On Fire / by grace mcgrade


My sister says dreams are the same as real life, but much quicker. We think it's funny that people interpret dreams, but forget to interpret the symbols or characters in waking life.
Fire will always be a potent symbol for me, the symbol of regeneration, of ferocious passion and unforgiving change. Red and intense.  Having walked through it I have assimilated a healthy fear, and weariness in it's riveting ability to swallow things up into some unknown abyss. Bits of myself were swallowed by the same abyss that evening, perhaps my blissful naivety and trust in that which shouldn’t be trusted.

I wasn’t there, but I imagine it started silently. Searing and rising with a hushed urgency across my room. My room was a museum of memorabilia for my short twenty four years on this planet, anointed with totems of adulthood and declarations of individuation from my own broken home. Sometimes when you see the world in an intense and strange way, it is hard to imagine that you could belong or fit anywhere, but you try anyway. You suck it up, and try to guise your distaste in a world that makes people sick. You try and try, and inevitably you get there, with the help of some ethereal magic and sheer determination. That space was the notion that I could anchor in heaven. Fairy statuettes and angel wings. Clothes from simpler times. Tangible evidence that I could adequately be human. almost.

 I imagine it started silently, but ferociously, because I think that fire, above all things, possesses an intelligence unbenounced to twenty four year old girls. Even witches. Fire, like all elements, possesses a consciousness. An agenda. It is the creator and the destroyer. The element of transformation, of passion and will. It removes what is excess and reveals what needs to be revealed.  

It was burning white hot, like a starry virus, gliding across my furniture, mangling and distorting it's contents. Decades worth of love notes and photographs, clothes, feathers, crystals and books all engulfed with a quick hunger. The flowers I pinned to everything, sparking and converting. Drawings and journals that bore witness to the strange and nonsensical happenings of my life, devoured and fragmented into dust. Shoes that lead me through the scottish moors and letters that kept me alive. The fire blurred the edges of all of these things, melding and twisting them into each other. Illuminated, cackling and then suddenly rotten. Ending loudly, eager and furious, intent on transmuting and destroying.Devouring and wrenching smoke down the hallways, spewing streaks of darkness and carbon through the sky. Flames licking the ether with a malevolent determination. Disintegrating and searing into flakes of white ash, floating through the august air, immune to the panic and shock of inhabitants gazing up from the cement. A personal apocalypse. 

It opened my chest up with a searing white pain and broke my heart. I felt like a ghost, shattered and fragmented. Incapable of speech, revisiting the same experience in all of my dreams. It seared down inside of me with immersion and passion. Made me depart from my body, while bright red lights flashed above me, and fall to the sidewalk. It rapidly collapsed timelines of normalcy and calm. It made me softer. It made me stronger. Clearer. Sadder but wiser. 

In the days following, I watched the way people reacted to it from three feet above my body. Floating around hoping that the earth would open up and swallow me, not out of self pity, but exhaustion from living. The way people responded was more alarming than the fire itself, it made the hard ones strange and distorted, and the kind ones sweeter. It was like there was still smoke, a haze and airbourne fogginess that shifted from person to person, clouding judgement and circumstance. Some people displayed a tenderness and hospitality I thought to be the stuff of fairy tales. A miraculous kindness and love that conjured healing in places it did not normally exist. There were scarab beetles that circled my head and blue butterflies everywhere. More synchronicities in those three days than I have ever seen in my life, like I had entered an alternate timeline where crisis made sense. Holy conjurings of signs and coincidences that added an erie design to the whole event. 

Weeks later, I think about the crisis as if I were in that room, gliding with the fire, following it eat up my silk and wood and steel and asking each rising flame questions. Why. What next. Where does it all go. Where does all of it go. 

I don’t know if it is appropriate to think of crisis symbolically, but I’m hardly appropriate and 

always thinking symbolically- and to me this was spiritual. Like a terrible portal, it brought in newness rapidly. Exposed what needed to be seen. All trauma can be like that, a visceral narrowing of timelines, a reveal behind curtains. A change in location, an elevation and intimacy to all my relationships that were truthful, that buzzed with the frequency of honesty and empathy. Fire is not bad or good, it is neutral. Powerful, but neutral. It is our emotions attached to loss that assign meaning. Crisis is sacred, it is initiating, it is loud and revealing, it is the portal from one mentality to the next. It condenses and focuses your personal lense of what matters. It shows you what is real and what is false. There is a dissonance in knowing that I will never be able to look at certain things with the same blind naivety, but there is no room for self pity after the display of love and clarity that followed the events of that evening.
Life is hell and then ecstasy, and any pendulum swings in one direction guarantees the swing in the other.