Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Fire into Wine

Another beautiful day in Northfield.  Yesterday we watched giant excavators pull up bits of Second street.  Their noises were so loud and their immensity so overpowering that you, sweet boy, did not feel comfortable standing alone to watch.  You settled into my lap, beside your friend Aubin, and stroked your stuffed kitty and stared with wonder and terror.

Today, fire surrounds Holden.  We are watching with wonder and terror the pictures of a smoke filled valley, of firefighters lined up at the silver counter, of a red-flame horizon along the Tailings pile.  We are refreshing our browsers, we are living inside other people's dreams, we are zooming and re-zooming on maps that depict the fire as a red mouth slashed with lines to indicate strength of heat.  We are singing and praying and tagging each other in pictures from long ago.  We are remembering ponderosa pines and fiddlehead ferns and cottonwood leaves shimmering in late afternoon light.  We are wading though our memories, touching with our minds the blond beams in the fireside room, ice cream containers housing yarn, scalding knives fresh from the Hobart.  These memories and prayers are the warm lap we sit in while we watch the fire unfold.

Yesterday, while digging for a recipe for Rita's Triple Treats (to make for tonight's Holden Evening prayer gathering) I came across a recipe for Blackberry "Fire" Wine.  The note says "This wine was made with the blackberries at Field's Point during the 2007 evacuation."  I loved this--partly because it made me laugh, partly because it made my mouth water, partly because I love the sense of creativity bursting forth in the middle of exile.  If Jesus can turn water into wine, why can't fire be turned into wine too?  I sort of like the idea of Railroad Creek valley as vineyard.

I have never really believed in praying for miracles.  I have prayed for miracles, for huge shifts of the heart, healing in the body, peace between warring nations.  But I have always understood that the real prayer I should pray, the one I can always expect to be answered, if for God's presence through all of it.  I've always understood that God reminds us of this presence through human contact mostly, through hugs and smiles, through offerings of food and quiet listening, but sometimes also through moments in nature or words encountered at the right moment on the page, a song working its way to the heart at the right instant.

I am wary of praying for miracles because I fear what will happen to my faith when the miracle doesn't happen.  Certainly, miracles do arrive for some people--but for every cancer patient saved by a miracle, what of the thousands who are not?  For every person miraculously saved from an avalanche, what of the broken bodies never found?  Miracles seem like fishy business to me because they seem to suggest a hierarchy--certain people or places are saved while others are not.  I don't believe in a God of hierarchies.  I don't believe in a God of this person but not that one.  I don't believe in a God who shows more favor to a remote village in the mountains than a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

But the Bible is filled with miracles.  Blind people see, lame people walk, water turns into wine, water turns into something you can stand upon, men spend days inside large fish, arks hold two of every creature and a sea parts so that people can walk through to safety.  In the Bible, people and places are chosen.  I am having trouble reconciling this, making sense of this in my head.

Because the truth is that I want Holden to be chosen.  I want God to save those buildings.  I want a bubble of safety over it.  I want a story to tell my grandchildren of how the fire came and went but Holden was saved.  

I am wary of miracles and I am praying for a miracle.

The village has been planning for fire for a long time.  If Holden is saved, it will be due to the forethought of smart people, to the hands that installed sprinkler systems and cleared brush, to the firefighters wrapping the buildings in tinfoil skirts, to the "fab five" villagers who are working without ceasing.   But I am not certain that all of that intelligence and bravery and preparation will be enough; fire is, by its nature, unpredictable.  I am sitting and waiting.

I am wary of miracles and I am praying for a miracle nonetheless.

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