By Janice Van Cleve

It was a well-made candle. The wax was fine paraffin melted to 160 degrees and smooth dipped by hand. It contained candle white to keep its shape and a mild fragrance to enhance its appeal. The wick itself was a flat braid of a thickness that matched perfectly the diameter of the taper. The tip was properly trimmed to a quarter inch and the base was razor cut. It was a well-made candle.

The candle stood up tall and straight. Yet for all its beauty and craftsmanship, it was lifeless and useless. Its wick was white and cold. Then came flame. Flame is different than candle. Flame is neither crafted nor molded. It has no ingredients. It has always existed, a timeless elemental, yet it never appears without fuel. Flame seeks fuel in order to manifest. Flame found candle and candle accepted flame. Through their union, candle came to life and flame found a form. A light was born.

The light was not the flame nor was it the candle. The light was unique and individual unto itself. It burned and glowed in its own way. It flickered in response to breezes it alone felt. Flame finds many fuels and burns differently with each of them, yet flame is always the same. Candles, on the other hand, even those made in the same batch, are never identical and therefore each burns differently. Thus each light is singular. Each light brightens its part of the world in its own way and each chases its own shadows.

Candle needs flame to come to life. Flame needs candle to show itself. Light is distinct from both but independent of neither. Eventually flame consumes candle. The wax melts. The wick gives out. Flame sputters and vanishes into smoke. Light cannot remain in the wax, for melted wax will hold no flame. Nor can light leave with flame, for flame gives no light without fuel. Light does not go anywhere. Light ceases.

Someday perhaps the used up wax may be recycled or new wax generated. Someday a new candle may be smooth dipped by hand, with candle white to keep its shape and a mild fragrance to enhance its appeal. Someday flame may come again and find this candle. Perhaps they will accept each other and, for a brief time, give birth to a new light -- a light that never existed before. Eventually this union will also spend itself. The wax melts. The wick gives out. Flame sputters and vanishes into smoke. Light ceases.

Who knows how long a candle will burn or what gust of wind may extinguish a flame before the wick is spent? Therefore little light, while you exist, shine with all your heart. Shine with passion. Shine with joy. Shine with exuberance and wonder, with playfulness and delight.

This is your time. This is your place. Now is your chance. This is your only existence. Seek out other lights and add yours to theirs. Make the world as you find it a brighter place. For even one tiny light shining for all it is worth is a light for all.


This article was first published at and is reprinted with permission. See Janice Van Cleve's reflection on life after death here.

Janice Van Cleve is a freelance writer for many magazines and some newspapers including Widdershins, Voice of Choices, Open Ways, Women Outdoors, Washington Trails, and the Seattle Gay News, among others. She is a priestess with Women Of The Goddess Circle in Seattle, a regular attendee at Spring Mysteries put on by the Aquarian Tabernacle Church, and Concentric Circles. 

2/2/2010 5:00:00 AM
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