A little orange fire in the ground reaching out to the larger world as reflected in the orange cloud in western sky. The dawn greeted me thus this morning at first light. Fire. Water. Air. Earth. They were all sharply present.
I was up early tossing sprigs of eucalypt, banksia, she-oak, tea-tree, blackwood, coastal wattle and other fragrant leaves onto this fire as a simple honouring of the specialness of today; a day that marks the anniversary of the lighting of the eternal Peace Fire flame four years ago on April 6, 2002
It began as a request from an aboriginal woman to create a healing fire for peace between blacks and whites, peace between men and women, peace between all peoples, and, peace between humanity and the natural world.
For four years this fire has been smouldering along acting as smoke signal to a confused world announcing daily that there are yet beacons acting as still small voices promoting the message of peace; that there are people still willing to commit to the maintenance of this peace; that fire and smoke, in this instance, rises from the earth, not as an after-effect of a rocket attack on a defenceless home nor the burning off of ancient forests, but as a potent symbol of hope.
For the most part, I have stacked and then carried piece by piece, log by log, 50 tons of firewood and placed them into the now, deeply blackened rock lined pit that is the home of this eternal flame. During all this time of nearly 1,500 continuous days, wisps of smoke and burning embers have worked to keep fear and hatred in balance with love and trust. By any stretch of the imagination, I big task (not for me, but for the fire).
Has it been worth it?
On the down side, surely, one has to question the burning of this much firewood; the burning of which has neither warmed a home nor sizzled a sausage.
To defend the use of this much wood in a “rational and scientific” manner, there are two replies. Firstly, as the stated intention of the Peace Fire is to keep the flame burning for 600 years, if all the tonnage burned was added up over this 600 year period, it would equal what Forestry Tasmania and Gunns cut down in the first three hours of every 24 hour day. In effect, if in 600 years this Peace Fire can slow down the madness currently destroying Tasmania’s forests by just three hours, than the carbon trade off is balanced out. In other words, even at 12 tons per year, this amount doesn’t rate a blip on anyone’s radar.
Secondly, and more quick to the point, the wood has come from a plantation clear fell and was going to be burnt anyway.
On the up side, however, there is no question that this Peace Fire has worked magic. More than 3000 people from all over the world have stopped, smelled and been witness to this eternal flame. Most have been inspired by what it represents. Most have gone back to their homeland a tiny bit more joyful, hopeful and uplifted in spirit. Most saw this tiny fire as an important component to the global peace movement. Most admired the commitment to start something that won’t be completed for several generations. Most found a new courage to keep walking the path of peace.
I say “most” because some of my closest friends still think this eternal flame is a daft idea. They’re celebrating with me today, though, not because of the fire, but in spite of it. To them, they have honoured and maintained a friendship with me for four years despite my “silly, sometimes incredulous ways”.
The world spins. Let’s all dance.
Meanwhile, a little flame in a remote part of Tasmania does its bit to foster peace throughout the land.