I hate shopping and I hate it even more when I have to do it on a day when there is a crowd. I usually go in at dawn but circumstances demanded that I go after work. I plan not to go back into town until Monday, if I can help it. I have to load up on supplies and hunker down with some beer, some food, and some writing for a few days. I do not like drinking holidays. The odds of getting hit by a drunk go up exponentially when a drinking holiday lands near a weekend. There will be a lot of drunks out. I intend to stay in.
The irony here is I have beer and I also intend to do some drinking.
The heat is here also and it isn’t playing around at all. It’s flirting with triple digit temperatures by early afternoon and it’s sticking with that story until the sun begins to inch down a bit. This is the time to start a fire and do some serious yardwork, is it not?
The back acre has suffered from neglect and the vines have all ran wild and free. This has to end. There is also the issue of the Giant Piece of Wood that did not burn completely during my last fire. When the firepit flooded and became a pond, the Giant Piece of Wood steamed around in the water mocking my efforts to have any sort of fire at any time. I will not be ridiculed by a Giant Piece of Wood. Yet as long as there was five feet of water in the firepit all I could do was send Sam in for recon missions and afternoon swims.
Yet the heat has something to say about everything under the sun. The firepit has slowly dried up and I’ve enough time for a fire. I wake up and begin a pile. One match later a fire is born. I like being able to start a fire with just one match. It’s a religious experience. Here is the spark from a tiny stick and from that I have to coax my conflagration. I’ve built stairway from the bottom of the pile to the top made of Spanish Moss, pine straw, and leaves. The bottom step catches, smokes, smolders and then it gleefully takes flight. Fire at ninety degrees isn’t a hard thing to do at all.
Starting the fire is the easy part. The hard part will be trying to stay with it. Over on the east bank of the pond, between the pond and the fence, things have gotten out of hand. The vines have run free and there are many downed branches. I toss it all over the fence and onto a tarp that I will pull to the fire. I have to use a bush hook to get some of the vines down and a couple of the larger branches have to be hacked into smaller pieces. The first load is dragged away and tossed on the fire in due course. I move over to the west side of the property to get rid of some invasive vines there and to pick up some fallen limbs. Into the fire they go, also.
Meanwhile, it’s warming up very nicely. The humidity was already at a billion percent when the sun came up. The fire crackles and jumps with the new fuel and I can feel the heat from twenty feet away. My body is warming up, too. I begin a full body sweat, the kind of sweat that hard work brings out in a human being, as it should. I think we’ve lost touch with our inner animal in more ways than we can imagine. Right out of high school I was dating a woman whose father ran a produce farm. I doubt that he was blind to the fact I wasn’t spending my Saturday morning for the joys of picking peas, but I was good help. One very hot Saturday morning her father and mother went to sell some produce and she brought a blanket. Before during and after harvesting we were tilling some fields of our own and I remember the intensity of the effort and the total liquidity of the sweat. We were bathed in it, soaked in the sea that rose like a tide from our bodies and we only wanted more. There was no fear of the way that we would look or smell or seem to anyone because to work in the fields was to return to being a hunter gatherer and we were doing as much of both as we possibly could. I wonder if her parents could guess that our harvesting was much better when we took breaks to reap what our bodies wanted so?
The heat breaks through my reverie so I take a break for some food and a lot of water. Against my better judgment I have a beer with lunch. I sit on the porch to eat because I’m too dirty to be inside. The beer is a thing that goes down quickly, smoothly, and once one is gone another beckons. The heat flirts with triple digits. I have things to burn.
An old tree fell and there are pieces that need to be fed into the fire. I have to chop two pieces up with an axe and I can feel Summer deep down inside me. My lungs struggle to keep the oxygen going, my heart pounds with the effort of the axe, and I can feel the inside of my body moving around as my body temperature rises with the effort of the work. More stuff on the fire. More stuff to hack and burn. Another beer please, and that would make three. I rake up all the stuff near the deck and feed it into the fire as well. I am soaked down to my socks in sweat. Beer four gets killed off with a quart of water as a chaser. I walk over to the fire and inspect the Giant Piece of Wood and it is a’fire from one end to the other. The blaze is on its horse now, devouring everything quickly and with very little smoke. Heat. Oh my, there is so much heat. I feel my skin prickle and withdraw from the heat so very extreme.
I stagger a step and catch my balance at an odd moment.
Beer, Mike, is not what you need to have right now. You do realize that, don’t you?
Four beers isn’t too many except I’ve been working outside now for nearly six hours. I decided to push it, another hour, another beer, because I don’t have to work tomorrow. But I reduce my effort, slow my pace, and start drinking more water.
Sam steps on the tarp as I’m pulling a pile of branches out of the woods and I have to shoo him away. Sam has taken to getting in the way. I have to dance around him in the hallway. I have to push him away from the shorts on the floor when I bend over to pick them up or he will step on them, too. He’s learned to zig when I zag and it is fully irritating. But Sam is dying. Old age stalks Sam and Sam would like me to notice him, and perhaps, do something. I’ve always done something before. I’ve always been able to make Sam feel better. Once, long ago, Sam let me take a pair of pliers and pry two chicken bones out of his mouth. One was stuck cross ways against the roof of his mouth and Sam never growled at me at all. Fix this, Dad, please, it hurts.
I can’t Sam, you’re dying.
A six pack is drained before I quit for the day. I am done in. My clothes nearly stand up by themselves they are so full of dirt and salt. I can barely move I am so tired yet I feel like I’ve done something today. The fire is banked and it’s slowly eating itself to death. I take a shower and marvel at how wonderful clean feels. Today I dared the heat to kill me and here I am, again, alive to write about it.