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