Playing with Fire

Still Life with Candles

Most of my life I’ve been accused of playing with fire. I think it was actually a theme in our family when we were growing up, so I guess it should come as no surprise that I always had to tell my children to keep their fingers out of candles when they were young. My mom likes to tell stories of my father blasting her across the room by throwing a bit of gasoline into a fire while she was sitting by the hearth studying before they were married. And she still married the guy! I have clear memories of setting the roots of trees on fire inadvertently due to letting a bonfire go a little too long and exuberantly – with my dad. He and my brother thought that the most effective way to rid the bushes next to our house of a yellow jacket’s nest was to throw M-80’s into it. If the barbeque wasn’t getting hot fast enough, he’d pull out a can of lighter fluid and throw some on. You only knew because you’d hear the “whoosh” as the fuel ignited and see the black cloud of smoke followed by flames that suddenly rose to the level of the window from the patio six feet below. The list goes on… This apparently genetic predisposition to pyromania has grown to various proportions with each one of my children. When my son was a freshman in high school he somehow convinced me to buy the supplies for a science experiment called a jam-jar pulse jet: copper tubing, wire, gasoline, and ethanol. It was essentially a small explosive device. I didn’t find out until afterward that the experiment was of his own choosing. I’m not sure I ever knew what the real parameters were. It was only in talking to a couple of other parents that I discovered that fire was not an essential component to this experiment. I must have been brainwashed at birth into thinking that fiery explosions were a normal part of daily life.

I digress… or do I? This apparently unrelated story brings a smile to my lips as I flash through the memories. Was my father a nut? Yes… in some ways he was. But this was part of his charm. He’s been gone now for over 20 years, and I appreciate all of his quirkiness even more than when he was around. This is where I connect back to yesterday: If I only see my own ways of being in the world with the same appreciation and humor that I do of my father now that he’s passed on, I go along ways toward being comfortable in the world without regard for its measuring sticks. One of the key pieces in this equation is that my dad is no longer alive. When someone has gone from this life, we can no longer have expectations for them, and its only when we start measuring them against what we wanted from them when they were alive that we can be unhappy with them.

I confess, when I sat down to write tonight, I didn’t know where I was going. It was the image of the candles that suggested the title of this entry. The title led me through my memories which led me to my father and to the questions I was exploring yesterday about seeing and being seen. When I set the candles on the kitchen table this evening with my camera on its tripod, once again playing with a relatively unfamiliar style of image, I had no idea where they would ultimately take me. Its as if the writing and the images are playing a game of tag with eachother, leading my mind down passageways and alleys, causing it to double back on itself and discover new ways of looking, seeing and understanding. This blog, ostensibly an exploration from inside my own journey as a stay-at-home mom trying to live a double life, is quickly revealing that it has an ulterior motive. Sometimes my mind hijacks it and takes it on a wild ride through twists and turns of over-intellectualization spawned by my days and long nights studying deconstructionist theory as a graduate student in french literature. Sometimes its my heart or my soul that gets the driver’s seat and allows space for deeper “things” to show up in the poetry and quotes I come across and my reflections on them. Sometimes I’m simply trying to convey an experience – what its like to be in my body and just be, without trying to make sense of it.

I guess we’ll all just have to wait and see what shows up tomorrow.


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