What about my gift? I asked the old woman
A few nights ago I had a dream. I’ve been reading that people during this pandemic are having more intense, vivid dreams and remembering them more, which is typical in times of high-stress and trauma. I normally don’t remember my dreams, but the other night—a night when my child too had nightmares and woke up screaming, I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you—I did.
I dreamed I was hiding in a large house with my partner, an old woman, and many children. The house was old and dark, all the windows boarded up. The devil was coming, and we had to protect the children somehow.
There was a girl who had a gift, and the old woman worked with her to encourage and practice it. Her gift was freezing someone to one spot, and that was the plan: to make the devil stand still. I felt something inside. I felt I had to say something, do something.
What about my gift? I asked the old woman.
What is your gift? she asked.
I said I didn’t know.
She held both my hands, closed her eyes, and concentrated. Illumination, she said.
What’s that mean? I asked.
I had a day to practice. I spent it alone in an attic room with boarded-up, triangular windows, and tried to conjure fire from the floor, from the eaves, from the dark, cobwebbed corners. I couldn’t do it. I tried and tried and couldn’t.
When the devil came, the children hid. The girl froze the devil to the attic floor, using her gift. I cried out of fear and desperation and tried again. And again. And I brought fire from cracks in the devil’s skin, fire from inside the devil himself that destroyed him.
I’ve known for a long time that fire was my gift. I was going to make a joke about it on social media a few weeks ago: my genre is fire.
But it seems the time for that joke, many jokes maybe, has passed.
I’ve been thinking over what the dream could mean. I’ve been thinking, of course, always now, of the virus. I have allergies and am treating them aggressively. I have a history of lung problems and was born with an immune deficiency which required hospitalization as an infant. Maybe the dream means kill the virus with heat. Maybe it means keep making words. Maybe it means nothing.
I’ve decided to make fire cider.
[Fire Cider recipe cards, from Mother Mountain Herbals]
Fire Cider is a spicy, tangy, apple cider-based tonic. It’s nonalcoholic, and can be taken for energy or immune-boosting, or knocking out colds. Ingredients can include onions, lemons and other fruits, roots like ginger, spices like turmeric, and herbs. I use apple cider alone a lot, though the taste is a little bracing, drinking it straight when I feel rundown or have sore throats. I’ve never made this particular tonic before myself so these recipes are not my own, but just some recommendations to get you started:
A whole book about fire cider by Rosemary Gladstar (the herbalist most credit with coming up with the term)
Recipe by Rebecca Lindamood
An adaptation of one of Gladstar’s classic recipes, with a video tutorial
Have you made it? How else are you making your fire?