“the purple and pink flower that grows like a tall spear in a tribe of flower warriors. After a forest fire, mining reclamation, road grading or any kind of soil disturbance, fireweed grows back first from seeds born of despair. It’s a phoenix flower, a soil nourisher, a defier of the odds when life is bleakest.”
She then went on to challenge writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed. You can use it as the plant, a flower, a metaphor or as the name of someone or something. Go where the prompt leads. Burn bright when you write.
I don’t know of Charli’s fireweed, but I do know that Australia is home to a great variety of plants that are dependent on fire for regeneration. While large tracts of land destroyed by bushfires is devastating, a return to traditional land management practices of the indigenous peoples may see an improved system.
There is an oft-repeated quote by German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.
“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”
While that may be true of Charli’s fireweed and much of Australia’s flora, I’m never convinced of the applicability of the saying to every situation, or of its power to lift one up when feeling personally devastated. What does not kill may require a good dose of determination and strength for it not to annihilate the spirit.
While thoughts of how to approach Charli’s challenge were swirling around in my head, notification of a new post by The Wordy Wizard popped into my inbox. At the top of the post was this quote by J.K. Rowling from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:
“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”
The addition of these words of J.K. Rowling to those of Friedrich Nietzsche, for me, complete the thought. Without acceptance there is denial and an inability to move on, with acceptance we can begin to repair and renew.
Intermittently, over the past four years while I have been responding to Charli’s flash challenges, I have written about Marnie, an abused child who was able, with determination and support of caring others, to overcome the impact of her dysfunctional upbringing and make a better life for herself.
Just as we look for green shoots of hope in the blackness of a bushfire’s destruction, we must look for signs of hope and renewal in those who have suffered.
While at times the negatives of children “burnt” by dysfunctional home lives, poverty, poor nutrition, lack of mental stimulation, and other factors that appear to obliterate potential can seem overwhelming and insurmountable, it is important to see within every child that seed of unlimited possibility and hope that needs to be nurtured.
Marnie’s teacher Miss R. saw it in her. In one story, “Miss R. handed her a rose from the vase saying, “You are that rose. You may be surrounded by thorns, but the beauty of the rose is inside you. Remember that always. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”
Perhaps it would be just as apt to describe her as fireweed, “a defier of the odds when life is bleakest”. This is where Charli’s challenge took me this time:
Burning with hope
Miss R. avoided the staffroom’s negativity, popping in, like today, only if necessary. When she glanced over instinctively on hearing her name, regret flooded immediately.
“Annette, we were just talking about you and that weed–from that noxious family–you know, Marnie-“
She bristled, failing to withhold the words that exploded, singeing all with their ferocity.
“Just look at yourselves. If Marnie’s a weed, she’s fireweed. Better than you will ever be. She’ll beat her odds and succeed, despite your belittling words and unhelpful opinions.”
She left the silenced room, believing in her heart that her words were true.
Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.