Fire is Action. But just as Fire is present in the candle flame as well as the inferno, so is it in the small changes as well as the large ones.
Despite Saturday being Live Like a Cat Day, I spent the day running errands. Of course, for me, that does count as being more relaxed than usual. I slept in til ten (I’m normally up at six during the week to get ready for my bus/train commute), then after breakfast I went out to hit the local Goodwill stores for some random kitchen implements and other things on the shopping list. A few hours later I came home with a pair of secondhand hand towels for my husband and me so we don’t have to use paper towels at work, a two dollar salad spinner (only missing a handle), a shirt and skirt (each one found at a different Goodwill), and a few other things that we needed around the house.
My quest was not complete, however. One of my most-wanted items for the day was a rolling pin. I have discovered the joys of making bread, and I want to make pizza dough, since right now I still rely on the overexpensive and preservative-laden Boboli crusts, which makes me sad 😦 . However, without a rolling pin, flattening the dough into the proper shape for the perfect pizza may be more of a challenge than I really want to try to tackle. That damned rolling pin became my Holy Grail for the day. You would think that an overstocked Goodwill with eighty billion Teflon-coated pots and pans, a sharp, poking sea of miscellaneous silverware, and more cups than the bra section at a Victoria’s Secret superstore, would have at least one solitary rolling pin.
Nope. I finally gave up, and headed to Fred Meyer to look for a replacement pair of Winter gloves for my husband*. Once the gloves had been procured, I went back to the kitchenware just to price their rolling pins. Lo and behold, the normally five dollar wooden rolling pin was on sale for four bucks. Normally, this would be the time when glorious light breaks through the glare of fluorescent lamps, and choirs of heavenly angels sing the praises of the successful quest. However, having become a more conscientious consumer, I took a close look at the label. “Made in Taiwan”. “Made of plantation wood”.
“Made in Taiwan” = “trans-Pacific shipping”, which = use of a ton of resources to get it from there to here. “Made of plantation wood” means that somewhere, probably in Asia, a rainforest or other sensitive ecosystem was decimated to make way for a monoculture for profit. I really, really don’t like supporting such things. By buying that rolling pin, I would be directly supporting an industry that burned huge quantities of fuel and created a proportionate amount of pollution just to get it (and a bunch of others) halfway around the world. I’d also be supporting poor use of the land somewhere on this planet.
I ended up buying the rolling pin, since it was the second to last one there. However, upon finding a pair of bread loaf pans of the type I was looking for (also on sale, and the very last two they had) I realized I hadn’t checked Goodwill for those while I was out. So I paid for my purchase, and headed back to the Goodwill-of-Many-Used-Kitchen-Implements, feeling guilty the whole time for my brand new purchase, and hoping I’d find good reasons to return the new items once I got to the thrift store.
Lo and behold, upon entering the aisles of Goodwill, I found a slightly used but quite usable pair of bread pans of the same dimensions of the ones I’d just bought. Taking this as a good sign, I crept up on the pile of wooden utensils. There, hidden between a banana hanger and some spoons, was a perfectly good wooden rolling pin. Elated, I took the pin and pans to the counter like I’d just won a trophy, and then headed back to Fred Meyer to return the new versions thereof. I even ended up saving a few bucks on the secondhand items despite the sale on the new ones.
So what the heck does a rolling pin have to do with Fire? (Other than the baking connections, of course.) Action, that’s what. Action, and passion, and awareness (Fire needs Air, after all, to exist). Therioshamanism is very much an eco-friendly path, and it is rooted in everyday reality as well as the spiritual realms. I came to the realization that one very positive aspect of Fire in my life is my drive to bring about positive change in my actions. The reason I opened this post with the Tale of the Quest for the Rolling Pin is that it illustrates my increased conscious action on a daily basis. In that moment I wasn’t just wishing I’d bought secondhand instead; I manifested it into my life, and made it real. So many times we think about what we’d like to do; putting those thoughts into action, making the change–that’s Fire.
I am passionate about eco-friendly choices in an urban lifestyle. Not everyone can afford to go completely sustainable; since at this point I’m limited to renting, and living in a city where the jobs are, I make changes where I can. However, it’s not always big, impressive changes, like buying a Prius or opting into 100% renewable energy through your local utility company. A lot of it is small changes on a daily basis–small changes that build up over time.
I’m still really struck by what I read in The Earth Path, not just in the Fire chapter, but touched on in several places. The natural balance of things requires both give and take. Take, for example, an apple core. We can only eat so much of it. However, the Earth can reabsorb all of it, even if it’s rotten. The energy and other resources in that apple core can then be integrated into something new. In the meantime, the flesh of the apple that we ate becomes a part of us.
The problem is that we cut off the return of resources to the Earth. Our waste–whether from our bodies or not–more often than not will end up in a landfill. Wasted food, sludge leftover from treatment of sewage, and other organics end up in a lined hole in the ground where they sit, cut off from the Earth from which they originated and to which they need to return. None of these organics need to end up there. Even sludge can be treated and turned into fertilizer (also lessening the use of chemical fertilizers).
Think of the Earth’s resources as money in a bank account. There may be a small bit of interest, but it’s generally not enough to keep up with our overspending. Humanity is an irresponsible teenager let loose in a mall with a credit card–every single day. Granted, we have to have some resources to ourselves–we need to have homes, and clothing, and other such things that we can’t send back into the Earth right away. But we throw away so much, and we take things we don’t really need.
It’s not just a matter of the big things, either. It’s the little things, as I’ve mentioned before. The ends of celery stalks and carrots. A part of a carton of milk that goes bad. The hair in our combs and brushes. All of these are things that could quite safely be put back into the Earth, but which we’ve been conditioned to toss it in the trash instead. And the more people do that with each year, the more slowly the Earth is able to refertilize itself. I’m sure at least some readers have encountered land that is too overfarmed and no longer has the necessary nutrients to produce crops–so chemical fertilizers are dumped on them, and then the fertilizers run off into the water, poisoning what lives in it or drinks it. If composting were popular on a large scale, we’d need a lot fewer chemicals.
It’s also reducing how much we take. The reason I’m so type-A about buying things secondhand is that I know that for every secondhand item I buy, that’s one less new item that will have to be produced–and one less discard in the landfill. I’ll even buy things I’m pretty sure other people won’t buy, like the salad spinner without a handle, or the hand towels embroidered with someone else’s initials. The more fuel we leave for the Fiery cycle of Change and Renewal, the better off everyone will be.
And that is part of the Fire that burns inside of me. It’s that need to make changes, to be more aware of and closer to that sacred cycle. Ever since The Earth Path brought me into greater awareness at the beginning of this month, the internal fire has burned higher, and I recognize that I have had a connection to Fire all along–I just didn’t always know it for what it was.
That doesn’t mean that I’ll ignore its other roles in my life, of course. None of the elements is a one-trick pony. And what Fire is to me, isn’t necessarily what it is to other people. So when you read about my experiences with Fire, or Earth, or Air, or next month’s work with Water, don’t just observe my experiences. Think about your own. Think about both the concrete and the abstract; both are important.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue with my last week in my Fire month, and work to create as healthy a bond as I can. I won’t lose Fire, of course, but the six months are meant to set a solid foundation in the elements.
* Caveat emptor–never try to replace your Winter gloves any time in the actual season of Winter. Try July, or August if you want sales. Goodwill had picnic baskets and sandals out, and somehow Fred Meyer had managed to stash away a tiny rack of gloves on sale that hadn’t gotten swept away in the “Never sell things when you need them” merchandising.