Fire & Earth


Only by piling up everybody’s wood can you make a bonfire.


Come the seventh month, the fire ebbs
By the ninth, we hand out the coats
First days of the first, hard frost
First days of the second, sharp winds
Without coats or covering
How can one last the winter?
In the third month, they plough
In the fourth month, I go out
With all my family
Picnicking in the south fields
Where the farmers come to celebrate.


The relationship between the elements of Fire and Earth
is a complementary one in Chinese philosophy. 
Fire creates earth from the dust and ashes it produces.
The poem reflects a similar understanding. 
The heat of fire is contrasted with the coming of winter.
Both destroy – or seem to do so. 
Yet, just as earth arises from the aftermath of fire, 
so spring emerges from the harshness of winter – 
here, delightfully expressed as going picnicking! 
So it is with life. 
From that which appears hard, cold and destructive, 
the seeds of the new are born.

©Loes Raaphorst 10/2005