Thursday, September 7, 2017

Heart Fire

Posted by: Joely Sue Burkhart
Pumpkins on the front porch, witches on the wind, frost on the fields, colorful leaves... All things I love about fall. But I *especially* love bonfires. Or weenie roasts as my Beloved Sister calls them.

We drive up to my dad's farm about 1 1/2 hours away, out in the middle of nowhere (literally, he barely has cell or Internet services). He drags up a bunch of old stumps or fallen trees that he wants to get rid of. And we sit around the fire as long as we can.

Of course there's hotdogs on sticks and flaming marshmallows to go around. My kids love burning everything they can find. Their paper plates, cups, wrappers, anything lying around in Papa's garage that's not nailed down. It starts out too hot, and we're all complaining about hot cheeks and smoky eyes as we try to cook our hotdogs enough, but inevitably we start to get chilled. Those chairs draw closer and closer to the fire.

Someone asks for a ghost story. A real ghost story. Molly will tell us about the time she sneaked into the Old Plantation with her friends and felt something... dark... inside that definitely didn't want them there. We'll laugh about the daytime trip we took there a few years ago, and I'll say again that my blood has forever tied me to the house (I slipped on some junk in the upper floors and tore a hole in my favorite jeans and my thigh). We'll talk about the old cemetery outside.

And draw our chairs a little closer to the warmth of the fire.

I catch myself staring into the flames after awhile, listening to everyone talk around me. The flames are mesmerizing and I imagine them burning away all my problems and fears. The snap and crackle a mystical accompaniment. If we're very lucky, we'll hear some coyotes in the distance, or maybe a barn owl. The crickets and locusts sing in the background. We stare up at the night sky that's so clear and gorgeous -- full of the stars we can't see at home in the city.

I finally saw my first falling star this year at our first bonfire of the season. We stayed up until 3 AM talking around the fire. It was glorious. I didn't want the fire to ever go out.

I can already smell the smoke and feel the night air chilling on my skin.

I can't wait to get there again. The fire burns, still, but only in my heart.

Sitting around the bonfire, I remember that I have a spark inside me, and that it only takes a spark to start a wildfire. That I need to tend and feed that fire. I need to listen to it crackle (cackle) as it burns up my fears and indecision. I need to stare into those flames and read those secrets that only I can see.

I laugh at myself for thinking that I have an affinity for fire. That I can find answers in those flames.

I probably just have a weakness for s'mores, right?

But I feel that tiny flame inside, waiting for the chance to rekindle glowing embers into red-hot flame. It's bonfire season and there's plenty of old, dead wood to burn.

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