Earth, Air, Fire, Water

by Carrie Bachler
Earth, air, fire, and water. The four ancient Greek elements considered, for thousands of years, to be the shoulders upon which the entire universe sat. All matter was believed to have been derived from these four elements; each piece of matter being composed of a unique elemental blend that gave it an individual identity. Nothing could come into  being, essentially, without a touch by each of the elements' guiding hands.

Today, with the growth of modern science, we are beginning to get a grasp on the complicated nature of the world in which we live and of the universe in which that world rests. But we see, certainly, that the elements of earth, air, fire, and water – those considered so important and studied so intently such a long time ago – continue to be elemental and essential to our own survival as humans. Our bodies could not survive without air to breathe and water to drink; we would freeze without fire to keep us warm; and without the earth, what place would we call our home?

And if we look further still, we see that these elements play a role, too, in the enrichment of our lives. I breathe in and out every day, inhale and exhale, fill my lungs and feed my blood. And I am overly grateful, every day, for the air that I have to breathe, the home that I have to keep me warm, the water that I have to quench my thirst. But what makes my life meaningful is not the air that I breathe, the water that I drink. It is the memories that I have of rainy days, days when I flew soaking wet through the sky on a roller coaster, the rain pelting my face so hard that it sent me into a fit of  hysterical, uncontrollable laughter. It is the dark nights that I remember making s'mores around a campfire with my  family, cringing from the gummy and surprising texture of stale marshmallows. It is the crisp and silent air being afforded to me on a warm night in the mountains, giving me my first clear, beautiful glimpse of the Milky Way. These are the experiences that enrich my life; the experiences that shape me, in small but important ways, into the person I am today.

They are the experiences that are often written about, some of the most fervent stories to be taken from one's imagination and brought to life with words. The hot, fiery days of summer, when one is alive, inspired, ready to squeeze all of the molten adventures from the earth. The sadness of a broken heart, of a broken man, one who watches the rain stream down in sheets from a lonely, ragged window seat. The inspiring, sometimes profound effect that the open air and undisturbed earth of the wilderness can have on one's perception of the world around him. The unbounded size and power of the ocean, of a whispered word not meant to be heard but perceived, unmistakably, and held in a dark corner inside. The list could never end. And, most certainly, all of the stories will never be told.

What we hope to do with the Earth, Air, Fire, Water issue of Halfway Down the Stairs is to share some of these untold stories with you; to invite you into our own minds for a glimpse of what the elements are to us, of how they have shaped our imaginations, and of how, if it is not too dramatic to say, we have found in writing another elemental force in our lives. We would like to thank all of our guest writers and here.

We hope you enjoy our work, and we thank you again for reading.
Carrie Bachler is an editor at Halfway Down the Stairs. For staff biographies, click here.

© 2007, Carrie Bachler