My soupy life...
Last night the fire licked the cherry chunks of wood I stole from Doug Olin's when I was over there three days ago feeding his horses diseased apples from the wild apple tree in our backyard, the last of the remains of an old orchard from years gone by.
I sat and stared at the fire with my friend. We talked about a little bit of this and a little bit of that, moving from one theme to another with the relaxed strokes of a speed skater. Some themes were deep and took heaps of brain power to carry on. Others were frivolous sliding along quite nicely all on their own needing very little assistance, heavy lifting if you will. I love conversation.
Conversation is creation. It is forming something out of nothing, something that didn't existent before you caused it to be. Words come forth strung together haphazardly and spontaneously. You don't get to think them through, that is if you're in a good conversation. If you're over-thinking your every word, things get weird and the conversation dies. The birth of conversation is almost the opposite of a babies' birth. You don't get nine months of gestation and preparation. This word-birth allows for very little gestation. You are gestating while you are conversating (not a word, I know). You are learning what you think while you share it. Sometimes you can surprise yourself with some bit of new learning that you'd never put into words before, heck, you hadn't even thought about it before. Conversely, there are times when you come to realize for the first time how stupid you really are, realizing as you try to form phrases to communicate inner substance that there isn't much there to begin with. This is why conversation is vital to growth. Both surprises are needful and move us toward a better story.
The air was filled with the pungent smell of wet autumn earth. You could smell dirt and dying leaves. Oxygen felt cleaner, smelt cleaner. There was no wind. There were no sounds. The backyard was mystically dark, beautifully away from the chaos of life. And it's only one acre.
Licking fire puts me into a trace. It's hypnotic and therapeutic. It puts me into a coma, self-induced and fire-induced all at the same time, neither taking credit, both receiving it. When I'm under it's spell, I feel like a shrink could have his way with me, conjuring up old memories like a snake charmer, summoning old skeletons in my closet like a necromancer. I'm half-awake...and yet somehow fully alive. Suspended between worlds, a borderland of naked emotion and clothed responsibility. It's a vulnerable place, a place I would imagine one would open up about some hidden secret long buried in the past. A place where you would regret the next morning that you shared such stark details about your dreams, or your nightmares. A place where someone could get you to say things that you wouldn't say in the broad light of day and then use it against you as blackmail. This is a special place, a sacred place that mustn't be tampered with by clumsy hands, trifled with by uncoordinated steps. You tread lightly, like with angel-fear lightness.
Face to Face. Not facebook to facebook. Conversation that demands depth, else it dies. Conversation that doesn't allow for too much premeditated editing. Nor does it demand a spastic conversationalist that is sweating to keep things afloat. Awkward silence feels less and less awkward. Incessant talking feels more and more awkward. Good conversation slices the heart-cold-cuts much thinner, so thin you can see shadows through them. Paper thin. And you don't know that you need something to flay you that thin until you happen upon in for a moment in time. Once you come across that sort of encounter with another, it's hard to settle for anything else, like a baby that is being forced from her mother's warm breast to an unfeeling plastic bottle with a rubber nipple. Once you've experience the one, you just know the difference between rubber and skin. What I'm trying to say is that authentic conversation has a skin feel.
You're forced to feel in a real conversation. Not project or protect, but to really face the music and sing the music that is actually in front of you. You can make stuff up, but it's more obvious when you're in front of somebody that has been equipped by God with what I call a "crap detector". It's harder to pull wool and fake feelings. You can't make yourself out to look better than you are, and if you do, you look like a poser and the person you're with can sense it. It's just easier to be honest even if it leads to exposure. Exposure feels normal and natural when you're sitting by a fire showing another human the warts that you usually cover by crossing your arms a certain way in public. When you're sitting by a fire, you just uncross your arms, roll up your sleeves, and "warts and all" just hang out there to be seen and scrutinized.
I can't believe how much energy is consumed by obsessively cover your warts. Sideways energy nothin'. It's forward energy that is swallowed up. Cover-up is time consuming and energy draining. Good conversation reintroduces us to the beauty of disclosure, and the nourishing healing that accompanies honesty. Healing can't happen outside of honesty.
"Can I be honest with you?" I love when the conversation gets to this mile-marker...every bit of ice-breaking dialogue up to that point will feel like dung once you cross this threshold. You have now just begun to "Talk". The rest is merely sizing-up, role-playing and buttery foreplay. But this is the consummation of conversation. The place where the honest weight of one's glory is unveiled. Without honesty, what is the point in the first place. We might as well be sitting around the fire playing pretend with G.I. Joe figurines, or sitting across the table from an interrogator trying to outwit the lie-detector test. It's just alot of personality-positioning, psychological posturing. It's alot of crap to use layman's terms...probably the only terms that need be spoken in many regards.
So I'm sitting by the fire lapping up the moment like a thirsty dog, watching the flames lick the logs like an excited dog. (wow, lots of talk about dogs, who knew they were the overarching metaphor of life itself?) The flames danced like little girls in the summer sprinkler. The colors pressed into my retina burning into my brain like a firebrand. The smell of the fresh cut grass melded with the smell of hardwood smoke was more glorious than mixed wine, mixed bodies under thin honeymoon sheets. The mixture was written into our hearts by the Author of Life himself. All these mixtures in life are the only things that warrant the continuation of it. What's the use without mixture? What's the point?
And that is why conversation by firelight shall be, must be, forever guarded by us, humans. We can't settle for cheap substitutes. We can't stop mixing it up with someone. We can't abort the glorious mixture that occurs when two souls sit still with each other, honest and human.
Mix me. Mix me up. Mix me up in the stew of story. Mix me up in the stew of story and above all, please make the stew taste good should someone need the warmth of my soupy life.