Kara Gordon

Returnings

A fortnightly letter to the people going at 100 miles an hour. We all have the things that keep us grounded: to-do lists, morning routines, communities, and rituals to keep us sane. But when things get tough, they often fall to the wayside. Here's a reminder to refuel.

How to Put Out a Fire

Say you live on the bottom floor of a multistory building and your apartment catches on fire. Maybe you left the stove on, or a curling iron. You had faulty wires or forgot to blow out a candle or someone decided that everything you owned needed to burn. Maybe you’re home, maybe not, but the fire loses control.

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You or someone, anyone who smells the smoke and realizes something is burning, calls 911. The fire is still contained within your apartment but too big to put out on your own. You need help. The fire department comes. If you’re lucky, everyone is evacuated from the building. Let’s say you’re lucky.

The firefighters seem to be waiting. They’re standing there with their hoses ready, watching the flames go through the second floor, third floor, fourth floor. Flames are pouring through the windows. You wonder why they aren’t doing anything. You wonder why they continue to let the fire spread. You look around at the families watching their homes burn and you wonder why they’re going to lose everything too.

The fire reaches the top floor and the firefighters finally wake up and put out the fire. It takes minutes. They do it easily. Why didn’t they put out the fire before it got so big? Wouldn’t it have been easier to put out the flames when it was contained in your apartment?

Before they began to put out the fire, there were firefighters in the building, making sure everyone got out safely. If they had started spraying water into the building, the fire and water would have created steam and the steam would have burned the men and women inside. The steam would have created pressure, and with nowhere to go, it would have caused an explosion. The entire building would have collapsed. Everything and everyone near you would have been incinerated. The fire might have spread to nearby buildings. Then the fire might have gotten out of control.

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I’ve been thinking about this a lot the past week or so: sometimes you have to let the whole thing burn. It hurts and it feels like everything is out of control, but often times it isn’t. Sometimes the hot air just needs a place to go. There is often unforeseen collateral damage. Once the fire is lit, you only have so much time to contain the damage before it spreads to the people around you. Maybe you should’ve unplugged your appliances. Maybe you should’ve gotten your wires checked. Maybe you should’ve blown out the candle. You will do all of those things in the future, or at least for a little while.

At this moment, it doesn’t matter. At this moment, you are safe.

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Love always,
Kara

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