“Burn Back the Shadows” by gathering at a fire pit
When I was younger, envisioning my future home, I always saw gatherings and levity. There would be drippy wax candles and steaming potluck food weighing my grandmother’s passed-down table until it buckled.
I grew up. My husband went to medical school. I battled depression. Quarantine came.
My house felt like a shaky skeleton of a thing. It housed us, but I had not taught it to warm us, laugh with us, to be part of our life.
People did not gather. I felt lonely.
We lived like that for a couple of years, made worse by the long nine months of the pandemic. I missed people almost unbearably. Time went on and I mourned looking someone (outside my immediate family) in the eye and feeling connection.
I watched The Haunting of Bly Manor.
The bonfire scene stuck with me, nestling into my mind more than any of the ghost story did. The characters snuggled down, sharing moments. It wasn’t virtual–it was real life– a living, breathing experience that wasn’t on the edge of dissociative. I could do that, here. At my skeleton house. I could breathe new, full life into the cracked walls of its old lungs. I could.
I bought a fire pit.
This fire pit would be where my family would gather.
The experience of gathering with my people again was transformative. It is easy, over time, to waste away from who you are… to shed it as a skin, not unlike a snake. You lose the proper, refined, outer parts of yourself, until you are a raw, pink thing, unable to protect yourself so well anymore. But this skin you have now, it will also glow-up. You will remember who you are, gently–or harshly, maybe– over time. Helped along by the people who know and love you. The people you gather.