A by Fire

Think of a safe place, they said in mindfulness class. Think of a compassionate friend, one who is wise and supportive. I became safe in the red chair by the fire, covered by a blanket knit by my grandmother. Friends, grandparents, spiritual figures, mentors—who would offer compassion, energy, illumination. A huge letter A, tall as a ten-year-old, Times New Roman, black, sat down in the chair on the other side of the fire. Anything is possible, it said. Did light shine like wings around it as if it were a medieval saint—“outer glow” in Photoshop? No, it was crisp as if letterpressed into air. Anything is possible, it repeated and I understood that this A was the beginning, that language meant that I could explore, that it opened the world to possibility as if I could see the bones under the flesh of the world. An energizing breeze blew through the open centre of the world and I felt the same openness in my chest, as if my ribcage had opened like wings. I could see texts undulating in the air around us. The A and I could join these texts, could read these texts, could write them.  What gift does this compassionate friend give you? they asked. What do they give you? The A passed me a smaller A, an A that fit into my palm. It was an actual A but it was also all the A’s in all the texts that were possible. We breathed, the A and I, through the open centre of ourselves.