Thursday, December 2, 2010

a long-lasting flame

                                                  our lady of guadalupe

I am thinking quite a bit about my dad these days. He is a long-lived man, still in fairly good physical condition, about 3 months away from 100 years on this planet. When you read this, I will be visiting him in North Dakota.

Sometimes life analogies seem to pop up all over the place. Do you ever have that happen? Already today, maybe because of my dad, I've thought of life as 1) a notebook of blank pages, each line a day. And then 2) as a clock, ticking until it stops. Then 3) as a candle . . .

. . . you never know with a candle how well it'll hold up until it really gets going. There are (questionable) directions on how to get the most flame for your buck, but honestly who does that? (I see mainstream dietary recommendations, parenting techniques, and some religions as (questionable) "directions".) Then there's what kind of wax it's made with -- if it's hard wax, it'll last longer -- if it's soft wax, it'll burn faster, lose shape quickly, and probably flood (kill) itself -- unless it has a good container to burn in. If it is to be fragrant, it should be the soft wax, so there again it won't last as long. The hard wax is plain old, plain old. Then there's the wick and how thick or thin, or strong, it is. And keeping the wick trimmed regularly so it doesn't keel over and, again, flood (kill) itself -- or worse, dirty itself. A flame can be upright and burn strong till the end. Or it can burn itself out fast and drip all over the place and leave a mess, to our grief and disappointment. Then again, it would probably flood (kill) itself. If it's placed in a bad environment like a windy spot, it'll have a heck of a time staying lit and may always be a little "off" after that --  whereas if it burns in good conditions, it stays symmetrical.

My dad is a hard-wax candle with a strong, well-maintained wick that burns in a fairly still environment. Oh, he's been in imperfect conditions, resulting in a little sputtering and flickering a few times, but has always regained that steady flame.

When his flame goes out, I think it will leave little behind. I hope I burn the same.


  1. I am reminded of a recent encounter of mine with my pink lotus-flower votive-holder on my little alter. After lighting it, I let the match drop flaming into the pool of wax, aware that it might cause "problems." Yet I sat and watched as I meditated, watched as the too-big flames darkened and then began to crackle the shell-petals before I blew out the flame. Those perfectly pink petals that bothered me in their perfection now record that moment of experimentation, and in their longish dark smudges remind me of the angel-wing shadows that sometimes form before my eyes, shadows that curl and swirl, the pupa settling into a chrysalis, about to break free.