The coals from the bonfire last night are still smoking in the firepit down by North creek. The flames only threatened to get out of hand once, and the Toronto cop who buzzed us arrived after what little fuss there was – all on the part of visitors, for our sons never broke their country-bred amble – was over. “Everything under control?” The cop, like the sons, gave no sign of agitation; it was the casual inquiry of one who already knew the answer. Our red flatbed pickup is parked on the brow of the hill, forty feet above the firepit, bleachers of cinderblock and two-inch oak board making of it a grandstand for friends watching the fire. The cop received his answer in the affirmative with a nod – he is young, with dark hair, not known to us personally, but familiar from town – and backs his patrol car up the steep drive and onto the county road again. This has really been a courtesy call; we are outside the city limits, as he knows, beyond range of his jurisdiction, but even Saturday nights are far from lively in our little village, and this run up the hill may have been part welcome distraction, part neighborly helpfulness. It is good to live where the cops are outnumbered by the gas stations (three) and you see them at daily mass in the mornings.
The bonfire, burned in celebration of the Annunciation, but built without deadline over the last year or so — a sculpture erected of the detritus of all our recent projects, constructive and destructive — stood, until last night, some fifteen feet tall and twenty wide, topped with the bleached shreds of what was our Canaan fir Christmas tree. The flames, when they reached this, fanned high above our heads, elevated though they were forty feet by the hill, and another eight or ten by the truck and bleachers; the sound of their crackling progress through pitchy needles was like the sizzling of fat in a kettle. The crackling is oddly punctuated by the sound of running water, coming at intervals through the tossing heat and flame; it is the sound of the waterfall at the culvert, only reaching us as the column of heat, as effective a sound barrier as a stone wall, wavers on the breeze coming fitfully up the draw.
Events like this one are only occaisional here, as anywhere except Disneyland, and, heightening the sense of festivity, with the flames of the bonfire there rise the smokier, roiling flames of kerosene torches, placed on alternate fence posts around the north end of the bee pasture. A final two are made wtih three-pound coffee cans and placed over the front gate. The effect is as of another world.