Wednesday, March 09, 2011


We have all seen it -- the towering cloud of smoke and ash that signal a major fire. A garage, a house, an apartment building, a business, or even a beloved forest or field is in flames. Whenever the crimson beast is unleashed, people’s lives change. Occasionally, they even end. Anyone who has been close to an uncontrolled fire knows that feeling that the fire is alive, insatiable, and unpredictable. A night fire is the scariest, with the billowing cloud lit from below, all crimson and shadow.

Up in that cloud fly tiny bits of oxidized matter, remnants of the buildings, personal effects, and even the once alive victims of the red beast. Ashes, of course, are the last bits of any such material and signify the death of that entity or the loss of a cherished possession. When they fall to Earth, the ashes become part of the Earth again, often bringing additional life to the soil. If enough ash falls from fire, the ground below will be covered a uniform gray, perhaps an appropriate tribute to loss.

Not all ash is from tragedy, some bonfires simply celebrate light and warmth on a cold night. Some ash is but residue from risky human behavior.Whatever its source, just remember that ash is always a sign of change, and a reminder (to me) that all things must pass.



Bits of ash soar high upon the night air,

Expatriates of flame and hell on Earth;

Oblivious of just when or just where

Their fragile existence was given birth.

Though few will observe their delicate dance,

Violently driven to heights aloft,

Aglow with the crimson light of their chance,

And are borne on the cool night currents soft.

Soon crimson trim becomes black or dark gray,

Ephemeral shadows upon dark sky,

Driven by hot dark winds up and away,

Seek the Earth and a peaceful place to lie.

Soundlessly falling, this black snow or rain,
Silently screams of someone’s loss and pain

Mick McKellar
March 2011

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