Artwork by L.H. Grey
Listen to Suggested Audio
Johnny Cash “Ring of Fire”
Tragedy befalls us, one and all. For all our most valiant efforts to safeguard ourselves and those we cherish dearly from the atrocities inflicted by a god who vowed to uphold us with the right hand of his righteousness; it can often feel as though we are already damned. While the ignoble get away with murder most bloody, the meek are reminded in terms of no uncertainty that the earth was never ours to inherit. We wear sorrow like corselettes, bear unfathomable pains, and watch on hopelessly as those we cherish perish in the flames. Indeed, the first degree burns we amass over a lifetime of billowing blazes and bad-tempered backdrafts can be sufficient to render any screams as mute as the smoke which consumes us. Then, as our ashen remains are exhumed on the orders of the almighty, we crumble into chalk dust and are carried away by the thrusting winds of the very he who pledges refuge.
“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.”
Howbeit, there are things we can find in the fire, should we survey the embers close enough. And while the above passage from holy scripture may propose to have us covered, greykeeper are living disproof of that claim. Perhaps that would go some way to explaining why we have suffered so greatly during the long hot summers we’ve endured. Maybe we only suffered because we can tolerate that which many others cannot. A test, most wicked game designed to strip our best selves away and replace with empty pockets of desolation which smother any inner flame. Certain souls are ill-equipped to carry such voids of disquietude and taking their own lives appears the only way left to guarantee ownership of something. Others, like ourselves, bear the burning crosses placed on our backs without prior consent. And, in some cases, even go as far as relishing the pain.
There are many ways to self-harm that do not entail a cut-throat razor or naked flame. Our punishments go entirely unnoticed to the untrained eye and any agony felt is felt in solitude. Deeper into our own rabbit hOles we burrow, until such time as breathable air has all but dissipated. The walls they close in, tangled branches dig into our ribcages as they press forth in their venture to puncture vital organs. We bleed internally, yet not a single drop we ever spill. Those of lesser will scarce recover from their wounds. Indeed, it takes a special skill to tend to them with the tools at our disposal. Furthermore, said instruments are not necessarily laid out before us in an elaborate spread. Some we must find for ourselves. Claim for ourselves. Master how to wield for ourselves. That being said, all this hard graft need not be undertaken alone.
“Observe our slow burn
Watch us learn
Watch us grow
See us spread
Look us dead in the eye
As we glow”
True faith is blind. Sightless it may be but therein lies great irony. You see, greykeeper have never before seen so clearly as when leaping into that which remains unknown. This is not an art one perfects over time, at least, not one with any pre-ordained allegiance to the unlikely attainment of perfection. The theory of leaps of faith itself encourages imperfection, then requests we secure our own safe landings. Nothing to conform to, no bar being raised to repeatedly dumbfound us, no rusted nails driven into our bare feet to ground us. Just freedom to manoeuvre bereft of a panel of judges scoring us on our composure and graceful descent. There are key moments in our transience when springboards are provided to a higher state of consciousness than any we have ever known. Take this from greykeeper as a gospel of sorts as our twin flames merged seamlessly within one such instance.
Both of us had been broken down to the sub-atomic particles. Neither one of us had been idle as we searched high and low for answers not forthcoming. But, while both had solved infinite puzzles en route to the distinct crossroads we met upon, certain riddles remained indecipherable. That is until we clashed like a pair of inflamed stags, locked eight-pointed antlers, and stared deep into one another’s unbroken gaze. A river of truth flowed betwixt the Cimmerian Shade in our eyes. And with that, every last dash of courage in every last splash of conviction was translated from fiction to fact. Then back to fiction once more. In the time it took our nostrils to flare, we were revealed a sight which neither one of us could ever hope to fathom at the time. We were immortally wounded and our mortal shells littered with the scars we had accumulated through hardships unrepeatable. But, while our legs were fawn like, our minds and souls had matured in that very moment.
It has taken a considerable length of time to arrive at the point we stand before you now. No longer so resigned to the hateful fates that had awaited us previously. And with a courage which only proliferates when placed under fire. Suddenly, there is no adversity which cannot be tackled using the power of two. Suddenly, every leap we take results in being caught and set gently down by loving hands. And, though deep-seated psychological trauma may always linger, the rings of fire we vault through no longer scald so. Furthermore, a reflective love affords insight into ourselves which would not be feasible through hand mirror alone. It is all too easy to fixate on the things we lost in the fire, where the most sincere of loves serves as a constant reminder of what we have actually found.
It’s only natural that we count our losses before gains. Alas, that is the human in all of us and not aided by a society that focuses on grim realization and warns against improvisation. But, should we hush the voices which shout loudest and hone in on the kind of caring whispers only the deepest soul can produce, then cataclysm truly can be averted. We all have our ailments – whether anxiety, depression, chronic illness, deeply embedded trauma, or otherwise – there is no escaping such human frailties. However, should we learn how to kindle the flame, then we will see that it burns fearlessly and honestly, cowers not, and generates warmth the likes of which can keep us comfy on the bleakest midwinter nights. Thus, our advice to you would be to strike a match, study its mannerisms, watch it breathe, and do the precise same. For we are alive. And we too can burn with the same desire. Once we take stock of the things we found in the fire.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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