As I lay in bed this morning, the red fire of this morning’s sunrise burned through the octagonal eastern window in the bedroom, drawing an orange octagon on the opposite wall, moving swiftly across its surface with the speed of the earth’s diurnal turning.

Fire has been on my mind lately, glowing there in the periphery of my consciousness for weeks. I dream of it, I hear words in my mind about it, and I see images of it in my mind’s eye.

It’s not the destructive fire like California grassfires, and it’s not the productive fire of cooking or forging metal or cauterizing wounds. The images I envision are the fires of purification.

I am enveloped in sin and shame and guilt, and I’m certainly not a nice person, having been selfish and self-absorbed these past two years. Counterbalancing my incredible excitement about personal growth is a simmering guilt at having removed a husband and father from my family’s environment, replacing him with a changeling, and not necessarily a bad person, but clearly a different one, and that disruption to those I love, while an inevitable fact, still hurts.

I want a fire to burn away that pain.
I want to be a better person.
I want to feel a purifying fire burning away that selfishness, guilt, and shame.

Is it possible to atone? To make it up to my loved ones? To forget myself and my travails and simply be?

Lately, I feel as I’m slowly being burned away
by the the fury of the pyre, the purity of the fire,
The drizzle of purifying flames dripping like candlewax on my flesh, my habits, my psyche.

The unneeded flesh, burning away;
The unwanted baggage, in flames, smoldering;
The unwelcome pain pale embers, their smoke rising into the still morning sky;
The newlyspoken desire stoked with the fastburning kindling of impatience and doused with the teakettle of prudence.

burning shame
burning guilt
burning tears
burning desire

unbearable burden that must be borne still

Woodsmoke and sinsmoke and egosmoke and transmoke billows up through the trees, where it mixes with the atmosphere and is diffused, its essence vanishing on the breeze as it is carried away to be mixed with the dust and the clouds and the wind.

At the same time as this diffusion of my sins, what’s left of me is becoming distilled and clarified and filtered and purified by the self-immolation brought about by my change.

However intense or emotional this spontaneous combustion, as I wander in the fiery desert, seeking rest, looking for a place of stasis in an ek-static lifeworld, I know that I will never truly be pure.

To be pure is to to escape my self-centeredness, and even as I write about my guilt, the adjective pure becomes the adverb purely becomes the verb purify becomes the noun purity, built into the noun purification, layered and layered purefyingly, purificationally, purification, purificationalistically.

The ego hasn’t burned away at all; it’s just taken another form, one clothed in atonement instead of despair. Like the ancient mariner, I feel I am destined to keep repeating my story, my words the fire of my confession. My hope is that these words are more than self-indulgence, but may, over time, finally burn away my albatross of shame and eventually provide some heat or light that is actually useful to someone else.