That Tiny Flame
I think of James Clement (in The Love Letters and Certain Women) telling of the making of cider in the winter, when it is put outdoors to freeze. In the center of the frozen apple juice is a tiny core of pure flame that does not freeze. My faith (which I enjoy) is like that tiny flame. Even in the worst of moments it has been there, surrounded by ice, perhaps, but alive.
- Madeleine L'Engle
Many thanks to RevHRod for gifting me with this Madeleine L'Engle poem this morning. Our move to CT brought us within easy driving distance of Madeleine's home in the Litchfield hills, and though we never made the trek to that area while she was living, I do hope to go and see some of what inspired her. Unlike many people who appreciate her writing, I didn't grow up with A Wrinkle in Time; in fact, I'm not sure I've ever read it. (To prove my point, I had to visit another website to clarify the title--I had originally written The Wrinkle in Time!) The only L'Engle book I know without a doubt I've read is Two-Part Invention. From that moment I was captivated.
But I'm straying from the poem and my point, which is simply this: I've seen and experienced that core of flame within me. Access to that core has come only once, though I've glimpsed it or rubbed up against it on other occasions (most notably, when I gave birth to my two children)--and the gift of visualizing that flame, holding that core of fire in my hands, came in the midst of a great hurt. Though I don't come from a religious body that practices shunning, it's the word that best fits what a friend decided she must do to me based on my disclosure of differences between us. My way of being was....is....simply that offensive to her. Never mind the story of those differences--that is a post for another day. What I am remembering this morning, thanks to RevHRod and Madeleine, is the image of that core. Words cannot adequately capture the experience of holding a swirling ball of fire in my hands, fully aware that this is my essence--that this core of fire has always been in me, and always will be in me, and nothing of this world can harm or destroy that essence. As I held the fire in my hands, it was suddenly not only in me and contained by me, but surrounding me as well. And as the hurtful words of shunning from this friend swirled around me, they were dissolved by the flames. The flames surrounding me, mirroring what was in me, could not burn or harm me, but her words were absorbed before they could touch me. I envisioned them slithering around my body, serpent-like, coming ever closer to me and to that core, but as they approached, they were consumed....burned up....gone forever.
Deep in winter, with ice coating each and every branch, I know within me is That Tiny Flame, inextinguishable, everlasting, purely God, purely me, forever and ever. Amen.