~summer shorts~ firebirth

My friend just went through breast cancer surgery and we are on the phone discussing poop colors and whether medical waste is incinerated, and unexpected emotional devastation even when all the decisions we’ve made have been absolutely right. I am not a good phone friend, but if you are going to call me, it’s likely going to be about something raw and gritty like this. In my imagination I am allowing fire to be the outcome of where breasts go when they are removed because there are powerful metaphors in fire. Inked across the shoulder and upper arm of this friend is, rather prophetically, a phoenix. We forget fire can be a creative source of energy when we see it cause so much destruction, but the phoenix dies engulfed in flame only to be reborn out of the ashes. There is so much about our current moment that feels devastating and destructive, an inferno threatening the best things about this world, and yet if I summon the courage to look into the fire, this little thing with feathers is poking its head up out of the ashes, getting ready to be reborn. Creative plans will hatch to make a way, through art, to integrate having been utterly torn down and the work it will take to be reborn, feather by feather. The other day as she noted that her breasts, or the breast-shaped spaces they used to occupy, were burning (a good, albeit painful, sign that she is told indicates healing; mothers understand about productive pain when it comes to birth), we planned a future campfire photo art session. Like a grappling hook tossed a long way out ahead of us that we can climb to if we keep putting one foot in front of the other, this tiny plan gives us a target, a rope to grasp, a direction out of the furnace. Though the flames haven’t even subsided, and the hatchling may be weak and covered in all this ash right now, she will eventually emerge powerful and courageous. In my life there is a son-shaped hole, while her kids are there but she can’t really be with them, and it hurts; these are the people we carried in our bodies, pieces removed from us with great pain and at great cost to ourselves, more than we ever expected. Your baby is born, and you need so much more absorbent cloth than you realize to soak up all manner of fluids drawn up out of you by the gravitational force of their orbit around you. You were expecting a swaddled bundle, not a planet with its own atmosphere and trajectory. What to expect when you’re expecting a phoenix: there are expectations and then there is reality, and that book title seems to be out of print, or maybe it hasn’t been written. Yet. For now, it’s DIY phoenix midwifery. Birth and rebirth are messy, painful, intense, productive, and creative. Our children, too, are being devastated by this fiery time, and they, too, will rise, powerful, from the ashes, stronger than before, better for it. Inked on the lower part of the same arm as the phoenix is the one word calling to mind that thing with feathers, the one being reborn from these ashes, the one that never stops: hope.

see also: water metaphors

1 comment to ~summer shorts~ firebirth

  • Holly

    Ahhhh. So nice to read a hopeful post. So true. Hope springs eternal they say. I’ve been thinking about how a crisis lifts the veil and reveals those parts of ourselves, our relationships, our world, that need strengthening and some care and attention. It is the crisis that propels us to make needed changes. We come out of the fire stronger and more focused. What was unnecessary is burned away. This might be controversial to write, but one of my favorite saints is Junipero Serra. His statue is one that has been toppled. He traveled up and down the California coastline establishing missions to help the indigenous people. He was amazing in that he established 33 missions (I think). It was a lot! The entire time he did this, walking, riding a donkey maybe, he had a sore on his leg that wouldn’t heal. His motto: always forward, never back. Hope looks forward. Be strong my friend, even with your wounds. As for your friend, I will say a prayer for her today. My mom and sister have both had breast cancer. Yes, they both both rose triumphantly from the ashes. My heroes!

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