Today is the bonfire, and I’m excited. My dreams have been bizarre lately, including one nightmare this week where no one remembered me. I remember a sort of reverse dementia, a living-death zombie world where I was a stranger to everyone. I have a sense the fire will heal me.
The Bearded One has installed a water sprinkler atop the aviary, to keep any embers from burning holes in the tarp roof.
The goats and chickens are locked down in the lower pasture, and the goats are not happy about the sprinkler as it is keeping them from the best view of the fire. They stand and stare. Like cats, they are endlessly curious.
I lay my nightmare at least partly onto cleaning the bookshelves for weeks, touching all those other worlds, all those stories. Now the fire is all the reality there is. Heat sears my face. I am glad the Bearded One made me put these goggles on. “It’ll roast your eyeballs up close,” he said. Sap pops. Sparks shoot straight up.
It’s a full moon, the week of Halloween. Our root cellar — a four-foot deep hole in the hillside with an adobe rim and a wooden cover — is empty, but I’m filling it with cabbages tomorrow.
Cabbages go into the big root cellar. Apples go into the little one. Carrots just stay in the ground.
For now I rake debris and feed the coals. I throw a pile of sticks into the neon orange glow. It’s hard to breathe. A huge black stump burns in the middle of the inferno.
Yesterday, we had a visitor, a lovely thirty-something massage therapist, a long-time friend of the kids, who is bored at work and fascinated with farm life and wants to know other realities. At least for a couple of hours. We talked and toured and ate burritos and cabbage and berry pie. The cabbage was a bit bitter, not the best. I hope the head I sent her home with is better.
During lunch, the Bearded One, who I have been married to for fifteen years but met in 1975, told our guest that he went to a naturopath back in the 1980s.
“I didn’t know that about you,” I said and put down my fork.
My shock was as much that I didn’t know something about this man as that this former insurance defense litigator — in his own words, Evil Incarnate — would seek out alternative medicine. His neck really hurt for a while after getting rear-ended by, as he says, “a nice lady in a big station wagon holding a tiny poodle in her lap.”
Our visitor told us about an alpaca farm she visited. She verbally built that whole world for us, the peaches and apricots, the broad middle-of-the-state valley, the river, the sunny sky, and the family including a thirty-something daughter who is a naturopath. I make a note to research their remarkable method for calming the alpacas for shearing — a lavender-based potion that makes them woozy and cooperative. Genius!
The fire roars now. The Bearded One hoses it down periodically so that the flames don’t soar 30 feet up into the cedar trees. He joins me, then draws me back to look at the cedar circle hanging 16-18 feet up a tree, mystical in the smoke.
He marvels at the long dead branches that stretch out in the summer, and still actually curl back up 4 or 5 feet in the winter rain. “What is it in those cells that still operates?” he asks.
“Zombie branches,” I say, feeling like myself again. “It’s Halloween.”