I'm running through wooded trails on creaky knees. Cocooned in quiet, under umbrella of shade, in that middle space between light and dark. Each step radiates warning through my legs, axles grinding. But I can't stop.
Because the sun has lit her match and I'm racing the ring of fire.
In the heart of the woods, I see. The flames dancing on tree trunks, across forest floor, through fingers of peeking branches. They point toward the fire and I turn to follow their gaze. To the edge of forest, where all is set ablaze, burning yet not consumed. Here in these woods, I, too, burn. From head to toe and underneath my skin, as if to say, I'm alive I'm alive I'm alive.
Reluctant, I exit the fire.
The air outside the forest is a wool blanket on a summer night and a sheet of breeze flapping on the line; it is both. I gulp air, limp toward water, shed shoes as fast as the sun has smudged pink ash across lake shoulders. The water welcomes, soothes radiating skin, a cool hand brushing across my cheek. I plunge in head first and still I'm racing toward the edge of smoldering fire. Eyes squinting through curtain of water, enough light to see ahead, one breath to three strokes.
In the middle, I flip over to my back and I'm staring now at pale blue mystery, baptized in bigness.
My husband waits for me at the shore, holds my towel up and wraps around my shoulders. Dripping wet, I'm still burning, and I don't want to leave this place where flames dance on my skin, too, till all that remains is soul.
We drive the lake perimeter home, all traces of fire dissipated, until I look back at forest growing distant. A naked moon glows, bold and sheer, in bare chested sky above the woods, strikes a new match and sets me ablaze.
Burn, she says, and carry on.