The Little Flame

I went to my friend’s house on Friday night. I was surrounded by women who are my neighbors and friends. As we chatted and laughed and drank beer, we huddled in the cold darkness around the bright embers of a little gaslit fire pit. Instinctively, we all reached out for it, holding our hands above the flames to warm them. The orange light illuminated our faces as we leaned over it. We talked about coyotes and gun control and periods and lawn mowers and raising our children to be kind. We talked about the big houses across the street and our smaller ones in this neighborhood: about gratitude and oneupmanship and many other things. We giggled and laughed and shared serious moments too.

At one point, to be funny, one friend messed with the flame control on the fire pit and it caused the flames to go all the way down and almost extinguish. And every time the bright light nearly went out, more than one of us would gasp at the suddenness and the extent of the cold and darkness. It closed in on us immediately and horribly. We were desperate for her to turn the flames back up, and she did. And we would lean in again like our lives depended on it. Those dancing flames have been in my head ever since.

Because light in the darkness is what we all seek. Sometimes that light is bright and bold and strong and sometimes it’s weak and small and fragile.

In all of our hearts is a glowing flame.

Mine has been burning so low that it was nearly extinguished. It has been truly valiant, this little ember, glowing stubbornly, if weakly, against all the wind and the dark and the cold.

Picturing that small flame in my heart has filled me with love. It has filled me with tenderness, and given me the overpowering urge to shelter the ember, to fan the flame gently and lovingly, until it is burning bright again.

When I think of myself as a human, a flawed person, a depressed or sad person, I am overwhelmed. I don’t want to try. How can I get back to that place of happiness?

But when I think of a tender little glowing ember that needs to be sheltered and tended, guarded and teased back out into its correct shape, I can suddenly picture warmth and hope and a light in the darkness.

The flame for me, in some way, becomes a baby to be cared for, not a needy flawed and sad 37 year old woman. The flame to me, somehow, is worth saving, worth protecting, worth sheltering.

It has been burning so low my soul has been gasping in the cold, leaning in for warmth.

So in my mind’s eye I see a sweet little bright flame, deserving of love and protection.

And I am doing my damnedest to bring it back, doing my damnedest to shield it from the wind and the cold and the dark, to keep it glowing. And eventually the heat it will cast will be stronger than it ever was. It needs to be tended.

Because once it’s out, it’s out. And the darkness closes in.

So these past few days, I have been picturing a flame.

And I have been reminding myself to shelter this dancing, valiant, flickering, delicate little flame.

It warms me in the cold, and lights up the darkness.

It must be sheltered, loved, protected.


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