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TENDING TO THE FLAMES

No matter how much I tossed around a hike in my mind, poked at it, cupped my hands around it, blowing gently on the flame, I couldn’t get myself out on the trail today. Maybe it was my nagging injury, maybe the slow-drip-sap of quarantine, but I just couldn’t get myself out of the house. I just sat there, on my porch, in my chair, hands behind my head and feet out, watching the last of the Live Oak leaves tumble down like shredded ribbons across my front yard. My wife sat beside me, reading a book about her favorite country singer, and I just looked out; out of a window that wasn’t there, squinting my eyes from the rays of a cloudless sun. At dusk, we went for a two-mile walk around the neighborhood, and every dog, it seemed, rushed at me, snarling with its wet nose pressed up against the fence, and goaded me, showing its canine teeth.


When we got home, my wife started cooking, and I decided to start a fire. I pulled out some piñon, took out my axe and chopped up sticks for kindling. I stacked them into a teepee inside of my rusty fire bowl pit, and lit the last pine resin stick I had, running the lighter’s flame over the sap, whetting the candy-corn-tipped flames. Somehow, I felt all of the unease, restlessness, and silent agitation that I carried all day burn off of me, tending to the flames. Poking the bricks, moving the logs over other logs, the embers popped off like battery sparks, and I blew underneath, gently, ever so, to keep up the flames. I closed my eyes to better feel the heat, and listened to the resin bubble on the bark and the fire hiss. Under power lines and the twinkling stars, I sat in my backyard, and learned. Every fire takes tending, a tending to the flames.


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