qualms before a storm
It is the short period of the year when the ground is damp enough, but the weather is dry enough, that fires for burning yard debris are permitted. A week of sun has more or less dried out the massive pile containing three years’ worth of deadfall, although as the neighbor who is helping (well, doing all of the real work) noted, it is no bad thing to have some damp material on hand to keep the fire from getting out hand.
It seems a massive, unbearable task, but it is merely routine – housekeeping. Some things are mechanical – setting out the buckets of water, the shovel, the rake. One could use a propane torch burner to get things started, which is faintly amusing to think about but seems even more excessively wasteful than the bonfire itself. The word ‘incommodius’ springs to mind, but there is a pleasure in savoring such incommodities, which tie one to the present moment. The wind is constantly shifting, and the smoke seems to follow, not matter where one stands, as one passes the time by swatting at cinders and trying to think of something to say. One’s clothes smell of woodsmoke and swamp,1 with a suggestion of dirt, rising sap, and the faint echo of yesterday’s sunshine under today’s mizzle.
- Because it’s also the season for skunk cabbage, Lysichiton americanus, the fleshy yellow flowers of which disarmingly echo the flames. [↩]