In my corner of the country, spring is the signal to burn the prairie. Start fresh, and purge the landscape of weeds and seeds and spindly trees. This fire-fallow cultivation is a showy signal to Mother Nature and a tell that it’s time to beckon the sprouted green aftermath.
Like thunderstorms, the sensual lure of the fire is fascinating to the farm girl side of me. I’m drawn to the lick of the flames and the way its fiery tail snakes through the prairie grasses. If the wind is just right, the roar will rise to the open sky as the sound surrounds the soul bowing beneath its heat.
The men in my family have always understood the science behind a controlled, agricultural burn. Over the decades, I’ve watched the experts and learned, and I’ve played with fire, too. As a pre-teen, I stood at our backyard trashcan and practiced coaxing the flame from one strand of grass to another with a wayward twig…or gasoline.
But during a prairie burn, I’m content to hide my pyromaniac tendencies behind a camera lens. My husband and his friend speak in code to each other, and if I listen close enough, I learn the secrets of fire breaks and burn circles. The intricate dance of escorting the inferno to the perimeter without making the mistake of letting flames jump the road and become the uninvited guests of the neighbors.
The appointed evening was chosen because it had rained the day before. The wind was quiet and the night was clear and humid. The guys complained that the conditions made it difficult to keep the fire going, but I was content because it made it safe for me to crouch in the grass next to the flames and steal some photos.
Fire and thunderstorms share the same ragged corner of my mind and I’m drawn to the metaphor. With each of these forces, there is a purge, a cleansing, and a fine line between fear and excitement. Spring is the season of new life and renewal. Out with the old and in with the new.
Are we able to do that as easily with our lives as we are with the flower beds, garden sheds, and dotted prairie plots? Each spring I have good intentions to let old habits, grudges, waning friendships, and negativity fall away.
Let it go. Let it fall. let it be.
Yet, I’m drawn to the flames, and I keep looking for a way to play with fire. To make deals with myself that I’ll build a break to keep the bad habits from hopping the road and burning those around me.
I know this sounds melancholy, but I assure you that I’m not. Something about watching the flames last night made me want to share the moment with you. As I snapped the photos you see, I counted my many blessings, made promises to be a better mom, wife, and friend. A vow that launched me toward a controlled burn–to get rid of weeds, unwanted seeds, and debris. To tidy up the brain for a productive and verdant harvest in the months to come.
What is it about a fire that draws, lures and beckons us toward the fatal blaze? The desire to feed the source coupled with the sensibility to douse it out once it’s served its purpose or delivered its destruction.
I have no enlightened answers.
Just a torch and a camera.
How about a little fire, Scarecrow?