Know This Love: Playing with fire


This week, my relationship with fire became a bit too intimate.

I burned my chicken to a crisp on the grill, not realizing the temperature at which it was cooking. I left the oven and burners on. Oh, and I somehow managed to ignite my sauna and almost light the whole house on fire.

I can be a bit spacey at times.  Okay, I can hear my ex-girlfriend laughing derisively at the words “at times,” but it’s only at times.  Promise.

This has been one of those weeks.  In addition to the fire hazards, I filtered the coffee through a strainer directly into the drain.  I forgot where I put things.  I forgot to lock the doors.

And a few days ago, while getting gas — well, that’s the thing.  I intended to get gas, but didn’t.

I prepaid with the attendant inside.  I was on my way to the beach, thinking happy thoughts about something or other.  I walked back out to my car and, instead of pumping gas, I left.

About five minutes later I realized I’d paid for $20 worth of gas that was about to go into someone else’s car.

I kicked myself mentally when I realized it, getting a sinking feeling in my gut that sneered, “You just lost $20, genius.”

But instead of becoming unbalanced about it, I drove back to the station as calmly as I could and, with my tail between my legs, strode inside to tell the attendant what had happened.  I hoped he was in a good mood.

As it turned out, he had seen me drive off without pumping any gas, so he’d kept my cash and receipt off to the side by the window.  I thanked him, and the universe, for looking out for me.

I wondered vaguely whether he was being nice because I had called him by name, a habit I’ve made when going in stores (store employees are humans too, after all). Or maybe he was just doing his job.  Nevertheless, I was grateful.

All this is far more spacey than normal for me.  But what really attracts my attention about this is the fire element.

Fire symbolizes destruction and death, but in the sense of bringing new life.  Where I’m from is prairie land, and if you paid attention in school, you’d know that the prairie renews itself by regular fires.

And there’s the mythical phoenix, rising from its own ashes in a glorious, triumphant rebirth.

I moved to California only a month ago, knowing no one after my ex-girlfriend and I broke up less than 17 days before the move.

I’ve made a home of sorts, started at a new school, launched into new ventures, tried new things, and made new friends.  The fire of my soul is burning up the old and ushering in the new.

Not to mention, after my sauna burned up, getting burned several times by accidental touches of my heat lamp.  (One of those burns is quite large and hurt for a couple of days.)

No matter what happens, the universe (or God, if you prefer) always supports us.  This is what I have seen again and again.  Even when I almost light the house on fire, there’s someone there to see it and make sure everything turns out all right.

Next time, I’ll be the one saving someone else’s ass.

Matthew Stensland-Bos explores consciousness, love, healing, and grounded spirituality in Know This Love, a weekly SFBay opinion column.  You can find him on his website,

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