This morning, on our last day in Tel Aviv, I was walking down Ibn Gavirol to meet a friend for coffee, and I passed a class of what looked like ten- or eleven-year-olds on some sort of field trip. Running a bit late, I quickly passed them, until I heard a few of the girls belting out Alicia Keys’ Girl on Fire. And I slowed down to listen.
Instead of this girl is on fire, they were singing, she’s walking on fire.
As a poet, life observer, word collector I sometimes feel as if I go through the day gathering moments to piece together in a poetic collage. Birds chirping, a song blasting from a car, a scooter that nearly runs me over are all moments that become part of my material. Nothing is out of place.
Walking on fire, walking on coals, walking through fire—these are spiritual tests, quests, moments of struggle or darkness we go through, only to come out through the other side transformed. I think—hero’s journey, slaying the dragon, Dante’s nine levels of hell.
Yet, the girl on fire say, you go girl, you got this and nothing is going to stop you.
And together, they express that life is beautiful and difficult and joyful and sorrowful and you are strong and you are not alone. One thing that makes this moment particularly challenging is that we live in the age of lives curated by social media. We are flooded with images of what our lives should be like, what our bodies should look like. Where are the posts showing the mess of life?
Writer Sara Lippmann says about her work: The older I get the less patience I have for safe, competent well-crafted fiction. I’m interested in the messy.
Yes, me too. I’m interested in the real. In the walking on fire and being on fire. In the ten thousand joys and ten thousand sorrows. All the beauty, all the mess.