Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.–Howard Thurman
Decolonization is the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of the superiority and privilege of Western thought and approaches.– From the book Pulling Together: A Guide for Front-Line Staff, Student Services, and Advisors
Dear Springhouse community,
The deep winter months are upon us, and, in the Blue Ridge Mountains, that means building fires in the wood stove to stay warm. When things get quiet in winter time, when there is less to see and draw our attention outward, sustaining warmth also means taking care of the inner fire. One of my teachers used to call the soul “the fire that takes no wood.” Stoking both types can be hard, particularly when conditions prove challenging. I hope you are staying warm, inside and out, in these colder, darker months.
When the wood is wet, starting a fire can feel impossible. I put more paper on it, try to find the driest wood I can, and blow on the tiny embers, often to find thick smoke rising from the dark sticks. Sometimes I give up and turn the heat on in our little house on the hill. Other times, I double down, determined to be more creative, more curious, more something, to bring this fire to life. All of this can happen with the inner fire, too.
Just now as I am writing this, much to my joyful surprise, something unexpected happened. A fire I thought was dead in our wood stove (in fact, I just apologized to my husband for not keeping the fire stoked as promised) just fully came back to life. I kid you not. The photo attached here is a picture of what the fire looks like right now. It was so dark in that stove that I couldn’t even see the logs. It seemed dead as dead can be, and now there is a roaring fire.
Right before the flames started blazing, I noticed some air moving; I could see ash stirring on the surface of the glass window. The wind blew that fire back to life. When I saw the flame arise from what I thought was dead, my first impulse was to take care of it. I got up, went outside, gathered more wood, and contributed what I could to keep the flame going. As I watched this fire rise from nothing, I reflected: Stoking the fire is a dance between my own agency and the agency of something bigger than me, whether that is in the wood stove or inside of us.
Why am I carrying on here about the fire, and what does this have to do with Springhouse? In this work of building regenerative culture, it is very important to know our limitations. We know that we live in a culture born from powerful oppressive ideologies – ideologies much deeper and larger than the will of a person or a community. We know that this Western mindset is now globally pervasive, perpetuating unsustainable values that do not bring us alive and are passed down to our young people through our educational systems. We know that to create something new (but rooted in old ways of being and in wisdom as old as the Earth) requires our agency, as well as the radical act of resting in something greater than ourselves. To serve a vision and mission as mighty as the one at Springhouse, we must trust this deeply.
There is great resistance to vitality and freedom for all, starting from within our very selves. It takes so much to live more fully as one human being, regularly confronting internal narratives that stifle us. Collective revitalization is ever the more challenging. Stoking the internal and collective fire inside, especially when the conditions are less than ideal, can feel like building a fire in a rainstorm. To do this, there are a few things we can remember, things we learn from building an actual fire:
- Go to the center, where the wood is dry and more likely to light.
- Rely both on your breath and the wind.
- Work together by focusing on the common purpose.
- Consider your location. Take shelter if you can.
- A fire can warm or it can burn the house down. It depends on the container.
Helene Cixous, French philosopher, writes, “It is dangerous to go in the direction of truth.” Yes it is, but if we are going to build a sustainable fire, one that warms all of us, we must head in that direction. Springhouse is doing its best to lead the way in that direction. Thank you for being a part of it.
May we be warmed by the fire, inside and out,