January 7, 2016

I am a Bonfire. {Poem}

Author image for poem photographer Erika Nantz

I didn’t do as I was told.
I turned down a beckoning road and let the rest unfold.

This year I quit my steady job and sold most of my belongings to drive to an unknown destination. For seven months, I lived out of my car and in my tent, discovering true Americana.

Clinging to the past, I forgot to look ahead.
Faced with a space so vast, I often chose to regret instead.
Wanting to be a better me, yet unwilling to pay the fee
of change, believing the commitment to be out of my range.

From the Smoky Mountains to the Great Lakes, through sunflower fields in North Dakota, sunsets in Montana, and the rugged charm of Wyoming, I hunted for freedom of spirit.

My pencil’s wandering line
on the map and the weight of my thoughts slid down my spine
to settle in between my stomach and heart.
Avoidance, my familiar art.

Then up to lush British Columbia, down to dry Idaho, across to Oregon vineyards—I worked on farms, hungry for roots and connection.

A half-ass approach, I watched sadness encroach.
When action was in need, I let old wounds continue to bleed.
Finding false comfort in an outgrown shell, how many ways I’ve let myself down, I cannot tell.

After a breath-taking ferry ride along the Inner Passage, I arrived in Alaska.

My oceanic heart adrift, I asked how to make a lasting shift.
She told me the time is now, to make my vow.

In the wintery woods of December, four friends made a bow-drill fire. Klaus carved the drill, one end sharpened and one end rounded. Laura fitted a shoelace as a bowstring. I gathered lichen and thin strips of young birch bark to form the tinder-bundle. Max found pine sap to lubricate the handhold and stacked a tipi of tree bones for later.

The old ways, how they did tire, so I gave it all to the fire to become the woman I desire.

I kneel upon piece of bark to protect my knees from the icy ground and twisted the drill into the bow. The tip fits into a notched piece of cottonwood. I move the bow back and forth, spinning the drill. The friction creates sweet smelling-smoke. My arms ache, but I will not let up. Laura softly sings primal sounds. Klaus’s eyes burn with an inner vision of a flame. Max holds his hands steady on mine to keep the bow parallel to the ground.

Our heartbeats synchronize with each other and the Earth.
The present moment gives birth.

The drill grinds down and the notch compresses the dust into a tiny coal, glowing orange.

All doubts, fears, and anxieties become fuel for soulful growth.

Gently, I blow on the fragile ember. The oils of the birch bark spark and a small flame appears. Rhythmically feeding the flame oxygen, it grows.

I breathe deeply into transformation.

The elemental allure of heat and light is undeniable. From one carbon form to another, fire reminds me of my ever changing nature.

I am a Bonfire.
Bon is French for good and I give thanks for where I once stood.



Tethered. {A Poem}.

The Paradox of Self-Love.


Author: Anna Nantz

Volunteer Editor: Lindsay Carricarte / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Image: Erika Nantz

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