facing the fire

“Each one of us is born with a box of matches inside us but we can’t strike them all by ourselves.” - Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate

I was hoping for fire as I prepared to attend 2016's last Badass Mama’s Circle. Jenni told us to dress in layers, bring a thermos and prepare to sit outside for the duration our evening meeting. I was dreading the possibility of being cold, but imagining our circle around a fire even as Jenni hadn’t mentioned fire.

As we arrived outside a few days before the winter solstice, there was the pit with a few embers awaiting fresh logs. In the dark, we guessed at who people were as we unfolded our camp chairs. After 3.5 months of regular meetings, there was a comfort in the cool air as we bumbled about and settled in. The idea of fire brought anticipation to the air around us, too. Who doesn’t crave bright light, waves of heat, flickering embers, wood-scented smoke and the idea of transformation? We all joined Badass Mamas because we’re craving transformation, and at our feet was the perfect symbol for that.

Jenni asked us to start the circle by having us each place a log, one by one, on the fire, building it into a circle of light beneath our circle of bodies. We were quiet except for small bursts of chatter whenever the fire grew bright enough to see each other’s face more clearly.

Then Jenni talked about the common ritual of writing what we would be rid of, and burning those words to release them. Oh, I've done this before, it's true. But this wouldn't be our ritual tonight. Instead of releasing, we would be renewing. She spoke of the death and descent that anticipates and nurtures new growth and life. On the cusp of the solstice, we would honor what had dimmed within us, and like a phoenix, commit it to the flames to bring it to new vibrancy and vitality.

What, she asked, had waned within us that we would give new life?

We all thought at the fire burned before we wrote our words. One by one, we shared our word and its meanings before we placed our piece of paper in the fire, taking time to relish how the paper burned and the fire flared up in response. I talked of how I yearn to take the grace inside of me and pair it with my power while relinquishing my defensive words. I dropped my “graceful power” into the fire at my feet while thinking about how good it feels to stand in my own power lately, to know I am strong and capable. How easily I forget this strength that I have been growing my whole life. How I rarely remember that my name actually means “grace” and I wear my name well.

How the fire warmed us all as every person shared their word and their truth. How thankful I felt for these women around me that are growing into a community. How knitted together I felt with these strong badass women as the fire kept us warm. I wasn’t cold. When one person admitted they were chilled, Jenni handed her coat to her.

After we finished with our words, we talked about one habit we’d like to acquire as the light returns. Jenni talked of how habits give us more ease in our lives. They allow us, without great thought or effort, to put what we value into action. But, she noted, new habits are created one decision at a time, and it takes work to establish them. If our yearning is strong and we rely on each other for support, we can build a new habit slowly but surely. What did we really, really, really want for our lives?

What do you really, really want? What calls to you when you sit outside on a winter’s night in a circle of friends around a crackling orange-yellow fire? What is your heart whispering? Can you hear it? After we all listened to our own selves, we shared our desires with each other. Our words unfolded and weaved around us and there seemed to be some holiness to our meeting that I’m sure comes both from our individual strengths and the time we have already spent together. Our dreamed-of future habits felt like real possibilities as our words moved out of our bodies and into each other’s ears.

As Jenni closed our circle, she gave us our burned words and phrases back. She looked at me as she said, “I wish graceful power for you.” As 2016 burns into 2017, I’ll wear these words on my heart and watch them unfurl in my actions.

Find more of Nancy's work on ParentMap.