I have hit my head with a tennis ball. It is dark, and I am in my back garden. In each hand I am swinging a chain with a ball attached to it. I move them around in figure-of-eight patterns above my head. My cat looks at me like I’m crazy, but when I get it right she comes to sit smugly at my feet. My left wrist is moving over and under my right in an impossible dance and the balls are spin ning, miraculously not crashing into each other or me. I am elated. It feels like someone has oiled my creaky brain. I immerse myself into movement that I can not understand, but which makes my whole being sing.
I am learning to dance with fire. When I am ready, I will replace the balls with burning wicks, and I will dance. If I get it wrong, I will get burned. It will be my trial by fire.
It has been a good year to learn to fire-dance: the Year of the Fire Dog, ac cording to Chinese astrology. And in African cosmology (a sangoma told me) it is the Year of the Fire Gods.
‘The fire-spirits are close by,’ he said. ‘It is the year for trials by fire.’
‘Global warming,’ I said. ‘That’s the trial by fire for humans. We must learn or we must burn.’
As I spin the balls around my body, I look up at the dark night sky, scattered with stars, and I feel as if I am learning one of the oldest dances of the universe. I sense the Earth under my feet - a spinning ball of rock dancing around a giant sphere of fire. Spheres of rock or gas are moving around each of the billions of fire-stars in the sky.