Beach Burn: Purging the Past

As I posted previously (December 19, 2011: Winter Solstice), I’d long planned to destroy my old journals. B. helped me carry a heavy bagload to San Francisco’s Ocean Beach on a warm, drizzly winter night. We located a fire pit, and filled it. White-capped waves and the lights of ships out at sea caught my eye, roar of surf and the mournful high wail of a nearby foghorn in my ear. A couple flicks of the lighter, and the pile was alight. An adjacent group cheered when our flames leaped skyward, and I rejoiced in seeing a past that was painful – and self-pitying, petty, and complaining – melt away. The idea of moving heavy baggage (in more ways than one) yet again – after years of carting it from place to place – was unacceptable. Not to mention, the thought of anyone seeing writings not meant for other eyes was more than I could bear.

The fire sculpted flowers, scrolls, and other fantastical shapes out of the curling pages, all flaming out in their own way just as different wooden logs burn up individually, breaking down to their most basic structures. Out of destruction comes creation: new year, new creativity, new life. As the temperature dropped we danced like pagans around the flames to keep warm, making sure that every last page was engulfed in the flames. Prometheus (the Greek Titan who stole fire) would have been proud. Soon a ranger came and told us to put the fire out, it was past eleven o’clock and time for all good little pyros to go home to bed. We walked back to B.’s truck, the water far out from shore now at low tide. The crescent moon, rendered a glorious orange by our atmosphere, disappeared behind the mist, quickly sank and dipped below the horizon around midnight. Orion, Taurus, the Pleiades and Cassiopeia winked at us, as did the lighthouse at Pt. Bonita, jutting out on the Marin Headlands across the inhospitable Strait of the Golden Gate. It was just so beautiful. For a fanciful moment, I imagined the twinkling lights of a small boat near shore was someone lost to me long ago. Then, my heart felt strengthened – as if re-forged in the fire – and lightened of a heavy, heavy past. Imagine, such rough magic here, at the very edge of the world!

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About thislittleplot

Writer, hiker, loafer
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19 Responses to Beach Burn: Purging the Past

  1. Emma says:

    Beautiful and courageous!

  2. Michele Stone says:

    Congratulations Dudella! I can hear the joy through your words. I recall that you helped me in a similar way a few years back, I know how light you must feel now — Blessed Be my dear friend.

  3. This is very inspirational. I go back and forth about what to do with my old journals, which mostly remind me of how self-absorbed I was. I’ve held onto them for so long because they feel like they are part of my history, and even though they are embarrassingly morose they also reveal a hesitant evolution. Yet I worry that if something were to happen to me, whoever went through them would come out with the wrong impression – it could tarnish who I was to them.

    So I agree with everyone, what you did was courageous and gives me the notion to do the same.

  4. A beach fire…camping…house … lovely words, hope the future is bright

  5. Camie says:

    Thanks for sharing that, and so beautifully rendered. Your writing made me misty. Congratulations on letting go of your “story.” Now you’re freed up to create a whole new one. Can’t wait to hear about it. Big hug and kiss from the frosty east coast! ~Cam

  6. Hi again, is it ok to add your blog to my blogroll, there are some super posts…i like to be able to read from my blog…and would it be ok to reblog sometimes, with credits…i dont know how many readers my own blog will create. I should email this info.

  7. Utherben says:

    What a fantastic and brave thing to do – it’s never easy to let go, and there are often those moments where one fears in too hastily getting rid of something that might come in handy later. But in the end it’s best to free oneself of excess baggage and move forward.

    (It’s a good thing you have a big old COPYRIGHT NOTICE on your blog – hope people notice it, and respect it! Just sayin’…)

  8. Fucking awesome. I feel purged just reading. Happy New Year!

  9. tara linda says:

    omGosh: so beautifully written.
    I don’t have this nerve, but you’ve encouraged me to at least go back & look to see. I have too much poetry I think I’d want to cull. But yea- most likely junk & tinder for a good burn on the beach.
    Thank you. ;)

  10. Carol Feiner says:

    Catching up on my reading…wow, this is powerful and beautifully written! I understand the impulse to purge the past; still, our words are never “wrong” no matter how painful, whiny, or petty. A part of all the ingredients that go into our make-up. Let them go but acknowledge their existence and the role they have played.

    • What a wonderful, wise comment! Am trying to keep that in mind. Actually, I already regret a couple of major events that got inadvertently burned up in there, but their memory is so vivid, I can always recapture them.

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