Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What The Fire Asked

For more than fifty years the fire has been watching the boy.  Fires know we are always boys, children, new.  Ancient things always see us as boys, we boys.  A yachtsman is just a boy with a toy boat to the Sea.  A cowboy is always a boy on a rocking horse to the Earth.  An astronaut is a sparkly-eyed boy to the Sky.  An artist is just a boy with a kite humming to the Wind.

To the old fire the man-boy looks sad today.  Fires know sad faces, fires know us.  Before there was Art, before songs and stories, before speech, the fire has been watching us.  All that came after - the long narrative of humanity - the fire has conjured.

The fire wonders what would lift the man.

"Where is the music, Bill?" it whispers through the dancing flames, calling him by name, by soul.

The man wanders away and comes back with the wooden music box with the strings and sings songs to the fire.  He sings stories to the embers and a tear trickles down the lines of his weathering face and sparkles like a gem to the old fire.  He sings of people and places, sons and hometowns.  The fire knows the songs but listens like it's the first time the song has been sung.

The man leaves and comes back emptyhanded yet fullhearted.  The fire has taken the sadness and will keep it for another time.

The fire watches the man watching it.  The familiar lines of loneliness and regret begin to carve and age his face.

"Where is the beauty?"

A basket of logs sits next to the fireplace.  He is drawn to one in particular.  A gnarled, knot-holed log, driftwood gray in a sea of warm wood tones.  Pretty.  Once it meets its old friend the flames dance in a spinning vortex, up through the hole, the dry wood catches fast.  It is beautiful and natural and right.  Without the loneliness, nothing is beautiful, nothing sweet.  Without regret the now seems vague, unformed.

The fire blazes and reflects itself back from the eyes that have long been watching and recognizes the sadness that comes from memories.

"Where is the Love?" the swirling flames cry out.

A picture of a young man with his arm around his younger soon-to-be wife.  Another, the black and white faces of two boys looking out into the what-is-to-come.  Pictures of family, friends, the departed, near and far.  Pictures of cats and boys and the silent, haunting outline of an old oak in the greytones of an Ansel Adams print.  Memories swirling from one to the other, a wave of love, all of it, at once.

The quiet in the eyes is for the fire only.  It knows now is the time.

"Where are the words?"

Right here, dear old friend, right here.

In lieu of telling more of this story, here are some images.

The images are important to me.

I can't really say why yet... because, well, I'm not sure.

Thanks for watching the fire watch us, it was nice of you to come.  Bring your axe next time, I'll put new strings on mine...


  1. I've been eyeing my own fireplace lately. Such an inefficient way to warm (someday an actual woodstove, or one of those insert things . . .) but you get so much more from a fire than just the heat.

  2. I enjoyed this Bill, nicely done.

  3. Good perspective on this piece. I myself have given things to the fire in confidence in hopes it will pass them to others.

  4. Up too early, worrying about the day. Thanks for this.