Remains of the Night

February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine’s Day, 2013.

Today I feel loathe to offer opinion, yet am struck by several observations around the theme of ash.

In Dresden there are clashes between those who commemorate the firebombing of that city during WWII in a context of the dark forces that provoked the annihilation in the first place and those who view the anniversary as a holocaust of their own.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

The anniversary of Dresden’s bombing also happens to be Ash Wednesday, and if a cross marks the spot, perhaps there is something in the human noggin prone to casting ourselves into the ashes?  In German, Cinderella, which means ashes girl, is Ashputtel.  The Grimm’s story is a little different than you may think from Disney versions, and it includes the theme of birds separating grain from ash, spirit helping the girl who loves, and mourns, a mother who has died.

In Chicago, where I grew up in between holocaust survivors and Tony Soprano 1.0, the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre was what Feb 14th was all about.  Al Capone once firebombed my grandfather’s liquor store; someone once set fire to my parent’s house when I was asleep inside in the care of a deaf baby-sitter.  A fireman carried me out in the night and I watched the house burn from across the street.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

As President Obama was giving his State of the Union address, calling for legislation on guns, a former Los Angeles police officer who had posted a manifesto on Facebook about corruption and unfairness, and who then went on a revenge spree shooting cops and children of cops, was burning to ash in a cabin in the white snowy mountains just outside the city of lost angels.  They are still trying to identify his remains.

Once upon a time Los Angeles burned.  Actually it was more than once upon a time, but once I bore witness from my window and it appeared that the revolution was indeed being televised.

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

I’ve tasted dirt in my time, but have not eaten at Ne Quittez Pas in Tokyo where dirt is the culinary theme.

But maybe, per Flannery O’Connor who tells us that everything that rises must converge, all which burns and ends as ash and dirt too must converge.

When things do converge, when spirit is distilled and dirty ashy chimney sweep Burt dances on the roof or has a jolly sparkling holiday with Mary Poppins and kites fly and geese winter in Los Angeles and raise their babies perhaps a love too deep for words blankets us, weaving all our tattered threads into  some unifying tapestry.

Ashes, Chocolate, wings and tears

Wishing all much love this Valentine’s day

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen @ Motherese February 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

Chim-chimney, my friend. Here’s to you, the ashes, and the phoenix rising from them. I’m not much for Valentine’s Day, but I am for love and fellowship. Thanks for spreading both.


Bruce February 15, 2013 at 1:55 pm

for readers who may happen across these words, please visit Kristen’s post, “Bloom Where You’re Planted.”

The phoenix that rises from the ash may also be called the Tree of Life, or Tao, or Love


Wolf Pascoe February 19, 2013 at 3:38 pm

Well, there are ashes and there are phoenixes. And even though you’re writing about ashes today, the way you’ve written reminds me of this phoenix poem:

I know the sound of the ecstatic flute,
but I don’t know whose flute it is.
A lamp burns and has neither wick nor oil.
A lily pad blossoms and is not attached to the bottom.
When one flower opens, ordinarily dozens open.
The moon bird’s head is filled with nothing but
thoughts of the moon,
and when the next rain will come is all that the rain bird thinks of.
Who is it we spend our entire life loving?

— Kabir


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: