Thursday, October 9, 2008

Rain and Fire

We were blessed with the first real rain of the year and for me it was not at all too soon. In fact I could use more. We need to summon the rain gods to grant us a little more water, so let the rain dances begin. Our property has resembled a Midwestern dust bowl for the past three months, complete with dry, powdery soils and blowing dirt particles when dust devils twirl through our yard. After the gentle rain last week, the grounds were softly dampened, suppressing the dust just enough to satisfy me for a while.

Along with the first rainfall we celebrated the opening season for bonfires at our house. Fires are basically banned all summer long since all the lands surrounding us will catch ablaze if you so much as glance at the grasses the wrong way. So with wetted vegetation on the hillsides and valley, we can once again enjoy the return of glowing embers in the fire pit which symbolically marks the resurgence of a primeval ritual that has worked its way into our lives.

In preparation for the lighting of our campfire, Mike took all the kids to the wood pile and filled the bucket of the Kubota with "recycled" pieces of wood from a construction job. Lots of short pieces of 2x4 and other wooden undesirables get used for burning instead of going to the land fill. Once the gathering of wood is complete, the older kids get a free ride in the tractor bucket back to the fire pit. After unloading their fodder, they get busy placing the logs strategically for optimal burning.

Then with Mike in possession of gasoline, the true ignition source, the blaze flairs up instantly and spectacularly. Some day I will suggest they get out the stick and string and try the old fashioned way, when I think they need to prove themselves, but for now instant gratification is O.K.. I think this sudden display of fire triggers early evolutionary cues within their bodies harkening them back to the dawning of mankind. Add a couple grunts and exclaimations from the pack of males and imagine them with fur wraps and the picture would be complete.

I am a believer that the men in our family are really only semi-civilized. The boys, ages 7, 6, 5, and 4, all stand in amazement for a few moments, their eyes brightly shining while looking upon the red, orange, and blue colors that leap to heights taller than they stand. They can't help staring, they are men. In each child an eagerness is visible in their expression, but self restraint is applied since they have seen this before and know what it is like to get accidentally burned. The fire is anticipation, the fire is excitement, the fire is patience, and the fire is comfort. Many things are tied up in that fire for our little cavemen.

After the initial blaze dampers down and the fire is approachable, the boys get sticks and start to poke at the fire and its embers. Meanwhile, the adults set up a circle of chairs around the fire as the last light of day fades over the hills to the west. Cousin Adam takes his stick out of the fire, and since it is lit like a torch, waves it over his head until an adult tells him otherwise. Then Trevor gains the short-handled axe and goes to work chopping slivers off a large chunk of wood. He is very determined and is visibly concentrating with such commitment that I don't worry about him handling what is a potential weapon. This exercise is honing his hand eye coordination for sure, but why can't he do this with his school work?

Then someone then reveals a bag of marshmallows and the real festivities begin. Each kid has a long steel wire, made for just for toasting the sugar-loaded puffs. I hate to think what the ingredients are in the round, white, rather unnatural-looking treat, but I comfort myself knowing that we might finish but two bags a year. The little cave boys don't think twice about it. They each try their hand at toasting, burning, dropping and eating a few marshmallows; even little Ella gets a chance to cook her dessert with my help and ultimately ends up with streaks of sticky marshmallow on her face and in her hair. Aaagghhhh!!

Then as the fire settles to glowing embers and blackened wood remains alive with hot edges, we start to think about going inside. The chill of the night descends upon us and even with the fire, I think it is better in my house. However, with their inner caveman awakened, the boys fight to stay outside, and only reluctantly acquiesce. Sometimes there are tears as the adults drag the kids inside for baths. And at the end of a battle my son, Wyatt always asks me, "Mom, can we have a fire again tomorrow?"

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