Fire Ceremony

from Anandi

If you live in the woods, you soon get to know the engine sound of a borate bomber: the small plane that drops fire retardant chemicals on wildfires. So when I heard that sound, I looked out the window for signs of fire. I was in the Ananda Meditation Retreat kitchen fixing dinner for staff and guests. I saw neither smoke nor flames, so I figured it wasn’t nearby.

At the same moment, a staff person was saying to a guest, “No, I don’t think it’s a bomber. If it were we’d see . . .”

His conversation was abruptly terminated when the plane dropped its full load of borate into a densely wooded area about two hundred yards away.

Just then, another staff person raced into the kitchen, grabbed the phone and called the fire department. When he heard the engine noise, he had climbed a tree and from that vantage point saw what we couldn’t: a cabin near the kitchen, surrounded by tall trees, was on fire.

We rushed over and saw the cabin already engulfed in flames. Fortunately, there was no wind, so the fire went straight up, and the borate all around kept it from spreading. A minute later, the volunteer fire department arrived and doused the flames. We are way out in the woods and usually it takes much longer for them to reach us.

Later, we pieced together the sequence of events. It was a miracle of God’s perfect timing.

First, a child on a bicycle rode past and saw no sign of fire. Ten minutes later the cabin burst into flames; we still don’t know why. At that very moment, a borate bomber on its way to another fire saw the cabin burning and got permission to drop its load there. The call from the plane was also picked up by the local volunteer fire department. They were on their way to put out the fire before we even knew there was one.

The couple that lived in the cabin were not home, so nothing was saved. Everything was reduced to ashes. When the ashes cooled, we started cleaning up the site. On a nearby bush, we found an eloquent reminder of Who is really in charge of our lives.

One page from Autobiography of a Yogi had survived. Neatly charred around the edges, the face untouched, it was the frontispiece photo of Master.