fire

Last week I burned a brush pile in the back yard. Actually I burned a brush pile on the overgrown section of this year’s experiment in gardening. Ever since the contractors finished with the windows, siding, etc. I’ve been cutting 20-year-old boxwoods, azaleas, and other shrubs down to their gnarly stumps and piling the cuttings on the garden spot to dry out. So, last Wednesday became burning day.

I don’t like to burn stuff by myself, as a rule. Not that I’m afraid the fire will get out of control or anything. It’s psychological; I assumed I needed a man around just in case something didn’t go as planned. But, the pile needed burning, and I was in the mood to burn something. I dragged the water hose out to the garden, took a camp chair, water bottle, matches and firestarters and headed out back. The brush was so dry it didn’t take any time at all to get a nice fire going, flames about 10 feet high. I settled into the camp chair, sipped on my water, and watched it burn.

Fire is mesmerizing, isn’t it? I love to watch a fire buring in the fireplace, a campfire, a brush fire. As I watched this fire my mind started wandering to other places and other fires, and other women.

I became my mother, burning old files and papers in a 55-gallon drum in her back yard after my dad died.

Then I was my grandmother, burning trash in a sink hole on a farm or burning wood to heat water to scald the hair off a hog before my grandfather butchered it.

My great-grandmother, cooking meals in a wood stove before she got her first electric one, and heating their house with a coal furnace.

All of the women before her, who depended on fire for their heat and food and hot water for bathing, cleaning, making soap.

CG, who still does most of these tasks today.

The women of Cielo, burning small fires in the paths in front of their houses to heat water so they can boil rice to feed their families.

“Keep the home fires burning.” A WWI song, sentimentally describing the women’s responsibility to lead the household when their husbands and sweethearts were off to war. Almost 100 years later, the words remind me that some things don’t change.

They were summoned from the hillside
They were called in from the glen,
And the country found them ready
At the stirring call for men.
Let no tears add to their hardships
As the soldiers pass along,
And although your heart is breaking
Make it sing this cheery song:

Keep the Home Fires Burning,
While your hearts are yearning,
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out
‘Til the boys come home.

Overseas there came a pleading,
“Help a nation in distress.”
And we gave our glorious laddies
Honour bade us do no less,
For no gallant son of freedom
To a tyrant’s yoke should bend,
And a noble heart must answer
To the sacred call of “Friend.”

Keep the Home Fires Burning,
While your hearts are yearning,
Though your lads are far away
They dream of home.
There’s a silver lining
Through the dark clouds shining,
Turn the dark cloud inside out
‘Til the boys come home.

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2 responses to “fire

  1. in a fire is a good place to see things. So is the surface of water. One of the peasant fire things that I think of is in Pearl Buck’s The Good Earth (one of the absolute best books), where they don’t have much fire material and have made special stoves to burn a little grass with which to heat water for tea and rice (the grandfather says,”what? tea leaves in my hot water? what wasteful extravagance!”).

  2. I love that book too.

    I was picking up clumps of smoldering grass and blowing on them to get the flames to catch, and was thinking about all the civilizations that depended on someone’s ability to carry smoldering embers to keep their fires going.

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