Sit by the fire and wait.

And I will have played my part.

Sit by the fire, and wait.

It is winter, December in Scotland. I stand between trees and moorland. I feel the cold bite at my toes in not warm enough boots and stiffen my fingers since I underestimated the need for gloves. It is not quite crisp enough for blue skies and frost, there is a dampness that is heavy and renderers my layers useless as it steals between them to chill my back. I pull my shoulders to my ears, shrinking from the grey moisture hanging in the air.

I turn slowly in a circle, lifting my eyes to look out. I see icy roads, treacherous and unreliable at this time. In the distance I see houses where I know there is a lack of food or heat. In my mind’s eye I travel miles and see families climbing into small boats on freezing coastlines in the hope that stormy charcoal waves are kinder than the terror at their back.

Outward, in each direction I know that I will see desolation, anguish and separation; war is tearing up life with blatant disregard for its sanctity and humanity is being stripped from us by hatred and greed.

Hopelessness fuses with the damp under my clothes and winds round my heart, sorrow curls at my ankles and I feel the draught between my trousers and boots. The creeping chill and the weight of it all begins to render me immobile.

I build a fire.

I make camp in this spot where I stand. In the middle of the destruction, the worry, the chaos. I light my own fire and sit by it even if not a single other person joins me. I sit by the fire and feel its warmth. I refuse to stay cold; I will not accept the fear and desolation of the horrors.

I have enough to start a fire. I have tenderness in me. Tenderness is warm, it wraps around, gathering the ills of life while gently shushing the tears that fall. My determination is flint enough to strike sparks that will light.

A fire of compassion and kindness will burn. The heat will warm me, soften me, lull me to rest and comfort me. I will stoke it with faith in its power and the energy that comes with repair and restoration. I will not allow hopeless cold to douse these flames.

I choose to tend to myself, to see my own goodness, feel my own warmth. I’ve got what that takes.

No matter how halting or imperfect my attempts are, it is enough that I build a fire. I might have to work to fan the flames but I will decide what is living, what it means to be alive. I will do what brings me Joy and if I’m not completely sure what that is, it will not matter because I know what it is not.

It is not war, it is not the violation of the vulnerable, it is not aggression or violence. It is not cruelty and lack, it is not judgment or fear, it is not manipulation or greed. These things are cold and grey and beget more of the same, they are lonely and hard and brittle and unkind. And I want no part of
them, I don’t want to live there. I will not make my home in that landscape.

I will sit by the fire and wait.
Even if no one joins me,
I will sit by the fire and wait.

The warmth and the flames will do their own work. When I see you drawn towards the warmth, I will lift the corner of my blanket and nod an invitation to nestle in.

Bring whatever you have to burn. Bring care and honour, bring trust and acceptance; their flames are bright and burn with intensity. But, also bring your sorrows and your weariness, your anger and your pain, throw it on the fire.

We will sit together and I will keep my eyes towards the flames, as you rid yourself of regret and grief. Guilt and shame will scream and hiss in the heat until smoke and ash are all that remain.

Fire cleanses, purifies and forgives.

Then there will be two of us to tend the fire and we will be warmer and it will be less work. We will hold hands by the fire. We will drink tea by the fire. We will lean into each other by the fire. We will talk by the fire.

We will sit by the fire and wait.

The fire will draw others in. I am confident.

The warmth and the flames will do their own work. We don’t need to do anything other than tend it.

Those who are cold will gravitate to it. Those who are hungry will find the pot cooking on it with nourishment inside. Those who need to rest can sleep in front of it as the flames keep monsters at bay.

If others join then we will fetch more blankets, more mugs and make space. With more of us to look after the fire, there will be more fuel to stoke the flames; we can take turns to rest, to sleep, to heal and to cast off weariness.

We will sit by the fire and wait.

We will wait. We will not persuade or convert or force others to forsake their determination to live differently. We will know when to look away and allow someone to approach on their own.

Sometimes heat returning to a body is painful, tiny capillaries in fingers and toes burn as warm blood circulates again. Even to turn and notice the fire is a good enough step, move closer slowly.

At other times we will have hands wrapped round mugs as we stand chatting and catch the eye of someone who is just waiting for a welcome invitation, a gesture or wave or a smile.

If we look out into the darkness and see that someone has fallen or is crying, we will run from the fire, pick them up and usher them in, clearing a space as others busy themselves to dry them, warm them, feed them, comfort them and hold them. There will be enough of us to keep watch on the edges for those who are lonely or lost and pass within our reach.

Others will begin to light fires and more people will gather round, the camp will get bigger and, in the warmth, and the safety not only will everyone be tended to; there will be space to imagine, room to dream and time to create.

We find life and living beside the fire.

We will dance by the fire,
We will sing by the fire,
We will eat by the fire,
We will talk by the fire.

And if it happens that there are still more out in the cold.

Then we will sit by the fire and wait.

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