That’s often what people said about Milla. They said she was quick-tempered at least, and dangerous at worst. Milla said she was passionate. She knew, largely, that that was a bullshit cover for what she knew was the truth.
She was angry. Angry all the time. She was angry when people didn’t do what they said they’d do. She was angry when she wasn’t good enough. She was angry when her pizza rolls were too hot and burned her tongue. There were some days that Milla didn’t feel anything but anger.
It scared her to feel this way. She knew she couldn’t survive like this but here she was, nearing 30 and still so angry and mostly, without a cause. Her family had been trying to get her to ‘just calm down, sweetheart’ for that entire time, which is why she was here, now, in paradise, and just so miserable.
Her mother had ’surprised’ her with a week stay at the Ka’anapali Yoga Retreat in Hawaii. Milla smiled and said thank you so much this will be so nice oh my gosh how wonderful, but a quick Google search when she got home let her know that Ka’anapali was a World Leader in Stress Reduction and Management. Milla wondered what the governing board for Stress Reduction and Management was and how one would be considered World Leader to begin with.
Milla’s mother had sent her to places like this before. Church camp was one, which just led her to be hot and angry. Girl Scouts was next, but when other girls lagged behind sales or whined too much, Milla was kindly asked to find another activity. Sports went well for a while, but as her coaches said, “Maybe Milla should find a solo sport. Have you tried Boxing? She’d be a great boxer.”
This made her a formidable leader. She did not take less than the best, and people were genuinely afraid not to give it their all anyway. She tore through school, college, every project she’d ever been involved in. She was a hurricane, but her vicious exterior kept everyone away.
Milla had felt her whole life like she was a bull in nursery, waiting to hurt someone, but she never had. She would yell, yes, but she never felt like she didn’t have reason. She refused to belittle. She’d never resorted to violence. She could, however, tell that people were waiting for her to crest that ridge into violence. Into pain or something much more drastic.
Milla didn’t know herself, anymore. She feared the resort to violence. She could feel that desire within her and didn’t know how much longer it would be contained. She didn’t know when she’d be pushed over the edge and ruin her life for good. So, she caved. She went on the rage-cation her mother bought for her.
Milla laid in Downward Dog for the 5th time in 3 days and felt that familiar bubbling rising in her chest. She felt the heat sing down her arms and legs.
“As you lay forward, pressing your heart towards the earth, feel the ball of stress behind your neck and pull it downwards through your arms and into the arms of Mother Earth.”
This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard, Milla thought. She chastised herself for her rage, and tried her best to focus, to reap the rewards of what she felt might just be another failed attempt at curbing her.
“Yes, good, feel that power in the base of your spine, and send that down your legs to Mother Earth as well. Give her not just your stresses, but your power as well. Do not abuse Mother Earth. She is a a gentle, old soul.”
Has this bitch ever seen an earthquake? Nothing gentle at all about Earth.
“Okay, now push through your arms, bringing your heart to touch and be one with Mother Earth, as you were in the womb with your own mother.”
Milla might have laughed if she weren’t so angry at how stupid this all sounded. She could be doing anything right now. Anything productive. Or destructive. Anything at all but this.
“Feel Mother Earth guiding your heart towards enlightenment. Towards happiness. Towards peace.”
Milla smelled her mat and cringed. She saw the woman next to her crying sweetly onto it, hugging the shiny wood-plank floor and the mat like she had just literally been birthed by Mother Earth.
Milla sighed quickly and stood, snatching her mat from the floor and half-ass tossing it into the bin before stomping away from here. If she was going to find peace, she knew for a fact it wouldn’t be here.
2 hours later, Milla was lost, badly so, in a mountainous area. She’d started walking to calm down as she usually did, but her head was so clouded with rage she didn’t take note of where she was headed. Now, she was desperately lost, out of sight of the resort and even the water, and angry about it.
She sat on a rock, threw her head in her hands, and screamed. Tears began to flow, and she slammed a fist down on her own yoga-power-riddled thigh again and again. She was so sick of this. So sick of feeling this way, sick of feeling other’s fear at her. She wanted, more than anything, to be normal.
“Whoa wahine, don’t hurt yourself like that.
Milla’s head snapped up. Standing next to the rock was an old woman in traditional Hawaiian dress, her gray hair held up in a bun, with a cigarette in her hand.
“Where did you come from?”
“Around here. I live here. You don’t. So why are you here?”
“I know that part. Nobody screams and cries in the mountains if they know where they are going. What are you doing on Hawaii?”
“I’m staying at Ka’anapali Yoga Retreat.”
“Why do you stay at that place? That’s a stupid place. They say they can connect you with the earth and her spirit but only you can. Only you can connect yourself. They charge you money for something you shouldn’t have to pay for.”
Milla laughed in spite of herself. This old lady had a crack to her.
“Have you lived here all your life?” She asked, suddenly feeling stupid, then racist, then stupid again.
“Yeah, wahine, I have. I live here with my husband Kamapua’a and our children. Hawaii is my home.”
“It’s beautiful here.”
“It’s dangerous here. That’s how all beautiful things are, they are wonderful and frightening all at the same time. Having babies is like that. Falling in love. Living a full life—all beautiful, all terrifying. Safe things are ugly.”
“Is that some Hawaiian folk tale or something?” Stupid. Racist. Stupid.
“No I’m just old so I can say what I really feel. I always have, but now I can get away with it because I am so old. You know the feeling?”
“I do. I—I always say what I feel. I’m here because I’m alway angry at people, at the world. I want things to go perfectly for everyone and they never do. I yell and push and prod and people get pushed away and they’re scared of me. I…I have no idea why I told you that. I’m so sorry.
“You say what you feel, but you have to apologize because you’re young.”
“You feel angry because you want to control the world? Why?”
“Because people screw things up. They don’t do what they’re told, even though it’s for a reason and not just to make them mad. They get hurt or fired or behind because they just don’t listen.”
“Do they listen when you yell.”
“See, that’s the problem.”
The old woman laughed and tapped the ash off her cigarette.
“People are born with one of four things in their souls. Souls of Earth are steady and dependable. Souls of Water can smooth anything over, can flow around anything. Souls of Sky are wanderers, the ones who lead the way into the unknown. You have a soul of Fire.”
“Without fire, Earth, Water, and Sky are fine, though. Fire is unnecessary. Fire clouds sky, evaporates water, chars Earth.”
“Stupid girl, let an old woman talk. Fire shakes Earth, strengthens it, gives it new life and shape. Fire boils water, helping it feel when it needs to and creating rains for the Earth. Fire lights up the sky and drives it higher, helps it nurture Water and Earth. Without Fire, the other three are boring. Safe.”
“And safe is horrible.”
“You learn quick. Fire souls often do.”
“But they are destructive. That’s my problem, I don’t know how to help with my fire, only how to hurt.”
“The best Fire souls know that the Fire within them is precious. Fire does not last forever like water, like earth, like sky. It is fleeting, and must be kept safe until it’s time to feed it. Fire knows that the power within is used to drive them to keep the other three safe because they make the world go round. You take your fire and you use it to power you and you alone. You push yourself to be better, stronger, tougher. You are forged in flames, and so you can take any challenge. You were made to be a fighter for the people, not of them.”
“What happens when it overflows though?”
“Use it wisely. Destruction is part of life, part of every cycle. We cannot be reborn without destruction, so remember that. Use it only when you absolutely must to do the job of a Fire Soul—to charge the others and lay waste to those who threaten them.”
Milla sat there for a while, on the rock next to the old woman. It was as though the old woman had brought her a lamp with which to contain her fire. Before it burned through her body like a wildfire, but now it sat brightly and securely on the wick, burning strong but controlled.
“My mother paid a ridiculous amount for this trip and you’ve done more for me in 5 minutes than she has her whole life.”
“Other souls think Fire Souls are frightening. She fears you. Now she doesn’t need to. Your resort is still boring.”
“Think they’ll notice if I just ditch the next 4 days and see the rest of the Island?”
“Do you care if they do?” The old woman said, turning and beginning to walk away. “The resort is just one mile away, that way,” she said, pointing down a path. “Use your fire as a torch, not a wildfire.”
“I will. Thank you.”
“You’re welcome. If anyone at the resort asks where you’ve been, just tell them you had a chat with Grandmother Pele. I’ve been here my whole life. They’ll know who I am.”
Grandmother Pele disappeared into the jungle-like foliage, and Milla set down the path. When she arrived back, the receptionist at the Front Desk looked relieved to see her.
“We’ve been looking all over for you!”
“I got lost on a walk. I’m ok, thank you. A lady named Grandmother Pele told me which way to get back—she said you’d know her?”
The receptionist dropped the phone she was holding and it clattered loudly on the desk. The manager peeked his head out from his office and gave Milla a strange look.
“Do you? Know her, I mean?”
They both nodded in unison. Milla said thank you and went back to her room, where a quick Google Search revealed that Pele was the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire, the ruler of the Volcanoes, and her husband, Kamapua’a, a God of The Sea.
Fire Souls know Fire Souls.