Burly Writer

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I'm a Writer, if by Writer you mean a misanthrope.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Fire Snow

A traditional Thanksgiving for me involves driving two hours south of Fredericksburg, into the countryside of Middlesex Co. There I'm greeted by friends and their relatives, of a family of long-standing friends, and the rapid extension of themselves through their small children. Even the once-children are growing and preparing to assimulate their pleasant, attractive qualities with that of similar genes, and expand their light in a darkening world.

To solidify the metaphor, there is a bonfire headed by the family patriarch, a ceremonial of sorts burning of dead branches, piles of damp grass and shorn undergrowth, clutching vines and decaying weeds collected over the summer and fall. This tower of bony witch bodies and moldy scarecrows is set aflame against the just-fallen night. It's like a sacrifice to winter gods for another year of good fortune.

This fire is surrounded by amused family, witnesses to the burning, while the patriarch and several other men such as myself work to transfer more and more of the dead pile onto the flames. The work is mildly hard, and welcome in my mind. Sweat trickles, loam squashes beneath shoes, frosty breath flares in the fire-flecked dark, and each heave of heavy wood into the fire's heart sends waves of spinning embers into the sky and down again as ash on shoulders and hats. Under this fire snow, a college boy kisses his girlfriend once, quick as an arrow.

Fire has ever cleansed the world of evil, and taken the hero on a hellish journey.

These long-time faces are transfixed by the fire, pleased by every spasm of it, vocally encouraging the men's feeding. I can't see the ground, the mound of sticks and resistant moldering logs which are pried up and thrown bodily into the mass of consuming heat. Things break in my hands, viny, mewling, and once alive. I'm inexplicably something else than what I was. The fire is all. It is the fire and a desire to perform for the lovely women and proud men watching. This is a dance with a primal force, the very core of civilization. This fire is a forgiving bestial record of every moment in human history, and our future as well. The fire is a time machine, as every fire is a remembered fire. No one has ever forgotten a fire of any size and strength.

Contemplation of the talking flames, or rising fear of what they are saying?

Finally, when everything is burning, there are embers, charged red with energy as old as time itself. This has been the best moment of this day and any day for a long time. Everyone leaves the observance, except for the few to insure the fire is controlled. The silent agreement with fire: feed me, and I will not destroy you utterly. That is how we used fire to construct cities and explore space. Fire is the elemental Swiss Army knife, a dedicated servant and a demanding god all in one.

For the lovers in the fire snow, kissing while fiery ash settled onto them like a baptism, they will perhaps never know whether they are favored or condemned by the flames. And such is the mystery of a life.

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