Fire For A New Start

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The fire was raging in the portable fire pit on the patio. Hands reached out to toss envelopes holding secrets into the flame. It was a clear, cool and crisp night with stars twinkling brightly over head. An eclectic group stood around the fire in the final minutes between 2011 and 2012.

And no, it was not at a retreat center, or at a church, or in posh resort; it was in the back yard of an ordinary person who invited a very eclectic group of friends to a New Years Eve get together.

There were financial counselors, stock brokers, project managers, college students, realtors, teachers, small business consultants – and other positions I didn’t hear about. Job titles could either be left at the door, or openly shared. Four generations of us sat around talking, eating, painting, felting, knitting, tinkling on the piano or doing whatever attracted our attention.

I heard snatches of Mandarin Chinese, English, Russian and Spanish as some people easily slipped between one or another language.

This was the culture created by our host in her house just outside of Washington DC. We were all surprised when she walked around, just before midnight,  handing out envelopes with two pieces of blank paper in them. She quickly explained what they were for.

“Write down two things that you want to let go of. Two things you don’t want to take into the new year, and then we’ll gather around the fire on the patio and burn them,” she said with a smile.

Someone nervously asked, “Will we have to read them out loud?”

“Oh, no. You don’t have to say anything to anyone about what you write. Just let it go.”

I was among the surprised. This is similar to an exercise I might do at a retreat, but I wasn’t expecting it in this setting. Our host wasn’t even a consultant who did that kind of work.

I walked around and watched as people huddled over their sheets of paper thoughtfully. Creases of concentration could be seen on some faces, other faces showed sly smiles, others hints of sadness, others confusion, and a few faces looked like they were responding to a complicated internal dialogue. Everyone was taking it seriously in their own way.

Standing around the fire, at midnight, we watched as people tossed the secret burdens they no longer wished to carry into the fire. The air was cool, the fire was warm and people whose relationships ran the gamut from “we just met” to “we’ve known each other since junior high school” shared a moment of release and a moment of acknowledgment.

What a way to end one year and to start a new one!

Four generations with a broad range of jobs, skills, interests, connections, ways of thinking, and living who came together – to just be who they are and share what they want to share – in an accepting culture facilitated by the person who invited us in.

Everyone wants to be welcomed in, and allowed to be who they are, whether it is at work, at home or among friends.

Creating an atmosphere that makes people comfortable enough to be themselves is a skill worth developing. Especially, when it allows us to support, and acknowledge, that we all may have thoughts, feelings, patterns of behaving or – connections with some people – that we need to let go of. The self-awareness in an atmosphere like that alone, empowers people to make different choices.

I’m glad I was lucky enough to be a part of so many different choices being made on New Years Eve. I hope you had a memorable welcome to the new year.

Happy New Year!

May it be your best year ever.


4 comments to Fire For A New Start


    I loved every minute of it. It inspired me to let go of my burdens and start the year off fresh… no worries, no doubts, no regrets… just being the strong, black, confident woman my mom always said I was..

    Love ya

  • Damita Bell

    Cousin: I just read your blog very inspirational; it reminded me of the sermon my pastor taught on New Years Day. God just hit the reset button and we get a new start. Love you cousin

  • Cassanda Scott

    Cousin, this was very inspiring and moving… Loved it! Can’t wait to read more… Much Love and hugs

  • Dee Murphy

    Cuz, this was another awe-inspiring work of art – Loved it! Thanks for sharing your talents with the world –you are destined to make it a better place for us to count our blessings in — day in and day out!

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