Hello there, you—
So I set a fire.
That’s what you do in middle Missouri, it seems. You make a careful pile somewhere out in the back forty (‘back forty’ in this instance means ‘the pavers stacked together with military exactitude until a burn ring was formed there’) and when you can stand it no longer, you burn that pile. You’re supposed to have a burn permit. That’s what my father told me the last time I was here, anyway.
And because there was a sizable pile of thick honeysuckle vines, newspaper, and potentially-funky boxes (potentially funky because I’d gotten them out of a man’s warehouse and said warehouse was neither clean nor orderly nor without pests-slash-vermin), because I have a healthy sense of don’t-give-a-fuck, I did it without an official burn permit*. Probably it had something to do with the full moon, as well, don’t you think? A full moon and some sketchy, shifty-looking sort of clouds beg a fire.
See, one thing I’ve always been good at is arranging a pile of things so that they are combustion-friendly. I’ve never had any trouble, overmuch, getting a blaze to form up where there was none before. I can make the kind of fire that melts your face if you dare turn toward it and I can make the kind of fire that you can cook a meal by and I can make the kind of fire that burns low and steady and, for the most part, is still there waiting to be stirred up the next morning when you rise, head beer-fuzzy and mouth dull with the aftertaste of marshmallows blazed to a non-sticky crisp over and over again.
I took myself and my black Bic up to the deck and leaned across the railing as the thing caught good, flames pushing back night, spinning and falling and tumbling into and over themselves. Flames! You are so rowdy! How can man not love you, you remarkable things? Fire, you are triumph itself!
The smoke was dense and sweet, and because I sometimes have an overactive imagination I wondered if some great mystery would be revealed to me if I stood in the middle of it as it billowed past.
Honeysuckle smoke is a new one on me, let me tell you. It was a happy accident borne of my father’s diligence. Because of the radiation he is taking into his brain and his chest, he is limited in what his body will allow him to do anymore. Even when the cancer had him near-dead, he was still able to do just about damn near anything he wanted. It infuriates him in his low, quiet way that the thing that is making him well (supposedly. all it’s really doing is prolonging his life, and nobody has any illusions about this bit of business, even though we don’t talk about it with him) is stripping him of his no-holds-barred go at life. He tries to do physically demanding things and, aggravated, resigns himself to the sofa with his Kindle, reading book after book set in Africa. When he tires even of reading he boots up his iPad and watches videos of African men dancing, shouting, celebrating, fierce. He is quiet and reverent as he does so.
I have no earthly idea why, in his cancer-soaked retirement, Africa calls to him, but it does. I hope he will treat himself and go there when he gets his strength back from the chemo and the radiation and the forced-march cadence of Being A Cancer Patient.
So yeah, diligence: He can only do one or two things on the days that he can can stay vertical for very long, and those things are usually very manly things like scrambling around a roof or hauling brick. He won’t quit and I don’t tell him to.
His energy was sorely lacking last week and so he attacked the overgrown honeysuckle ferociously and without prejudice. Out of his frustration, then, grew my full-moon discovery that a honeysuckle fire gives off a gently sweet smoke. It is so strange, sometimes, how we make our way toward knowledge.
I do part of my work on the internets. The internets are a swamp of distraction (maybe you know this already). HOWEVER! This evening I found myself watching a video wherein Ms. Natalie Portman and Mr. Johnny Depp were signing –yes, S-I-G-N-ing, not S-I-N-G-ing—along to a song by one Sir Paul McCartney, the Most Ancient High Beatleperson. I was captivated by the complete dissimilarities between said Ms. and Mr., by the swooping and precise way in which she executed the American Sign Language to convey the words to this song versus the very grandiose and looser way that he undertook the same task.
Though I was leaning heavily toward making Ms. Portman my favorite in that instance, it was Mr. Depp (with woefully puffy face and sternly exhausted countenance, poor Johnny) who won out and it was because he made me take more careful notice of the way that the word ‘valentine’ was executed.
And here, now, three hours past the sweetness of honeysuckle smoke , as I pen this in order to get it in the post in a handful of hours, I find it intensely interesting to note that the sign for ‘valentine’ looks for all the world as if a bomb were being detonated just before tracing the heart.
Over and over my heart has been detonated. I guess this is how I’d assure a complete stranger such as yourself that I’ve had a good life thus far, an intensely satisfying life. In matters of faith, of art, of love, of politics, of travel and taking meals and having conversations, my heart has been detonated. Some explosions have been messier than others, of course.
But you know that: You have a heart, too.
I hope this finds you well, warm, and happy.
*oooh, Rebel Rebel, we’re afraid-a yoooou, making a FIRE in a RING after a two-day RAIN. Risk taker!
pee ess….not long ago I found a box full of vintage writing papers for a dollar. A DOLLAR! Such a great find.