I started a fire a couple of nights ago on the burn pile out back of our property, soon after darkness fell. The spot is near the woods in which a thin little stream bends and gurgles southward, eventually spilling into that lovely, sequestered tributary known to locals as Stafford Creek. The air of that fledgling night had a little early May nip in it, and the sky was so sparklingly clear that it seemed you could nearly see forever. There was a high and dazzling, yellow-white moon up there, companioned by a thousand/million scattered points of shimmering, silvery light. The wind was coming from variable directions- mostly gentle, with an occasional moderate gust- and was nice and cool, as it carried the pleasant and mellow smell of smoke and the dewy, freshly cut grass.
While I was out there in my little tucked away corner of the world, burning several boxes, some limbs, and a couple of wads of plastic weed barrier that I had ripped up from the vegetable garden, I enjoyed listening to all of the echoey sounds: the neighbor’s children laughing from way across the street; an almost silent night bird that was probably wading in the shallow waters down in the woods; a far-off dog talking to another far-off dog from a different direction; the nighttime songs of the few crickets that were brave enough to cling to the dark and hidden places, under such chilly conditions; the changing breezes caressing and nudging rustling leaves up in the tallow tree; and the raucous noise of an engine racing- probably some young buck in his pickup truck out near the highway, toward the east. And I could hear the usual swamp frog or two.
But the thing that was most noticeable on that crisp and wonderful night was the sound of the fire; once it stopped its flailing and roaring, as it ran out of most of what fueled it. It gradually changed to a soothing and comforting crackle and pop, and murmur- glowing a golden glow that was tinged with orange and greenish blue in the nooks and crannies, where the black plastic and a log from a couple of months ago were still slowly burning, until the flames eventually died away altogether.
A fire like that can be a mesmerizing thing for some reason. A fire like that, along with experiencing all of the sounds, and the smells, and the beautiful mystery of such a night, can cause a person’s mind to go to wandering and wondering- at least for me it can. I start to thinking about God, or little green aliens, or the vastness of the universe. I might also consider how tranquil and wondrous all of nature can be, or how badly the nearby fence needs weeding, as the waning flames shed a dwindling light on the overgrowth.
A fire can also make me think about the people that I roasted wienies with back in younger days; my long lost, beloved grandma; the friends who have moved on; and the new friends that will share future fires with me on future nights, when the cold air makes an inviting situation for needed warmth. But whatever crosses my mind as I tend the flames and stare at the stars, I can be guaranteed that a fire, whether for pleasure or for utilitarian reasons, will always be a warm and welcomed companion when a cold wind blows. Yes, I think that a restrained, worry-free blaze is sometimes the nicest friend that a person can have when the weary nighthawks soar to a far-off roost, somewhere away from the busy, complicated, and sometimes bothersome world. . .