Report from the field of combustion

Smoke from the fires is what we hear on the news. According to the agency monitoring Washington State air quality, the last four days Seattle has had “Unhealthy” air quality. A step away from “Hazardous.” This comes with a recommendation to stay indoors, close all windows, and use an air conditioner (who has one of these in Seattle?). It is also recommended to refrain from strenuous activity outside for people and dogs.
Here is the laboratory: confinement, heat, energy, plenty of vegetables, water, art supplies, two humans, and two dogs.
This is a perfect setting for experimenting with pleasure.
“There is power in pleasure. Pleasure can balance, restore, and transform us. It can change us physically, energetically and emotionally. Our bodies are designed for pleasure.”
     – From Wonder Body: A Sophisticated Coloring Book for Curious Adults
Moving through emotions of anxiety, fear, joy, frustration, and ease—we wore pajamas all day, we drank ice tea, made homemade dog treats that included zucchini from the garden, groomed, painted, and painted some more. This bizarre daylight with the red sun created unique shadows and changed the color on the canvas. We sang loudly, watched musicals. I don’t know what will be next but we have pinpoint focus on our next breath.
We are trying to make sense of the unrecognizable sun. Every living being is being affected by the smoke.
We are cooked, creative, in an altered state from the containment.
How are you?


Components of Combustion

Components of combustion
What does it take to safely light things up?


com·bus·tion – kəmˈbəsCH(ə)n/
  1. an act or instance of burning
  2. a usually rapid chemical process (such as oxidation) that produces heat and usually light  ;  also : a slower oxidation (as in the body) 
  3. violent agitation – tumult

This summer’s wildfires—in California, across the west, in Europe, and even the arctic circle—have ignited needing only three components: air, fuel, and spark. They spread a visceral and primoridal fear as they destroy land, lives, and threaten the air we breathe. Yet they also bring life, unleashing the potency of serotinous cones that open in the heat.
It’s hard to imagine, but in a few months I might be grateful to curl up next to the contained heat of a wood fire: burning brightly but contained by hearth, dangerous carbon monoxide and other byproducts carried safely up the flue. This combustion is ancient and I am grateful to the inventions that make it safe.
I’m on a long drive right now, relying on the internal combustion of my car’s engine. Back in the day, when automobile engine’s were simpler, a balky engine could be diagnosed by checking the four fundamental components: air, fuel, compression, spark. All four were necessary for the smooth running of an engine which is really a series of small repetitive explosions safely contained by the strong metal of the engine block. Remarkabley, all four continue to be present in the right proportions for mile after mile. Small wonder!
And just a few week’s ago, I was in the desert heat at our Portals of Pleasure retreat, witnessing with wonder the process by which humans could combust, burn off the residue, ignite change—all while anchoring deeply, tethering themselves lest their heat rise too quickly.
Heat. Combustion. Potency. Big powers to play with this August. But so much potency too.
Looking forward to hearing what Alex and Zed are firing up this month.


light yourself on fire

“Success is not a result of spontaneous combustion. You must set yourself on fire.”

— Arnold H. Glasgow

How do I light a fire under me? How do I get back to the fifteen projects on my to-do list that I started a year (three years) ago and haven’t gotten back to? Or do I let them go, cut them, decide they are as done as they are ever going to be?
It’s hot here. August can be brutal. I’m in tank tops most days, forgetting to put on some sort of bra. It feels exposing. Sloppy. Unheld. All of the fire dials are up to red, all of the parks say “no smoking!,” the Berkeley hills caught on fire a few days ago and spread for acres. The dried out golden grass catches easily.
But I don’t catch easily. Sometimes I wither. Sometimes I’m that obnoxious green that is so dense it’s almost impossible to break it or rip it.
I keep waiting for someone else to set the fire. For deadlines, for some sort of external motivation that will ‘make me’ do this work. But it’s not going to just happen. It’s not flowing in the morphic fields waiting for me to step into it. It’s me — I have to do it. I have to set myself on fire.
— Zed

Newsletter Poetry

A combustion of words

A poem, an offering

This delightful poem speaks of combustion, our planetary theme for August.


Sara Eliza Johnson

If a human body has two-hundred-and-six bones
and thirty trillion cells, and each cell
has one hundred trillion atoms, if the spine
has thirty-three vertebrae—

if each atom

has a shadow—then the lilacs across the yard
are nebulae beginning to star.
If the fruit flies that settle on the orange
on the table rise
like the photons

from a bomb fire miles away,

my thoughts at the moment of explosion
are nails suspended
in a jar of honey.

I peel the orange

for you, spread the honey on your toast.
When our skin touches
our atoms touch, their shadows
merging into a shadow galaxy.
And if echoes are shadows
of sounds, if each hexagonal cell in the body
is a dark pool of jelly,
if within each cell
drones another cell—

The moment the bomb explodes

the man’s spine bends like its shadow
across the road.
The moment he loses his hearing
I think you are calling me
from across the house
because my ears start to ring.
From the kitchen window

I see the lilacs crackling like static

as if erasing, teleporting,
thousands of bees rising from the blossoms:
tiny flames in the sun.
I lick the knife
and the honey pierces my tongue:

a nail made of light.

My body is wrapped in honey. When I step outside

I become fire.