Thorn Fire


It was the end of a long day. I’d spent most of my day at my desk pushing forward various projects on various fronts and even though I’d made good progress I needed a break.

I went outside without any real plan: just to putter in the garden for a while and get some fresh air. Water the plants. Arrange some rocks. Pull some weeds. It occurred to me that there was a heap of yard trimmings that needed to be dealt with: branches and twigs that were too woody for the compost pile and too bulky to fit easily into the green bin for yard waste.

This was not a new pile: it has been there for more than a year. My attention was drawn to it a day or two ago when I trimmed back the lemon tree and found myself piling new branches on a pile that had not meaningfully deteriorated in all the months that it had been braving the elements. I decided the simplest thing to do would be to burn it, bit-by-bit in the metal fire pit we bought for social occasions.

I lit a small fire with a knob of pine resin that I’d collected from along my running path. The twigs were very dry and burned easily in a narrow, upright column of flame rising smokelessly from the middle of the metal pit. The day had been hot, but the twilight was cooling and it was pleasant to walk around the fire-pit in endless circles as I broke and tossed branches into the flames, contemplating life, the universe, and everything.

The biggest branch that I needed to deal with was roughly the thickness of my wrist. It had been pruned off a neighboring orange tree and was covered- covered in businesslike thorns- some of which were as long as my fingers. Once I’d broken off all the smaller twigs, I was left with a mighty club of thorns.

It occurred to me that I, much like the tree from which this branch had come, had built up a system of my own thorns over the past few years as defenses against my depression. In an ironic twist, the current state of quarantine- a time in which the world has actually become a dangerous and high-risk place has made me feel relaxed for the first time in years. The rigorous confinement of quarantine has actually been supremely freeing.

I found myself wishing that I render my own thorns unto the fire as easily as I was burning away an old, dead branch that I didn’t need anymore. What, truly, does it take to let go of one’s old, outgrown defenses? I don’t have the answers, yet, but I hope to find out.

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on May 7, 2020.

5 Responses to “Thorn Fire”

  1. And then she smeared ash from the freshly cinder-ed branches on her cheeks and began to chant as she danced tribal-like around the fire.

    Exactly what compelled you to pick up a “knob of pine resin” along your run/jog? ‘Not exactly something I’d think of collecting.

    To shed one’s aged defenses, they need to first shed the stimuli that cause the thorns to grow. When there is no more threat, the thorns will likely fall off the way other creatures evolve/adapt, shedding teeth or tails they no longer need.

    • Well… you’re not wrong… lol.

      I pick up pine resin whenever I find it just to have it on hand as fire starter. It smells nice and burns readily even if it’s wet, so it’s good to have.

      True: thorns are an advantage for keeping predators and threats at bay, but it’s time for me to grow out of them. On lemon trees, the thorns only grow on the green, fruit bearing branches: the more mature limbs are stronger and don’t need that kind of protection. I’m trying to reach that point.

      Also- I owe you toilet paper fashion- I haven’t forgotten, it just got sidelined.

      • You start a lot of fires, do you? Carrie much? 😛

        Do plants grow out of thorns or shed them…somehow?

        Interesting lesson on lemon trees.

        Yes, I am waiting for the TP showcase from you. And, I am still tapping my shoulder to do a hand-drawn version, myself. But, most recently, I roped myself into a teeny bit of creative writing/brainstorming and some silhouette art/fun.

      • To be honest I’m not sure how the trees move on past having thorns- that’s a good question! If I find an answer I’ll let you know 🙂

      • hehe. okay.

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