THE FIRE KEEPER

ONCE , LONG BEFORE MOST FOLK CAN REMEMBER, I was keeper of the fire. The people depended on me; they knew I understood the secrets of turning last night’s grey ashes back to burning flame…..but even I had to sleep for a little while at least.
Yet even in sleep I dreamed. I dreamed the dreams the auld ones told me. They held the secrets of fire, passed from the oldest Grandsire of my lineage, down and down through years beyond counting, they held the secret close. So simple to the initiated; all fire wanted was company, the slow burning flame of passion. Passion for fire. So so simple for the ones who knew.

FIRE NEEDS ATTENTION, REMEMBERING, FIRE NEEDED GUARDING, FEEDING….FIRE CRAVED WORSHIPPING!!!!
And all these senses were a living knowing thing, a skill as easy as breathing. For me, and the young ones growing who came to sit and stare all the long cold nights and days, intoxicated by the flames, hypnotised, seeking visions. I taught the oldest, who taught the next in line, right on through to the small babies, their eyes alight with flames. Each had a task to fulfil in their training.
Each had to know how an unwatched fire left lonely, could turn against the people, become a raging, roaring fury….a monster. A fire untended became surly and uncooperative, difficult to relight…..or, forgotten by laziness, a greedy, ravening thing, eating up the plains we hunted on, boiling the rivers to dead dry sand, destroying the forests, burning all the trees, the wood we needed, the wood we depended on for fire.

Ignorant, untaught, many people laughed at my warnings “She’s crazy,” I heard them say, laughing quietly behind their hands as they sneaked away under the cover of early morning business, to run and play. But fire is hungry, needs company….and while I live, I will give it what it wants….for I have the secret of fire deep within me….I am the kindling that feeds the flame.

MargaretArlen ©️ Winter 2019

Thanks to Gracie Rose for Fire Photo

IN MY DREAMS

“JUST THE TWO OF US, HIM AND ME”

I lean down to feed more sticks into the fire, keeping the heat high as the rich aromas of rabbit stew with wild onions, mushrooms and foraged greens fill our small cabin. Mouth watering. As the wind whistles under the eaves, I walk to the open doorway looking for him.

It’s a precious time with everyone gone momentarily, on business, hunting, visiting with neighbours, so, it’s just Jamie and me.

And there he is; the late afternoon sun casts a red gold glow on the sycamore trees, the leaves shifting and shimmering with the small breeze and, as I stand watching him, he turns towards me, his body outlined in gold as the sun sinks behind him, as the air cools, as he stretches and shifts the long muscled lines of his body.

I’m already wet with wanting……wanting him.

He sees it in my eyes, my smile, and leaving the plank of timber he’s been sawing, he carries tools back to the verandah’s sheltered shelves, puts them tidily away as I move towards him.

I can smell his sweat, the sharp scent of our earlier sex……
Intoxicating.

He gathers me in against him as I reach up to kiss his mouth, take his lower lip between my teeth, then, murmuring against his neck, “Come, food is ready, you must be starving.”
He laughs softly, “Aye, I am, but not for food, not just now, anyway “, and reaching down, he lifts my skirts, one big hand cupped around my waist, the other finds it’s way to the cleft between my legs.”

I cleave to him as he makes that small, soft moan deep in his throat. “Christ, ye’re already so wet”, and pulling me against him, he kisses me deeply, as I feel the laughter rising up in him, feel him hard against me.

“Eat later”, he says, and taking me by the hand, pulls me towards our fur covered bed. I can feel the heat of him.

My phone alarm rings, the harsh jolt of reality breaking through this beautiful dream, and yet, I can still hear the echo of his voice,
smell the strong male smell of him.
My face is wet with tears.
Was it really ONLY a dream???

HUNTER GATHERER

I realised when I headed off into the Forest, it was always the Hunter that was foremost in me, old ways reignited, to wander with intent, eyes trained to seek and find….to notice the smallest detail. Once found the thrill had gone, I had what I wanted, but in the finding of it, I lost something else.

Where were my people….the auld ones I’d hunted with daily.
The auld man who taught me how to make snares to trap animals; for food and clothing.
My grandmother, so long gone, but dearly remembered….she always knew the best places to find berries, she knew all the ways of cooking and preserving them, and then using the last of the juices for dyeing.
I remember even the ones I can’t recall.
I hear their voices telling me the way of it, I hear them calling from their graves, passing on the knowledge….the way they were in the world long before we turned away.

Now shopping has replaced hunting, we still hunger to hunt and forage….to tread softly over dead leaves instead of concrete and bitumen. To walk searching, using our bodies, retraining muscles that are wasting away, shedding loose skin and excess fat, to find the long hard way home…home to the ways of our Ancestors.

All our activity centred around the fire…..cooking, warmth, conversation, and before that, the gathering of wood, a constant, never ending search for it; and all along the way if we were lucky, because back then water was plentiful….there was always enough rain, so that bending down to gather broken branches, newly emerged mushrooms would be found and collected, yet always leaving some behind for next season…..further along the way were wild lettuce and sorrel….. chicory. Laden down with nature’s bounty and many helping hands, we would arrive back to camp, with firewood and food….our bodies exhausted, but now others could unload, could cook, as we lay down around the blazing fire to take our rest; to sleep curled beside each other….the logs crackling cheerfully, the cooking pots bubbling, sparks rising up blazing against a night sky.

Racks nearby drying skins and food.
Life was harder then, but so were we. Our bodies flexible as bow strings, our minds sharp as the tip of an arrow.

And now the world is burning, the animals we lived alongside, they’re dying….as are we, from stress, addiction, depression, obesity…..

And me….so tired I could lay right down on the hard dry ground that aches for rain, but gets none…..lie down, curl into myself like a dying leaf, and just let go….

All is lost…..all is lost, and I am too tired to do a single thing about it…..

MA ©️ Spring 2019
Photo by Author….Waldheim Forest, Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania.