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Florida on Fire

Tuesday, February 17th, 2009 at 20:30 ET

Well, brush fires … nothing serious at all (at this point, thank God.) Actually, it’s not the fire at all, it’s the smoke.

It started this morning. I’ve gotten in the habit of watching a bit of the local news while I eat my breakfast. I get most of my news from NPR (WMFE) or the internet. I decided a few months ago that those sources are well and good, but sometimes you really do need to know what’s happening down the street. What the local school board is up to, what neighborhoods have increased rates of violent crimes, those kinds of things. This morning what I got was a little weather and a little bit of traffic, including a few spots where the roads were all backed-up because of brush fires. I didn’t give it a second thought.

Later, at lunch, me and two of my friends were chatting. The conversation came around to work and jobs we’d had and my friend Andrew and I were trying to explain what it’s like to work in theme park operations. We weren’t very successful. There is this energy, this state of being, this sense of empowerment, and a sense of struggle that comes with it. Working out there, on the front lines of Orlando’s tourism industry, in a big theme park, puts you in a truly unique spot. It’s a challenging spot, for sure, and often times not exactly pleasant, but it’s yours. I’ve talked to a lot of other people, and I know I’m not crazy.

Then, after work, I stepped outside. I opened the door and felt a rush of air and immediately smelled the smoke. The smoke, presumably, from the brush fires that I heard of this morning and all of a sudden all of my memories of my first summer in Orlando came flooding back. The first time I lived in Orlando, you see, there were fires. Lots of fires, bad fires, much worse than the ones today. In fact, my second day on the job, while in training, my apartment complex was under an evacuation watch. My trainer lived in the same complex and we worked out an arrangement so that if his partner paged him during lunch break he would be able to get in touch with me so we could rush home and rescue some of our personal belongings before everyone had to be out. That was about 1.5 mi from where I am right now, as the crow flies.

Don’t get me wrong, though — the drama of the fires wasn’t what came rushing back. I had brought the few possessions I had in Florida in my car, and I could certainly get them all out again with little effort (and enough time.) No building in my complex was ever evacuated and the danger eventually subsided. But for that whole summer, Central Florida seemed to burn. In fact, it wasn’t really the memories that came rushing back at all. It was the emotions.

As I said about my job that summer, the whole experience was wonderful, but not all happy. Parts of it were the very saddest I’ve ever felt. But even in my darkest hours, I felt, that summer, like I was where I was supposed to be. I had some innate knowledge that I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. Even though at that point I still hadn’t come into my own, I’ve never felt more right than I did that summer. Even as my tears flowed like a river deep enough to carry me away when it was time to leave, because it was time to leave, I was so happy to have felt like I had a place where I really belonged. And that whole summer, all I smelled was smoke.

Isn’t it strange how smells especially can conjure up emotions? There is an inexplicable link. I always prefer to never run into someone who wears Drakkar Noir and every time Florida is on fire I feel this way that I can’t even begin to describe.

i come to you with strange fire, i make an offering of love,
the incense of my soul is burned by the fire in my blood.
i come with a softer answer to the questions that lie in your path.
i want to harbor you from the anger, find a refuge from the wrath.

this is a message of love.
love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired.
i come to you with strange fire.

mercenaries of the shrine, who are you to speak for god?
with haughty eyes and lying tongues and hands that shed innocent blood.
who delivered you the power to interpret calvary?
you gamble away our freedom to gain your own authority.

find another state of mind. grab hold.
strange fire burns with the motion of love.

when you learn to love yourself, you will dissolve all the stones that are cast,
you will learn to burn the icing sky and to melt the waxen mask.
yes, to have the gift of true release, this is a peace that will take you higher.
i come to you with my offering. i bring you strange fire.

this is a message of love.
love that moves from the inside out, love that never grows tired.
i come to you with strange fire.

“Strange Fire”
Indigo Girls
Strange Fire

Filed under: My Life

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