Sunday, March 27, 2016

Night Burn

In the midst of a night burn I stand; enchanted, enraptured, and elated at the sinewy and fluid life of a prairie fire; spellbound by the fleeting, floating fear that comes in waves with the billowing smoke.  As flame flickers over the ground, former life morphs to black dust, light flares out from darkness and then retreats, over and over again, up and down the hillsides to leave behind black earth and burned stems, reminders of days once lived.  The fire moans and hisses, secrets of past lusts and whispered goodbyes left to the silent stars.   I stand mesmerized, fire so close my feet grow hot, oblivious while I freeze the scene to memory.  Would I burn for the right photo, the photo that preserves the moment perfect?

You cannot stand before a fire on the prairie and feel not the life held within it.  It breathes, it grows, it moves and sighs, it eats and flickers and withers and dies.  Wind at its back, nothing resists it, the relentless hunger for fuel and air stops for nothing and no-one.  Behind it lies the ashes of victims and the curiosity of those safe, a clean slate for regrowth and fertile ground for life.  You cannot control a fire; you coax it, tease it, guide it or turn it.  Properly lured and fattened, it will follow a docile trail but turns at the slightest distraction, always at the sharp edge from lamb to lion.  Disloyalty is the inherent nature of a prairie burn, ready at any moment to turn on master and home, caring not if its fingers chase and wrap friend or foe in grasp.

With each burn, one wonders; have I started renewor or destructor? Will this be the demon burn that makes tomorrow's headlines and villains, or the meek and orderly angelic means of resurrection?  Fire responds wildly to touch, the touch of wind and radiant heat at its back arousing the response of a sailor on shore leave.  It runs quickly across dry ripened brome, fed on clean air and stored passion.  Fronted with younger and damper fuel, it turns again contemplative, licking gingerly at the margins, slowly drawing the next blade or clump of grass to its pleasure.  It hurries or waits, dependent on the eagerness of the fare, the endless fuel of the prairie, to submit to its desire of consumption.

Near fire, one moves or else is cornered, a reluctant beau captured in the arms of a lover.  A stumble here, a fall there, and I would know the fire closer, beyond warmed face and feet, joining blackened prairie in the next rebirth.  A philosopher might contemplate the choice and hesitate but I place a diligent foot, concentrating on the present path.  Each step through the darkness and haze offers the choice of tomorrow or forever and I feel it as I tread lightly amid the pyre of old life.   Through smoke, cross ash, lies safety and home.  I move there through the embers, joining clear cool air, a single step from peril to possibility; like the prairie, a single line of fire separating yesterday from tomorrow.      

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