Day 22: Finding My Light
Here in the Northern latitudes, the sun sets earlier and earlier as the month of December wanes and winter sets in, sucking my happiness with it. And then on December 22nd, the light returns and the days get longer and I get happier.
My life was proceeding down a similar path as the winter sun in the year 2000. My life as a mechanical engineer was not bringing me the joy it once had and I yearned for a change. I dropped from full time to part time, while I took classes in fire fighting, with a goal at that time to combine my love for fire, safety and engineering into some grand new career path as a fire safety engineer. I had attained my license as an Emergency Medical Technician and Firefighter 1, when I was approached by a young woman and her long haired, hippy looking psychiatrist father to take on the responsibility of fire and safety for a music and arts festival in the desert at a place called 3 Sided Whole. There would be DJs, live bands, shamanic rituals, fire performers, burning effigies, art classes, peace, love and kumbayas. I would have a full MASH tent (Mobile Army Surgical Hospital), volunteers and full say on what could burn and when it could burn. I was very intrigued and said I would do it, even though I was not at all clear on exactly what the event was about. A few planning meetings later, I set out for the desert to help set up the MASH tent and figure out how I could make the event safe for an untold number of people.
Many miles outside of the city, in the deep desert was a wide open area of dirt, cacti, desert grasses, sagebrush and tumbleweeds running through arroyos and mesas. Pretty much a landscape of many shades of brown, red and greys, with punches of bright pinks, purples and yellows on the cacti and wildflowers. The small ranch where the event would be held had a partially excavated hill that formed 3 sides around an open hole. The event name 3 Sided Whole was adopted from this weird feature and the desire to make all of our lives Whole at this festival. I tramped around and located spaces for a helicopter landing (in case of an emergency evacuation), flat area for the MASH tent and locations for fire extinguishers. It was exciting to put all of my fire and safety experience in a real world situation. Well, I may have looked and sounded like I knew what I was doing, but that was just from confidence gained in the many years I worked in engineering project management. Truth was, I was in way over my head.
The festival opened on a Thursday and would last through Sunday. Maybe thirty people showed up the first day. All very friendly, peaceful folks of all ages, colors and backgrounds. They set up camps all over the place and erected a large geodesic dome, while I set up the MASH tent. As dark fell everyone walked to the top of the nearest mesa and I followed. We watched the sun set in a wonderland of oranges, pinks and purples. As the last ray fell on us, we joined hands and sang a blessing. An incredible feeling of peace filled me at that moment and I got a bit teary eyed with unexplained emotions. I turned back to the main festival area to see many more people arriving. The noise level rose considerably. Stages and lights appeared like magic. Soon there were fire pits all over the place. I walked around just trying to get a feel for what was happening. I ran into magicians, chefs preparing outstanding meals, a guitarist singing love songs, groups singing or talking around campfires, DJs playing sets on several stages, and dancing all over the desert. I walked all over the festival with my body filled with peace, my ears ringing from the music, my heart was full of joy to see so many people helping one another to create safe spaces to express themselves and my brain on fire from worry about all of the accidents and injuries that could occur. Early the next morning I went to my little tent and was not able to sleep from the stimulation and worry.
The festival got more crowded throughout the day and well into the night. I had some more help by this time, so I was able to attend some seminars exploring life options and attend some creative art classes. I came to realize that there were many other paths I could take in life where I could use my engineering skills while expanding my artistic side.
Fire dancers came out in the evening dressed in Central American Indian regalia. Their dances celebrated the earth and life. I was entranced, while also being their safety. They culminated their dancing with the lighting of an effigy, a 3 meter tall man. At this time, most everyone was crowded around the effigy. As the flames roared, a cheer went up and a raw, visceral energy thrummed through the crowd and filled me with feelings of hope, excitement, love and wonder and I vowed to become a mistress of fire.
The spark was lit and I found my light. I became the Fire Mistress, learning more about fire as time went on, expanding into large open fire, propane flame effects, in the making of fireworks and light up (electronic) clothing. I discovered that as my proficiency increased in fire art creation, depression brought on by the dark decreased. Now, I love the dark, as I can make fire to keep it at bay. Yet, I still love the light of day, so I celebrate the return of longer days, on this day, as the sun returns to visit longer each day.
Wow, talk about fight fire with fire!
What a lovely insight into your life Rebecca. I thought I was a pretty good judge of character but I would never have picked you for a career like that.....and one you are no doubt so successful with!
Now Bec I think you need to graduate girl! It is too late for this year but I think you need to plan and put forward a proposal for the pirotechnics on Sydney Harbour New Years Eve 2020. I would love to think you could make that bridge light up like never before!!! I promise you I would be there on the harbour to cheer you on!
Great post Rebecca, I am sure you are that mistress of fire, I just hope we don't get into any firey exchanges along the way.
Have a great Christmas Bec, and I look forward to more of your great posts and responses next year!
@Robin I just knew that you would be the first to comment on my post! Sadly, I am still a baby pyrotechnician, so I will not be able to set up the Sydney Harbor NYE show. I might just have to come out there to see it in 2020.
Have a fabulous Christmas and Happiest of Holidays!!
of course my comments were tongue in cheek, but you would be staggered by the scale of the Sydney NYE pyrotechnic display Rebecca. This NYE in a twelve mintute display, fireworks will be set off at the rate of one ton every minute and a half....8 tons of fireworks in total!!! And that is metric tones which are 10% more than the US equivelant.
I have been fortunate enough to have seen it three times in my life....sadly this year will not be a fourth but, to be there on the harbour is truly awe inspiring.
Everyone on earth loves fireworks so, you must be proud of what you bring to peoples lives Bec!
@Rebecca Thank you for the lovely story, cool photos and insight into your life path as it unfolds.
If more people weren't afraid to move from the complacent known to the what-if unknown, even if it means they have to fake their confidence level, or wing it for awhile, this world would be a happier place.
I love the west coast of Canada, where I lived for many, many years, I even like the coziness of holing up inside in the rain. But the endless days of no sun is hard to take. Now I have sun almost all year round, but there's a bit of a trade-off. The closer you get to the equator, the more the length of day and night become the same. I miss the Canadian summer nights when it stays light until 11 PM, and enjoy that when I take my annual 1 month trip back to my former stomping grounds.
I really love your story! :) Thanks for sharing your great, interesting and exciting story! Fire is something fantastic! Meaning... being it under control, of course :) When I was a boy and teenager I used to love playing with fire and electricity. Once I almost set fire in the house by accident. I remember my father telling me off once. Sometimes he would explain me on how to do the right thing.
I have a degree in engineering as well, but I am a practically retired civil engineer. I have worked with lots other thing as well , some of them connect with art.
It is nice to know you are doing something that you really like! It gives emotion and a true meaning to our lifes.
Merry Christimas, Happy New Year and/or Happy Holidays!
Maybe be I did not expressed myself well :) I would say I have been involved with the creativity area and things that have to do with utilitarian art :)
I have studied also 2 years and half in a architectural college and have also worked in the area of architectural projects. So, architecture is a mixture of art + technolgy + engineering.
I have also designed some websites, so it has to do with design, creativity and usability.
I have worked also with 2d and 3d computer graphics applied to engeneering and architecture, not only to design but also to produce renderings.
I wish you a great and happy new year... starting it with a great fireworks! :)
Living up north myself I know about the melankolia and worse that can occur when the days turn shorter. Funny thing though is that up north of Norway, where the sun doesn't come above the horizon for more than three months during winter, they are less at risk for getting the depression often seen with shorter days. This is not the story for us living more south. Maybe because the northern parts don't live in cities with all the lights and fuss. Maybe they live more aligned with nature on a daily basis. We still don't know the answers.
Lovely post @Rebecca! It's is nice to see that change can be a very welcome part of a persons life and that coincidences can lead into new possibilities :-)
Yes the researchers were quite surprised as it is a common understanding, and evidencebased, that lack of daylight can cause depression. But so does isolation, bad food etc... So getting these new results may give more insight to the research of how to treat depressions successfully and effective :-)