The end of last week, we got a windless day and we burned summer.
We have an area surrounded by the circle our driveway forms at the house, and Karen planted a native prairie in the rounded plot. Everything that grows there is native to the area, so it never requires watering or care from us. Compass plants. Various flowers that I don’t know the names of, but they are pretty as they progress from knee-high to, in some cases, flowering plants that tower over me. In September they go to seed. They begin to brown off, and by October, you have to really search to see any color outside the realm of ocher, sienna, and umber. Karen insisted on doing the cutting and raking alone. It’s almost a religious thing for her, I believe. Reaping at the growing season’s end. Preparing for the dead of winter by forming a pyre comprised by the dead of the growing season. It’s hard work, but she waved off my offers of assistance.
It’s been dry here. A mini-drought. We needed to have a day with little wind to safely cremate the copse of summer. We got one with only a soft breeze from the south, so with a couple extinguishers and a charged hose for emergency backup, we primed the fire on the north end of the pile and stood back.
In fewer than thirty minutes, the destruction was complete. Summer was gone. Reduced to ash and smoke that wafted into the brilliant fall sky, along with memories of the beauty that was gone until …
… next year. I look out now at the ground where the burning took place, and I can’t help but ponder the difference between the life cycle of annual plants as contrasted with the cycle of human life. The native prairie is denuded soil, but it will return to its former glory by next June.
An aging man stands and pledges to be present to witness its rebirth. With a nod to the reality of being a human north of sixty years,