to say she thought it said a lot about me, that people were so eager to help. But you get out what you put in. You become part of a community by plugging into it, by helping where you see the need. You become a strand of the web.

It was an honor to step up and hold the fire for a community that holds me.

Join us in holding this year’s web at Rites of SpringOnline registration is open through May 13.

Welcome to EarthSpirit Voices

EarthSpirit logoEvery year at Rites of Spring, we weave the web of community. It centers on our maypole, which joins the earth and sky. We stretch out spokes of rope and hold them to show our commitment. We weave yarn between them, connecting our strands to the whole, and we join our voices in song.

We wish every single one of you could be with us every year on the mountain as we honor our connections to stone and river, green ones and flying ones, stars and sun, the sacred earth and each other. Since you can’t, we hope you will join us in this virtual space to weave a different kind of web of community: through words and photos, pixels and electrons, sparks of electricity and ripples of understanding.

EarthSpirit’s tagline is “remembering the Earth as sacred.” I love this. It immediately reminds me of some of the places where it’s easy for me to find that connection to the sacred: my family’s camp on the Saint Lawrence Seaway, the river near my office where I walk, the land at Glenwood. But it also reminds me to seek out connection in less-obvious places. The Charles River is no less sacred where it flows by my city apartment than in the quiet places it eddies near my office, and the land where my food is grown is as special as a majestic wilderness.

The contemporary Pagan movement is a wide and beautiful spectrum of people, most of whom, like me, find their most sacred connections in the world around us. From Twilight Covening to Rites of Spring, EarthSpirit focuses particularly on the natural world, holding an animistic perspective that can complement many other traditions or form a strong practice all on its own, and on building a culture and community that support the earth and our deep relationships with it.

In order to build those relationships, we rely on our ability to listen: to engage in communion with the world around us and to perceive the sacred directly through it. In a sense, we give voice to the rivers and trees, the stones and stars, the earth itself. We look forward to sharing the fruits of that listening and those relationships with you in this space, and we hope that you’ll add your voice to the conversation.
Welcome to the new EarthSpirit Voices.
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Sarah Twichell has been staffing events, teaching, and facilitating ritual with EarthSpirit for ten years, and is delighted to be the new editor for EarthSpirit Voices.