Okay, I admit it, building a big ass fire when the heat index is one hundred and two won’t get me an invitation to Mensa. But I need a fire. I need to feed flame. I need to feel the heat on my skin. I need to get close enough to feel Death looking at me as if even She is wondering why I’m stacking all this fuel up at the end of Summer. Cooler weather isn’t that far away. Why not wait for one of those early mornings when a fire feels good? No, I have to have a fire. I have to build a fire today.
I’ve been stacking stuff up in the firepit for a while and the break around the pit is overgrown with weeds. The match is stuck the flame begins and even as the heat around me begins the fire leaps into majestic life. The fire will eat its way to the overgrown break and I’ll have to keep raking it back, pushing fuel back into the fire, and today there will be real work in controlling this fire properly. But the big stuff on the pile catches easily. I have to back away from the fire even as I marvel at it.
There is but one really good reason to start this fire and that would be the rats will move into the pile if I don’t burn it off often enough. Sam likes it when the rats move in because Sam will wait for the rats to move out once the fire begins to evict them. I cannot afford to have rats. They’re a lot of trouble in a lot of ways and better to keep them out than to have to get rid of them. Sam is disappointed when no rats come scurrying out of the fire. Lilith sits near the flames and I wonder what it is she is waiting for. My Little Girl has always loved fire even on the hottest days. There is no method I have of discerning the motives of any female so I just admire her for who she is and I keep feeding the fire.
There is a piece of wood, the very last remnant of the big tree stump, the twenty feet tall stump, which I took down before the firepit was flooded. Most of it burned away in my last truly great fire but there was this one piece. It floated around the firepit and mocked me during the flooding we had earlier in the year. There’s no way, no method that I know of, that will determine how a piece of wood will burn. The last big piece of the stump burned down to a monster sized block of wood that looked twisted and carved almost. It was nearly beautiful but the darkness upon darkness of its texture made getting a good photo of it nearly impossible. Sometimes wood that is old gets very wet and it is impossible to burn, nearly, and today I think I will burn this piece of wood.
This is Burke’s first fire and he is stupidly unafraid of it because Lilith shows no fear. Burke draws too near the fire and whatever it is inside of a living creature that kicks in around fires chases Burke away from the flames. He runs to me and gets petted. Burke stays close to me all day, never straying far from my side. It’s a good feeling to be in the company of a Lab again. I had forgotten how alive Lab puppies are, senseless and free that they are. The thought comes unbidden and without prompting that Sam is aging and when he is gone I will not have a Lab in my life. Burke weaves in and out in front of me, making sure of my path, making sure I am still there, delighted that we are in the woods, and he loves being here. There are worse dogs to have than Labs, Mike, and you are going to need another when Sam goes. The thought sticks in my head and I have a dozen days to decide.
Lucas the large has taken up position in the yard where he can see everything but still be away from Burke. The heat takes a toll on him and the puppy takes a toll on him, too. Burke runs circles around Lucas and Lucas just watches. Burke starts a long swift ground devouring oval and he’s stretched out running, full tilt boogie, scalding fast, and as he passes between Lucas and myself he turns to look at me, to see if I’m watching how fast he is. His mass shifts and suddenly Burkes goes tumbling, flipping end over end. Burke’s long black legs claw nothing but air and he lands with a thump! I half expect him to burst into flames, honestly. Then he’s up again and off again. Lucas stares at this spectacle without a word.
Maybe it’s the mindless work of it; I haul stuff in the wheelbarrow and feed the fire. There’s a smallish but long tree that has fallen into the crook of another tree and I knock it down. I flip it end over end a dozen times to get it to the fire and in it goes, to be burned in two twice before it fits all the way. There’s the stuff that has fallen in the front yard that has to be collected. There’s the limb of a large tree on the trail that has to be axed and fed into the fire. Burke stays at my side, always. I have to shoo him away from me as I work the compost pile, but that’s another story for another day.
The fire roars and crackles and the day wears on. I can feel layers and layers of dirt and sweat on me. The Three lie in the yard and in the shade, exhausted. Finally, there is no more fuel. The big piece of wood is much smaller and breaks into two pieces when I move it. I get slightly dizzy and realize I have not eaten or drank any water since breakfast. It is time to call a halt to the burning.
There are smoldering ashes and a few coals. Once again, I have a dog in my life and I have to decide what to do with him. Once again, a fire has led to writing and exhaustion is always my drug of choice. The time has come for lesser exertions. The day had drawn close enough to the end that I will feed no fire.