Sunday, January 1, 2017

Matches

There are match boxes all over this house. Pick one up and shake it. You might hear the percussion of hundreds of tiny staves or you might hear the odd rattle of just one. That weird fact about my life still happily surprises me when I come across a one-match box.

There are dozens around this farm. Some of the boxes are fifteen years old, and have traveled with me cross-country in several homes. They are not trash, and no, you may not use them to light a cigarette or start a fire. They are luck pieces, borderline sacred, and I depend on them so very much. 

It always felt wrong to use the last match. Over time I developed a pacing superstition that turned into ritual. When I get down to the last match I set the box aside and only use it in dire circumstance.  My original line of thinking was that last match managed to not be sacrificed. That makes it lucky. Who knows what makes your fingers select one safety match over another? Be it random chance or subconscious mathematics - it made it so it gets a pass. I keep those one-match boxes as little prayers, pocket reliquaries situated around the house as haphazardly as my reckless optimism. They are symbols of hope and therefore they are magic.

There may come a day when I need a last match. It happens. When I am stressed to the point of tears I find one. I grab a candle and find a quiet place to sit down and meditate. Instead of lighting the candle and focusing on the flame I hold the candle in my sweaty hand and close my eyes. I count breaths, trying to think of the air slowly coming in and out of my body. Sometimes that isn't enough and I have to imagine I am surrounded by glass. Like as if I am in a perfect human terrarium. In my mind I am under this dome outside on a green hillside. It is a summer night and I am sitting on soft grass. I can see the stars and even feel the warm wind inside. If it rains I am dry. If monsters try to get in they can only claw and try - I can't even hear their growls behind the barriers. It is a safe place and no one can hurt me while I am in it. I imagine this until my heart rate slows and the work of the next hour seems manageable. (I don't even try to make the day seem manageable, just the next steps.) By this point the candle is usually warm and warped from the hand that held onto it like a flare gun on a sinking ship. I take the imperfect thing and set it down to be lit. I use one of the hope matches, the signal lights. If the candle takes the flame I let out a sigh of relief. I'll be okay. I made it this far. I just need to see the road a little farther up ahead...

I had to light one of these recently. It happened the way it always does. I don't plan for these rituals (I don't plan for anything)  I happen upon one of the single-match boxes and am reminded of my ritual. They always seem to know when they are needed and fall off a bookshelf or are discovered behind dishcloths in a drawer. There isn't any actual hocus pocus involved. The "magic" is understanding that being still, positive, and hopeful when things seem darkest is my real power. It's my responsibility to keep the light on.

When I strike the last match in a box I smile. I am reminded that this is part of who I am. This silly, self-important, prayer. My road to this farm was never lit with torch beams but millions of tiny sparks. As long as I know a few of those flames are hoarded around the house I'm emotionally insured. They are tangible reminders I will be okay. They get me to a place of grounded action.

They are a choice set on fire.

21 Comments:

Blogger DarcC said...

This is beautiful, and thoughtful, and definitely magical.

January 2, 2017 at 7:12 AM  
Blogger Leah said...

Beautiful and inspiring. I'll be thinking of your ritual when I reach that bottom rung. I love reading your posts they are all very inspiring. Thanks, Jenna.

January 2, 2017 at 9:07 AM  
Blogger C. A. Smiley said...

Lovely and insightful!

January 2, 2017 at 9:13 AM  
Blogger Laurie said...

A beautiful bit of writing I had to share with a friend. Thanks for shining your light, Jenna.

January 2, 2017 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Maine homesteader said...

This reminded me of one of my favorite books..."Into the Forest" by Jean Hegland

January 2, 2017 at 11:07 AM  
Blogger Christee said...

What a fragile and hopeful piece. I love it!!
Luceo non uro!!

January 2, 2017 at 11:15 AM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thank you guys, I so appreciate the time taken to make comments. Writers need encouragement!

January 2, 2017 at 11:35 AM  
Blogger Kelley Christensen said...

Lovely, lovely writing. And thank you for the illustration of my friend's dog Jane. Jane's owner was delighted. :-)

- Kelley

January 2, 2017 at 12:45 PM  
Blogger Bobbie Brown said...

Jenna, thank you for reminding us that bad days happen and teaching us to always have a rope nearby to grab onto to pull ourselves back up.

January 2, 2017 at 2:56 PM  
Blogger wild rose said...

Dang, lady! Great entry. Truly magical. Thank you for sharing!

January 2, 2017 at 3:54 PM  
Blogger jules said...

I love this. What great writing. You are truly inspirational. Thank you, Jenna. A happy and prosperous New Year to you.

January 2, 2017 at 8:46 PM  
Blogger Cathy said...

Jenna,
Your words touched my heart this cold, rainy winter's evening. Thank you.

January 2, 2017 at 8:56 PM  
Blogger lemontreelane said...

I freaking loved reading this! (And for me it was insightful and an important lesson learned)

January 2, 2017 at 11:40 PM  
Blogger Ronny Wilson said...

What a great way to help start off 2017. I am in need of keeping hope alive & fear far from the reaches of my fragile state.

January 3, 2017 at 11:23 AM  
Blogger kz. said...

Such great writing. Real-world prayers of we dusty and determined. A light in the dark indeed, Jenna! That's what your blog is to me, and to all of us.

January 3, 2017 at 11:33 AM  
Blogger jennybeast said...

That is beautiful, thank you for sharing your rituals.

January 3, 2017 at 6:54 PM  
Blogger jennybeast said...

That is really beautiful, thank you for sharing your rituals.

January 3, 2017 at 6:55 PM  
Blogger Mazie said...

Wishing you a 2017 full of choices lit by sparks - and a few warming flames... :)

January 4, 2017 at 10:00 AM  
Blogger Sammy Q said...

Wow... I've been reading your blog for years now and ever since I got a new job (6 months ago) I haven't been reading it as religiously as I used to (literally every morning your blog would be up in a tab alongside the usual news I fill myself up on) and I have to say this is a particularly queer entry.

One part being that I'm reading this at a time where I'm feeling particularly low (and your posts tend to lift my mood/encourage me to commiserate) and the other part being that I envision something uncannily similar to what you do: the place that I travel to in my head is a glass house (think something along the lines of a greenhouse) in the center of a dense forest and there's a thunderstorm raging outside. The house sits in a small clearing and I can see everything around me - for some reason I'm sitting or laying on a bed, and even though the house seems rickety, it stands strong and holds and i feel forever safe there.

...And I do a similar thing with matches where I leave 1 in the box "just in case" (and prefer not to use it if I can help it). It's not quite a superstitious thing so much as a "what if the end of the world depended on having 1 flame to unlock the secret weapon to save us all" thing (thank you Fifth Element!). Just a weird little thing I do hehe.

Good luck with everything and I look forward to reading more on your blog as always!

January 4, 2017 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Jenna Woginrich said...

Thanks!

January 5, 2017 at 7:34 AM  
Blogger Shelley said...

Beautiful!

January 5, 2017 at 6:53 PM  

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