Out of the fire comes hope

fireweed Charli Mills Carrot Ranch flash fiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills wrote about fireweed. She describes it thus:

“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.

Bono quote about why he's a megalomaniac

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 blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Note: The feature image after the bushfire by freeaussiestock.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

 

 

39 thoughts on “Out of the fire comes hope

  1. Pingback: Fireweed « Carrot Ranch Literary Community

  2. Charli Mills

    How disheartening to overhear other teachers talking like that. Mrs. R is a fireweed and her hope can ignite a spark in her student. This is why I think Marnie’s story is so powerful — a teacher gave a discarded student hope that she used to become a teacher, too.

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    1. Norah Post author

      It is always disheartening to hear teachers disparage children. I believe it stems from feelings of inability – inability to see the positives, inability to find hope, and inability to provide the children with strategies to overcome the limits of their environment.
      It is always heartening to hear stories of hurdles being leaped.

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  3. Jennie

    Your passion and Marine’s courage are both as strong as the fireweed. What a moving story! Like Kate said, every Marnie needs a cheerleader, and that is you. And, you are fireweed, Norah. This is a fantastic story.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. dgkaye

    I loved, loved this Norah! I loved your telling of the burning fires and the resurrection of flowers and the beautiful story of Marnie, and of course the quote from Bono! I too am fireweed! So empowering!!! 🙂 x

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your enthusiasm, Debby – so much appreciated. I am fireweed, too. Not all fare as well, sadly. I was surprised by Bono’s quote. I don’t take a lot of notice of celebrities’ lives and wasn’t aware he’d suffered so. It’s not surprising though. Many creatives have. Is that what gives the power to write, and the ability to write with compassion and empathy?

      Liked by 1 person

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  5. Kate

    I’m joining in the discussion that has hit a chord with many of the responders to your post. To overcome adversity, we need hope and a strong will, but we also need at least one cheerleader who believes in us, who encourages us and supports us through out trials. I think your flash also addressed the human nature’s propensity for judgement and criticism before seeking or taking the time and effort to understand another and find the positive in them. Annette is clearly Marnie’s cheerleader and someone who took the time to understand the young fireweed and recognize the beauty and talents she has to offer the world.

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you so much for joining in the discussion and adding so much wisdom to the post, Kate.
      That’s right, a cheerleader is crucial. Sometimes it’s difficult to do on one’s own. But the cheering needs to come from empathy rather than trite aphorisms.
      I’m pleased the message of the flash came through. Too often “we” jump to stereotypes rather than getting to know the individual. Making snap judgements is the easier way in the short term but more harmful in the long. Miss R. is definitely Marnie’s champion and cheerleader. Thank you for reading, noticing, and commenting. 🙂

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for your wonderful comment. I found it difficult to write. I felt I wanted many more words to describe the tension of the situation. I’m pleased it worked with so few.

      Liked by 1 person

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  6. Annecdotist

    What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? I’m filled with fury every time I come across that ridiculous aphorism which is an insult to anyone who’s been bent, broken or wounded by life and the perfect excuse for neglect. And to think it comes from Nietzsche – I always assumed it was Hallmark!
    Anyway, rant over. Nice to see Marnie again, or rather her teacher. So stressful not to be able to find support for a difficult job amongst colleagues in the staff room. I hope that wasn’t too much your experience, Norah.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you for ranting, Anne. I rant every time I hear it too, but I thought it was only me – I hear it so often. I know people who have been damned near broken, and that saying would have not been any help at all – a truism for survivors perhaps.
      There are many wonderful teachers. Sadly there are many who can’t see beyond what’s lacking. I did have experiences similar to what I described but I never had the “guts” to say it as it was. I was more gentle, and therefore less effective, in my questioning. I would have loved to tell them. Maybe this story was my chance. 🙂

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  7. TanGental

    Ah that we had that courage and not just inside our heads. And I agree. It’s glib to say disaster makes you stronger and allows for no subtlety. Black and white determinants ignore the perpetual grey of the human condition.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. Norah Post author

      There are many times I wish I’d had that courage. 🙂 Thank you for your comment that helps explain a little further the need to allow for shades of grey in our responses. We (some) may need some time in the black to gather resources for renewal.

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  8. D. Avery @shiftnshake

    Go Norah! Your passion burns strong throughout this post. Do you see what the trees are up to in the picture you share? Adventitious shoots are sprouting all along them, proclaiming that they yet live and their struggle continues and that bush fire is not the end of them.
    Well done, enjoyed seeing these characters of yours.

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. Norah Post author

      Thank you, D. I appreciate your comment and that you continue the burning analogy. 🙂 I thought the trees’ renewal and regrowth in the photo was quite wonderful and inspiring. I’m pleased you found it so too.
      Thank you for your support and encouragement.

      Liked by 1 person

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