This is an exercise from Misty Mawn's pre-workshop in being mindful of whatever you're doing, really paying attention to and being present with one thing at a time. Living in the present moment and absorbing the essence of whatever you're doing at the time or whoever you're with.
I spent a few minutes with a burning candle, lit for my dad, absorbing the experience into my soul, and wrote about it. I feel more alive because of it. Here's what I wrote.
By: Sharon P. Pope
Sitting here at my work table, actually my dining room table, with my creative supplies and my cup of coffee gathered around me, I decide to light one of the three new votive candles sitting on the shelves for Daddy, who was taken from us seven years ago right before Thanksgiving.
I take the little candle and set it directly on the table, feeling the cool waxy smoothness as my fingers curl around it, then release it to stand on its own. I love the rosy coral color and the faint smell, although I’ve forgotten the name of the scent.
I pick up an old matchbook lying nearby, flip the cover open with my thumbnail, tear out a red-headed match, and tuck the cover back into place, noticing the scratchiness as I do so. After multiple attempts to light the match on the strip provided, I give up and toss the now smudged red-headed match into the trash can. It lands with a barely discernible click atop a crumpled up sheet of paper.
The matchbook cover is flicked open again, with a clicking of my thumbnail. A second red-headed match is torn out, and the cover replaced. This time I succeed with only a couple of strikes, and the match bursts into an angry flame, then quickly settles back down to calmness, the smoke curling toward my nose in a tendril of bluish smoke, bringing the slight smell of sulphur with it.
The flame wavers as the match rides between my fingers to touch noses with the whiteness of the candle wick. For a second they blaze up as one, before I remove the match and gently blow out the fire, watching another wisp of smoke dissipate as the flame is snuffed out.
I toss the bent, now black-headed, burned out match into the trash can to join the one whose flame never got to burn. Another flick and the cover is back in place. As I lay the matchbook down, I notice the dark blue background with the diamond shaped logo on both sides, done in shades of yellows and blues. The word, diamond, in white lower case lettering is ensconced across the logo. I suppose the match tips are supposed to be as hard as diamonds?
My attention returns to the candle, whose flame has now settled down into a mesmerizing point of light, slowly undulating this way and that. The tiny flame is so beautiful, yet so dangerous. Its capabilities are frightening.
The sounds of cars passing on the highway, my husband’s gentle snoring, as he sleeps on the couch, the ticking of the grandfather clock that daddy made for us, the rattle of the fan, the fridge’s humming, and the ringing in my ears, which is akin to a heard of crickets, all fade into the background as I focus on the candle.
Melted wax is now dribbling down the wick, melting out a well in the candle top, which was once slightly rounded. The wick is turning black as the fire feeds from it, causing the wax to melt and fill the well, which is getting deeper by the second. The hot wax releases a lovely tropical scent into the air. It delights my sense of smell.
My breathing is calm.
Yellow-oranges and purply-blues meet and form soft shades of gray where the flame and wick join. It continues to hypnotize. The rosy coral candle is no longer one color. It is now several shades around the top where the heat has gently transformed it. The sides are now translucent, allowing a soft warm glow to emanate from within.
It is gorgeous, and somehow comforting, as I feel the sadness of no longer having my dad around wash over me. My life has not, nor will it ever be, the same without him. I always knew that it would be hard to give him up when the time came, but I couldn’t even begin to imagine the pain of loss and vulnerability that comes with losing a parent. Slowly, I’ve learned to live without him physically being here, but I always feel his presence in my heart, and I am grateful for that.
I turn the page in the journal where I am hand writing these words. It slips from my fingers, twice, landing on the candle, angering the flame, causing it to squat and reach out to grab the edge of the paper. My journal narrowly misses becoming a blaze itself.
Next time I will set the candle down in a proper container.
My page is secured and safe and my thoughts return to Daddy. Now I’m remembering all the happy times with him, the wonderful toys he made me when I was little, how he understood me, maybe more than anyone else, and that I always knew that he loved me and was proud of me, even if he couldn’t say it. I am grateful that he cared enough to teach me morals, values, and respect for myself and others. I am grateful that God gave me the parents I have, and grateful to still have Mama.
I watch as the well of melted wax overflows and spills over the side, creating a deep groove as it glides down and forms a puddle on the table. As the wax hits the chilliness of the table top, it hardens, connecting the candle to the table.
There is now a second well forming inside the first well inside the candle walls. The wick has burned down into the candle until it isn’t getting much oxygen. It is now very small and docile, but still struggling to survive, and still dangerous.
I lean over and with one puff blow out the tiny flame still grasping for life. The candle no longer has the warm glow with the dancing light. It is now dark and still. Its spirit, in the form of a blue-gray trail of smoke, dissipates and scatters, as it rises toward the ceiling, or heaven.
I feel the chill on my bare arms on this cool morning, as I think about how our lives are similar to the candle flames. Our flame burns brightly, as we struggle through life with all its twists and turns, learning and growing, leaping, dancing, stumbling. It dims some as we get older, then it is snuffed out, many times without warning, leaving those who loved us bewildered, trying to make sense of it all.
Some people would say that the candle is no longer beautiful, or even pretty. It’s true that it has been transformed by the fire, and is no longer shaped perfectly with a snow white wick protruding from the smooth slightly domed top.
The tiny wick is now charred black and almost covered with re-set wax down in the double wells. It not only no longer stands on top looking down, but it cannot see over the edge, now ragged, translucent, and faded. There is a deep groove down one side and a solid puddle of wax around the bottom. It has dents and dings.
Now it is flawed, full of character, and has an even deeper beauty.
It has lived. It has held onto fire and has been re-shaped and molded. It has brought me a sense of peace, tranquility, and beauty for the few brief moments it burned.
It has survived. Changed. But still beautiful in its imperfection.