Out of the ashes, beauty. (Wednesday’s Wisdom)

From the ashes....

By many of today’s teen standards, my kids are dorks. They love mythology. No, one might say they are obsessed with mythology. It doesn’t matter the origin, Greek, Roman, Egyptian, Norse, Arabian, Indian, etc., if it has the makings of a good tale, they’ll read it, discuss it, debate it, then read it again. Myths are discussed in the car, at the table, through a closed-door, and over whatever might be playing on the TV.  I guess that makes me a dork, too, because I’ve long loved mythology and I’m always willing to join the conversation. Aside from being good stories, filled with ample murder and mayhem, there is an abundance of life lessons woven into the myths. From Medusa, we learn about the consequences of disobedience and jealousy, and through Hercules we learn about justice and loyalty to friend. And, it is a story told since ancient times that offers me one of my favorite lessons.

The Roman poet, Ovid, wrote the following:

Most beings spring from other individuals; but there is a certain kind which reproduces itself. The Assyrians call it the Phoenix. It does not live on fruit or flowers, but on frankincense and odoriferous gums. When it has lived five hundred years, it builds itself a nest in the branches of an oak, or on the top of a palm tree. In this it collects cinnamon, and spikenard, and myrrh, and of these materials builds a pile on which it deposits itself, and dying, breathes out its last breath amidst odors. From the body of the parent bird, a young Phoenix issues forth, destined to live as long a life as its predecessor. When this has grown up and gained sufficient strength, it lifts its nest from the tree (its own cradle and its parent’s sepulchre), and carries it to the city of Heliopolis in Egypt, and deposits it in the temple of the Sun.

The beautiful mythical phoenix rises from the ashes to new beauty. It is a tale of fresh opportunity and restored hope.

The other day, I chatted with an old friend, who has become a new friend. She is just over two years out from the end of her twenty year marriage. It took years to build the nest in which her marriage would die.  And, after years together, unkindness, impatience, neglect and denial littered her nest; lies and deceit sparked the flames. It was nothing she wanted. Quite the opposite. I was there when she was married in the church and vowed until “death do us part.” A vow she took seriously and believed in with all her heart; she still does. It is a vow she was committed to honoring; a vow that drove her to endure emotional emptiness. It drove her to fight alone for a marriage that had ended long before the divorce was granted. She was forced to surrender her burden when he walked away from their marriage and life together. I can’t count the number of hours she spent in tears and disbelief. I doubt she could either. Yet, out of the darkness, out of the ashes, she rose again.

After I hung up the phone, I realized I had talked with a new friend, a revitalized, re-energized, reborn friend. We have talked often over the years, but yesterday’s call felt different. She had weathered the biggest storm of her life and emerged renewed. She had moved past the disbelief, the bitterness, the anger and was in the process of building a new nest; her own nest filled with her daughters’ love, friendship, laughter and a rediscovered sense of self. She is the epitome of the phoenix bird, rising from the ashes, into new beauty. And, for this, I am so very happy for her.

We have all faced storms in our lives. It may be the loss of a marriage, a friend, family member, job, or lifestyle that brings the rough seas. It may be something far less “permanent” that rocks our stability, but it is change. Change often reduces us to ashes, forcing us to move from our seemingly safe, even if destructive, position into the unknown. However, from the ashes, beauty can emerge. Unseen, unknown, new beauty that has been there all along, waiting for its opportunity to rise. It exists within each of us. In our darkest hours, we don’t see it. We don’t believe we will ever see it. And, just as we begin to lose hope, there it is, hidden in the folds of strength we didn’t know we had before the storm; a fresh, new, beautiful spirit ready to embrace life with a new perspective.

If you read Ovid’s words, you’ll note that the phoenix does not discard its old nest; it carries it with her to the city of Heliopolis. It is a part of her past and worthy of honor; without it there would have been no ashes. Like everyone, I have scars from the storms I have weathered, and though I do not share them with everyone, I carry no shame from them. It wasn’t always that way. However, I have learned that time, patience, and perspective, when glued together with love and support, make all the difference. Today, my scars remind me of the ashes from which I have risen, and there I see beauty.

In my curio cabinet (and in the picture in the upper corner of this post) is a red glass apple my husband gave me more than 20 years ago. It was created using volcanic ashes from the Mount St. Helens eruption in 1980. The artist crafted a stand with a light inside upon which the apple sits. It illuminates the bubbles formed by the specs of ash, remnants of Earth’s dramatic change. It is my constant reminder that, from the ashes of dramatic change, beauty can be crafted.

Are you rising from the ashes, or sitting in the fire? Trust there is beauty within, just waiting to emerge.

39 thoughts on “Out of the ashes, beauty. (Wednesday’s Wisdom)”

  1. My 19 year old son is in a metal band. They are all lovers of mythology and named their band Odysseus after the leader of the island nation of Ithaca and hero of Homer’s Odyssey.


    1. Very cool, Brett! If my kids were in a band of any sort, it would most certainly have some reference to mythology. As it is, they often create their own stories or Manga (Japanese cartoons) and incorporate mythological creatures and characters.

      Thanks for stopping by.


  2. Oh, beautifully written, aspiring, affirming, funny, heart-touching…so glad I wandered over here!
    Love the Phoenix & her story (and, yep, my kids & I love mythology, too!). When I turned fifty, I got my first tattoo: a small colorful phoenix. She represents my rebirth, the beginning of fresh life each day (because, well, yesterday’s gone, so is whoever I was yesterday, right?), moving forward to learn more. 🙂


    1. Thank you so very much, Eileen! My kids will be glad to know that they are not the only mythology lovers out there. 🙂 One of my closest friends got her first tattoo when she was in her 50’s–of a phoenix as well.

      “She represents my rebirth, the beginning of fresh life each day (because, well, yesterday’s gone, so is whoever I was yesterday, right?), moving forward to learn more.”

      Love this! That’s what transitions are all about!


  3. What a beautiful, thought-provoking piece of writing. Thank you! (Came your way from Renee!). My kids attend a Waldorf School and study all the old myths. I’ll be sure to share this piece among the teachers and students!


  4. I stopped by to thank you for visiting my site today and liking one of my articles, and what a blessing I received upon arrival at your site. This was an absolutely beautiful, well-written, easy-to-read story. I loved the fresh inspiration in it! If this is an example of what you write, I am confident I will love your other articles. I look forward to exploring your site more in the days ahead. Blessings, Connie at A Hope for Today.


  5. Transitioning Mom, I love this post! Through and through I completely love it and relate to it. Thanks so much for following my blog, and as you read (if you go back into some of my earlier writings) I think you’ll see why this resonates so with me. Consider me your newest follower! 🙂


    1. Thanks so much for joining me in the journey, SWM! I’m so glad you are here and I’m looking forward to reading more and more of your writings because I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve read thus far.


  6. Mary, I enjoyed this very much. Kate of Believe Anyway led me to your site. God bless you as you stretch your wings with a true gift for communicating things that are worthy.


  7. What a wonderful, wonderful, wonderful piece of writing, Mary. And I am not just saying that because we have come to be friends (although we have); and I am not just saying that because I live in the Phoenix area (although I do). You are insightful, wise, and a terrific writer. You are amazing! I am giving you the All-Around Wonderful Blog Award this morning. Stay warm in the chilly weather. ❤
    Here is the link for the award and badge: http://believeanyway.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/an-award-from-an-all-around-wonderful-blogger/


    1. Kate–
      You have touched me so often with your kind words and even more often with your wonderfully inspiring blog. You are such a beautiful light in this world! Thank you for casting you light into mine, and thank you for this award! ♥


  8. This is so amazing….

    My favorite part…

    . However, I have learned that time, patience, and perspective, when glued together with love and support, make all the difference. Today, my scars remind me of the ashes from which I have risen, and there I see beauty.

    This bit touches my heart as it couldn’t be more true…I am glad to hear others have been there for you as you got up to rise up from your ashes.


  9. I love you, Mary! I can’t wait to get to know you more and more! However, I have to dispute the whole Kids love Mythology thing. YOUR kids love Mythology, you and I grew up loving Mythology. Samantha (and ALL her friends) know(s) literally NOTHING about Mythology. I often question our choice to Public School educate Sam. I think it’s time for a trip to Barnes and Nobles to buy some books for her to read on the subject. Any suggestions?!


    1. Awwww…I love you back, and I feel the same way! Thanks so much for reading and sharing my blog on your FB page! ♥

      Actually, I know most kids don’t love mythology, but I think they learn to love it when they read it. The most loved (and most tattered mythology book in this house) is still D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths (their favorite myths.) When the girls were still small, we spent a weekend in a old secluded cabin and though there was a TV in the cabin, they never noticed. I read the book aloud, cover to cover, that weekend. That’s still one of my favorite memories.


  10. Because Renee above retweeted this (thank you Renee) I just saw it and I too love it. It is indeed a beautiful piece of writing. I have been following your blog but had not clicked on the button to get it via e-mail–I have since remedied that problem . . . and now am off to retweet you!!! xoxo. el


  11. I am a Scorpio, and we are associated with the Phoenix because scorpions lose their tails and regenerate new ones. That said, you would think I would do better with change. My friend recently said maybe we all have to get used to the idea that impermance and instability are normal. It is our idea of impermanence that is flawed.

    Le sigh.

    I can understand all this on the philosophical level, but when you are going through a lot of chaos, all you want is a calm place to rest your bones.

    This was truly a beautifully written piece of writing. And it came right when I needed it.


    1. Scorpio here, too.

      “It is our idea of impermanence that is flawed.”

      I think it is. I try to remember basic biology when I feel myself resisting change. Those that don’t adapt, perish.

      Thanks for sharing, and I’m so glad it came at the right time.


  12. I LOVE the story of the Phoenix. I feel that so many of the older stories and myths are inspirational and today’s movies and stories take a lot from them.

    Your friend is so lucky to have you.



  13. Thanks is not enough — people let me tell ya’ ’bout my best friend… she’s a warm-hearted person who’ll love ya’ to the end…. people let me tell ya’ ’bout her ‘cuz she’s so much fun….


  14. I have a friend who is also just 2 years out from a painful divorce and difficult marriage. She said that it is only now that she is starting to feel alive again. I am going to share this post with her as I think she will enjoy it. Thank you for sharing it! ~~Bliss (I love the apple and its symbolism)


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