Emily and the Fire-Flower Ceremony at Dawn


Many years ago, I had a young poetry student named Emily. From the time I first met her, when she was in kindergarten or maybe it was first grade, it was clear here was someone attuned to the world and people and the spirit that flows between us. Even young as she was, she paid attention not only with her eyes and her mind but, most closely, with her heart. Throughout elementary, she noticed, wondered, and made poems out of what caught her attention. Nature was frequently her subject.

Later, and for years, we’d run into each other, or she’d come to a reading I was giving or to an art show opening, and the person who greeted me was the same girl I’d known before, only now she’d, as if by magic (and great parents and time and a good life) become a bright, elegant, kind, and insightful young woman.

When I received an invitation to her wedding, I danced around the room in anticipation. When she asked if I’d read a couple of poems in the ceremony, I was both tickled and honored to do so. And now, a PhD student at Stanford University in anthropology, Emily is studying the Mayan language in Mexico and getting ready to do fieldwork there. Before leaving for Mexico, Emily bestowed a title upon me that I’m most pleased to accept: Godmother, well, fairy Godmother, actually, only in Spanish, Hada Madrina. She’s been reading this blog and sent this note and these photos after a recent post:

“I am now living with a healer woman named Floridelma and taking Maya lessons. She invited me to participate in a fire ceremony, which was really more of a flower ceremony, this morning at dawn. Flori has a little hearth made with rocks, coral and shells that she lines with sugar and copal, then fills with colorful candles. A ring of flowers is placed inside the stone ring and then a small fire is lit in the middle. During the ceremony, which was for Mari Carmen who sought clarity with regard to what she was put here on earth to do, Flori chanted in Maya, of which I understood only the numbers 1-10. I also understood that the woman from Vera Cruz was born on the day of bats, an animal that is “like a string that ties the earth to the heavens.” It turned out that whatever she needed to do would involve asking her grandparents (who visited us via the fire during the ceremony) for forgiveness on behalf of her family.

I’ve just realized I have to get back on the bus to return to the countryside where my host family lives. I enjoyed the cairn post on your blog. Floridelma’s hearth made me think of it. Naturally, the ceremony concluded with a feminist-oriented chat over gourds of hot chocolate. You and Norma were there, too, I’m sure.”

Perhaps there’s a ceremony you’re ready to create to support your imaginative life, one that involves a ring of flowers placed inside a stone ring. Then you light a small fire in the middle. Might your creativity be “like a string which ties the earth to the heavens”?