Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Ember (Wondersmith Event)

Fire is a part of life here in the West. Every August we brace ourselves for the crispy vegetation and smoke-filled air and watch as our beloved forests burn. But there is often beauty to be salvaged from the ashes and lessons to be learned. An ember smoldering under the surface represents a crossroads: will you fan it back into flames or bury it to let it die?

It was with that question in mind that I targeted my invitations to people who may be looking to have that very conversation. I hid beautiful invitations in the self-help sections of local bookstores and gifted the lucky finders a ceremonial tea party celebrating the beauty found in fire's destruction, held appropriately out in one of the biggest fires in the country (the Pioneer Creek Fire near Lowman, ID.) We enjoyed a ceremony of incense, intentions, tea, and lots of ash-inspired treats, all served in handmade stoneware cups decorated with real gold luster. (These will be available to the public on Dec. 11th and my patreon supporters on Dec. 4th!)

This event was free to the lucky finders, thanks to my patrons on Patreon. If you like what I am doing and want to learn more or support my mission of bringing a little magic into the lives of strangers, please visit

Long before the first guests arrived, I had big pots of water boiling for flavorful teas to sip. I decided on two flavors: lapsang souchong (which is black tea smoked over pine branches and tastes like a campfire), or an herbal blend of rose hips, hawthorne, spices, and orange peel. 

In my invitations, I added a little note that the event would be semi-formal and to feel free to get crazy with dress. These lovely ladies definitely embraced that! How fun it was to see these elegant and funky outfits out in th middle of nowhere.

After guests parked their cars in a designated area, one of my volunteers (who also happens to be my dad) walked them down a scenic trail through the burned forest. I then welcomed all of the guests to our location by smudging them with homemade incense with a basis of sage and birch. Then we all sat down at the table and I talked for a bit about the intentions of the event and the nature of embers. Embers are left after the fire dies down. There is a melancholy satisfaction in examining the remains of a fire... the energy is different. While fire is all passion (anger, excitement, love, and lust) and can change in a heartbeat, the energy of embers is steady and calculated. Burned logs are ghosts of their tree-selves, still exhibiting the same bark patterns that are now black and carbonized. I asked each attendee to consider what their personal ember was and keep it in mind while we enjoyed our treats. 

A beautiful close-up shot of one of the cups I made especially for Ember. I sculpted these out of iron-rich clay that turned almost black after firing, then embellished them with real gold luster to add some sparkle. I wanted these objects to be elegant and luxurious while maintaining the roughness of their inspiration: burned logs and twigs. These cups will be available to the public on Dec. 11th and my Patreon supporters on Dec. 4th.

The guests enjoyed some ash-inspired treats while they sipped their tea. Pictured here: black sesame mochi with sweet potato and candied rose hip filling; black sesame mochi with beet, orange, and pine nut filling; and black garlic, juniper, and parsnip ash cheesy twig crackers. I loved watching the guests' surprised faces as they bit into the charcoal gray foods to reveal glowing orange centers, just like the glowing heat inside a real ember.

During the tea party part of Ember's ceremony, guests got to know each other between sips. Pretty elegant for a party in the woods! 

This table held some special goodies to be added to our teas: homemade woods bitters (which will also be available for sale on Dec. 11th), pinion pine nut-infused whiskey, mesquite honey syrup, and fresh orange slices. Also pictured are some incense holders that were later used to burn incense as we chatted and ate. 

Mike the fire-tender was busy keeping our tea pots filled and warm! I love how well you can see our setting in this picture: the skeletal remains of charred trees and soot-blackened soil topped with warm orange pine needles. Just being out in those hauntingly beautiful woods was such a treat; having a delicious tea party with interesting guests was icing on the cake! 

My personal favorite of the treats served at Ember was my spin-off on chocolate roulade cake. I made my version to look like charred logs and filled the dark chocolate goodness with rose hip jam and whipped cream spiked with rose hip-infused whiskey. I even made a dairy-free version (pictured here) with whipped coconut cream so I could join in the fun.

I was so pleased with how everything at Ember came together! The warm and shimmery glaze inside my homemade stoneware cups perfectly matched the pine needles in the distance, while the felt tablecloth and various treats blended right in to the charred landscape. Sometimes there is just so much beauty to be found in the gray. While the guests finished their last cup of tea, I asked them to write down their thoughts about their personal "ember" on a little slip of paper. They were to consider something that had been simmering beneath the surface in their life for too long and prepare to make a decision to fan it back into flames, or bury it and let it die. After our tea party, we gathered in a circle around the fire and a pit and, one by one, had the opportunity to talk about our decision and then throw our paper into either the fire or the pit. Everyone present listened with respect, spoke from the heart, and made a little promise to themselves to follow through on a decision that would make their life better in some way. Some attendees decided to let go of relationships that were no longer serving them, others decided to fan a long-forgotten passion back into flames, and still others chose to keep their decisions to themselves and released them either into the ground or the fire with a silent determination. 

The guests who attended Ember were inspiring. These wonderful people embraced the unknown by accepting an invitation hidden in a bookstore, driving out into the middle of nowhere, and participating fully in something largely unknown to them. All of the guests were warm and kind to one another and supported total strangers in moments of vulnerability. It was inspiring to watch the inherent goodness inside a random group of mostly-strangers. I feel so lucky that I was able to offer this gift to them. Many, many thanks to my patreon supporters that made this event possible. Your generous donations covered the costs of supplies for this event and it is with your help that I was able to bring a little more magic into the lives of these thirteen people! Cindy and her daughter Brooke are some of my most faithful supporters; they were so excited I was doing an event in their area that they went out and scoured bookstores after I dropped a hint on social media. Their love for adventure and kindness towards other humans is a beautiful thing to behold. I sent them (and all of the other attendees) home with a little bag full of the homemade incense we burned during our ceremony so that they could re-connect with the memories of the day through scent far into the future. 

Ember was such a delightful and meaningful event for me. I love doing this. I love it so much.

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