the fyre journals

c 2014 by Jan MacKell Collins

Maude: “It’s the loveliest gift I’ve ever received.” She throws the beautiful ring into the seawater.

Harold: “Why did you do that?”

Maude: “That way, I’ll always know where it is.”

You know who you are, the one who incessantly saves everything. Everything you ever wrote, read, got invited to, received a commemorative doodad or dance card or ribbon for. The one who said “One day I’ll make a scrapbook,” and maybe you did, and even then some years passed before you realized you had seven or seventeen scrapbooks and 12 boxes of journals. They were full of maps, brochures, notes, business cards, concert tickets, articles, clippings, greeting cards, scraps of wrapping paper, bingo cards, plane and train tickets, crushed flowers, stickers, bookmarks, directions to parties, nametags, foil from a chocolate candy, certificates of achievement, obituaries, wedding invites, event programs, postcards, letters, Sunday funnies, old wallets with equally old driver’s licenses, speeches, food stamp cards, membership cards, library cards, casino player club cards, even old credit cards.

For friggin’ YEARS you have hauled this crap around. Every so often, usually during a move, you may sit on the floor sorting through your ephemera of memories. These items have come with you through your life stages and now remain for you to remember who you were and who you have now become. They serve as some sort of papier mâché suit of armor, one that each time a piece gets damaged or worn out, you simply remove it and replace it with a different piece. Over time your armor becomes thick, and sooner or later it will wear you down if you don’t carefully peel away the parts you no longer need.

If you are hoarder such as myself, you find a time every few years to dutifully and carefully examine your suit of armor and do away with the parts that no longer serve you. A large trash can, a box for the stuff that really should go somewhere else (like to a relative or friend, into a different file, or even on EBay), and a cushy chair with ample light makes your work area. And then you begin an emotional sorting out of your life, good and bad. It’s a rollercoaster, one that can tug at your heartstrings, make you laugh out loud or make you cry. And then you wonder where the things you are discarding should really end up.

the fyre journals came to me recently during such an evening. I started out just burning my discards to save on trash hauling and to warm up the house. But as I sat there, watching my memories being licked by flames and finally turning to gray ash altogether, I became mesmerized by the beauty it all. Flickering spires of yellow, orange, blue, white, purple and black caressed each piece, folding it into itself until it was swallowed up altogether. There went my rather dull daily planner from 1998. A note someone wrote to me that no longer holds much sentimental value. Art doodles that, let’s face it, will never be of interest to a gallery or go in a coffee table book. Copies of copies of copies I kept when one or three would have sufficed. My little Vogelzang wood stove welcomed these tidbits into its mouth and gave them blazing new life even as it destroyed them forever.

The site was truly beautiful in its own way. I sat on the floor into the wee hours, sipping wine and watching my past playfully slip away into the flames. My camera was the only other witness, recording the final destination of the things I chose to let go. They told their own story as they drifted into their ashen oblivion. When it was said and done, I felt vindicated, a little tipsy, and like I was holding a much lighter load.

You can view what I did by looking on my professional Facebook page, Jan MacKell Collins and looking for the fyre journals album. Here is the link:

And if you ever find yourself needing to let some of your life go, I highly recommend creating your own fyre journal. All it takes is one little match.


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