Tending Love’s Fire
Have you ever witnessed the creation of fire? It is such a profound privilege, one that strikes a cord deep in our ancestral memory.
Fire, to our modern minds, is as simple as striking a match, flicking a lighter or — going back to elementary school science experiments — using the sun and a magnifying glass. The actual creation of fire, however, is a complex endeavor that requires much effort, preparation and focus.
Similarly, though its initial spark might be as simple as lighting a match, maintaining a relationship is a complex endeavor requiring effort and attention. Using a bow, string and spindle stick to make fire is not easy, and neither is keeping a relationship alive.
When building a fire, the first order of business is finding the right location. We need to be mindful, for example, of where the wind is coming from and which way the smoke will flow, yet aware that it could all change in an instant. In our own lives our relationships are impacted by external conditions and circumstances over which we have little control. Unpredictable winds of change such as the economy, employment status, illness or accidents can throw us for a loop. The qualities of our living space and physical environment can also impact our feelings about and the nature of our relationships.
Next, the area where the fire will be built needs cleansing, preparation. We create a circle of safety, containment and protection. Clearing the space of stones, branches and debris is analogous to “cultivating our garden” — doing the internal preparatory work of clearing obstacles to love within ourselves so that we can attract a compatible partner instead of subconsciously sabotaging the endeavor, and in order to minimize the potential for conflicts.
Finding the right kind of wood is important. Some burns more easily than others; some burns too fast; some is smokier than others; some can even be toxic when burnt. In Spanish the word for wood, madera, can also be used in reference to having the right mettle, caliber, or character. What kind of qualities are you looking for in a partner?
Another preparatory step is building a little nest to capture the initial spark, out of twigs, dry grass, moss and other tinder material. If there is no container to catch the spark and hold it, where it can be tended to, it will not survive. The same can be said about relationships; the container here applies to physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual space.
How the wood pile is structured is important. Allowing room to breathe is critical; if the wood is placed densely the flame can be stifled. Within a pyramidal structure we add twigs at first, gently, then larger kindling. What is the foundation of your fire? Is it steady, balanced? Can it hold the weight and keep the flame of love going or will it come crashing down? Who is your support system? Leaning on our partners for our happiness and fulfillment is not only suffocating; it is unfair and a sure recipe for failure. We need to give each other time and space to breathe, and the responsibility for fulfilling our life’s purpose is ultimately ours.
Friction creates fire. Once we create and capture that initial spark of fire, we need to maintain it. To keep the flame going we blow ever so gently on it; it is more like breathing on it, breathing it to life. Love, too, usually requires a little friction. Too much alikeness can be stagnating. When we are blessed with the unpredictable spark of love, we must tend carefully to it, lovingly, ever attentive to and mindful of its needs. During times of friction, breathe! Deep breathing has an immediate calming effect and helps navigate the emotional reactivity, bringing choice back into the equation.
Once the fire is going, we still need to mind it, as the weight of the logs shifts or the wind changes direction. We will need to make adjustments, reposition logs, adding new ones — new sources of energy and life. Add too much and we stifle it, too little and the fire can become extinguished. Similarly, our relationships require constant vigilance and maintenance, but not oppressively or breathlessly. The important thing is to be present, conscious, mindful — paying attention and making necessary adjustments. Flexibility is key, and the willingness to let go of the way things were for how they now are and what they may become.
Love is in the details. By gifting them with our attention we discover what our partners like, what turns them on, physically and spiritually. For that is how the heart is wooed, seduced. Surprising them with little gifts–even a flower or stone–just to let them know we are thinking about them, lets them know we have made an effort to know who they are and what they like. When we email them a song or an article that we know will interest them, they know that we were paying attention to what they were saying and what ignites their passion. When we give them something, such as framed photograph that captures a special moment, we help its remembrance and ritualize the relationship.
This is how we become tenders of the fire of love: We listen to the whispers of their soul. We become soul whisperers.
Asking for what we need, and finding playful ways to together meet those needs, is equally important. For though we are fire keepers, in a relationship we are also deeply a part of the fire itself. Indeed, that is at the heart of the creation of fire…we become one with it. In the words of Teilhard de Chardin: “Someday, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love, and then, for a second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire.”