“How’s your pyromania?”
Mom was standing in the doorway. I’d just gotten out of the shower and was picking at a callous on my foot; reviewing the meaning of pyromania in my mind, I assured myself it meant what I thought it meant but couldn’t figure out what her question had to do with what I was doing. “I’m confused.”
“Your Dad’s out burning, he’s going to need some help keeping it going,” she explained as she walked down the hall.
A smile spread across my face. “It’s up!” I called after her. I pulled my hair back, changed t-shirts, put on my boots, grabbed my gloves and walked outside. When the snow had first started to melt, I had remembered with satisfaction that it heralded burning. Then the fire permit appeared on the fridge under a palm tree magnet, and finally today was time to burn.
For the first time this year, the temperature broke into the 60s reaching a wonderful 69 with low humidity, not that it mattered near the fire; heat waves rippled the air and felt like an instant sunburn. Flames licked twigs, wet limbs smoldered, pine needles smoked and crackled into floating sparks. I had a strong urge to toss all my filed paperwork into the fire. Instead I threw more sticks in wondering when my loose glove would decide to make its suicidal leap into the flames.
Dad found a great green limb and sawed it to my specifications for the perfect poking stick: about four feet long with a lopsided Y at the end for a little fork action. Mom joined us and we spent the rest of the afternoon picking up sticks from the yard and sawing fallen trees into manageable pieces. With some experimentation, I was soon reading the fire: small twigs here, chunkier dry branches there, increase the temperature to burn it all: easily my favorite type of yard work.
In addition, we retrieved outdoor chairs from the shed and carried them up to the deck; the glass-top table we left for another day. Smoke permeated our clothes, skin, hair, so we opted to pick up dinner since none of us was going to cook. The fire burned down to ash, embers, and charcoal. Dad carried shovelfuls of snow from one of the remaining piles in the yard and tossed it on top. Smoke smoldered through gaps in the snow like dry ice until it was sufficiently covered.
We picked up some grinders and chips and drove out to eat with a lake view. On a hill above the water, the vista through the trees was impressive. Most of the lake was still covered with ice which gave me a better idea of how thick it had been. Beyond the lake were mountain ranges; Mom pointed out the tower on the tallest mountain in the state. The mountain next to it looked taller.
“It’s an illusion,” my parents said overlapping each other. A discussion of measurements, sea level, and altimeters lead me to conclude that altitude measurements are always relative to something and thus can’t be absolute. As my Dad pointed out, even sea level isn’t constant with the pull of the moon affecting tides.
On the way home, Mom got a coffee and I got a hot fudge sundae from Ben & Jerry’s. I ate outside while Mom called her sister, and Dad went to shower. Near the end of my sundae, I was shaking with cold so I went in and down to the basement so I wouldn’t smoke up any chairs that mattered.
A rerun of Smallville was on that I hadn’t seen: a pivotal episode in the story arc that I’d missed when something I liked better was on opposite some other year. Earlier in the day, Mom handed me the latest novel by my favorite author. It was shaping up to be a perfect day.
Last to shower, I dumped my smoky clothes outside the bathroom door since mom planned to throw them all in the wash. Pajama-clad, I towel dried my hair and watched the season finale of West Wing. Though a great hair day at this point might seem to be a waste, I felt it topped off the perfect day.
Perfect until I checked my email and my on and off again cell service recanted the promise they made to me yesterday. Maybe I should delete that in the hope that in the future, I will remember today as unblemished perfection. My memory is generally too good for such tricks to succeed though, particularly when it comes to remembering the negative. Instead, I will end by saying I had more fun today than I have had in a long time and that burning brought back fond memories of other fires from my youth, the house we used to live in, and my best friend when I was five.
tags: pyromania, burning brush, fire, perfect day, anecdote