Category Archives: Substances


Just ashes and stale smoke.

Fire is this really cool thing that happens with wood and friction and oxygen. Oxygen is this weird thing that is supposed to be the air, but the air is really mostly nitrogen, so I have no idea why we keep giving oxygen all the credit.

What do you think of when you hear the word “nitrogen”? For some reason, I think of a balloon-shaped banana… and what I really meant to write was a banana-shaped balloon… anyway.  I really ought not to think this, considering balloons have helium in them and bananas have potassium in them. I never was very good at chemistry, folks. The periodic table was as interesting as it got for me, and still I didn’t understand what I was doing.

That aside, fire is still cool, and I should really attempt to stay on topic. That is part of this exercise.

It is?

Now it is.

Okay, then.

Fires can be built in all manner of ways, and everybody seems to have their own idea as to how they should be built. Put three people together to build a fire, and it becomes chaos, because they are all trying to do it three different ways, but nobody really notices, because of the whole “common goal” thing. But if one of you is leaning, and the other is stacking, and another is just throwing a bunch of brush together and staring at it for a long time, that is when it is time to name a leader. Unfortunately, everyone thinks his way of building a fire is right, so they try to hijack the project, and we’re just left with a bunch of egos pushing each other around.

It’s kind of a big mess.

And a really horribly accurate reflection on the world these days…

Nevertheless, somehow the fire gets started eventually. It was probably because one person, whose name may or may not have been Jessica, just decided to sit back and have faith that eventually this would happen despite the circumstances.

Many a night we would build a bonfire in the pit across the street from the farm. The area was tucked away in an old overgrown private golf course surrounded by woods full of Live Oak trees towering like pure-hearted wise old giants who would hold us and give us shelter for eternities if we only asked them. We would talk about life on the farm, laugh about the owners’ kids and their favorite word, “diaper”, and occasionally exchange stories about life before the farm, involving eternally famished pet pigs, “find the fire in the trashcan” games, and general musings about the days when everyone’s hair was longer.

Many significant memories and feelings are surrounded by images of the fire. A couple of times we kept it burning all night and managed to stay awake, catching ninth and tenth winds, musing philosophy. Many times we would do a fire several successive nights, starting it from the previous night’s red coals.

You all should really burn a pixie stick and listen to the sound of the falling melted plastic.

We didn’t always have fires in the fire pit. Sometimes we had them inside the old colonial-style kitchen. The space was big enough to roast a significantly sized pig in (which the owner of the farm occasionally did, actually), and the room had a crunchy, dusty smell to it. A few times we would go over to neighboring farms and have fires with the other farmers. Many musicians worked at Jonathan’s farm, so there was always an exchange of tunes, which seemed ever so much more haunting around the flames; at Chase and Charlotte’s, we’d hike through the woods and across the creek to have a big fire on the beach.

One night, everyone else was drunk and high enough that on that beach I taught them the “Single Ladies” dance.

That really does cause me to question my own sanity, when everyone else has to shove a bunch of substances into their bodies in order to reach that state I apparently exist in all the time; the state of whimsy, of low inhibitions… why people feel like they have to fill their lungs with smoke in order to see beauty in a thunderstorm, or feel the world is still a safe place.

And then what? When the substances aren’t there, existence is harder, and you just wait for a time when you can continue their consummation.

I do not wish to chide anybody; people I love are like this, and I still love them. I am just sad and I wonder at this sort of existence. It is very easy to embrace it to the extent that your mind mistakes it for heaven; the epitome of being. That is what I see in the eyes of every gambler in Vegas with a cigarette and beer in one hand and a slot machine lever in the other: this is all there is, this nothingness, and its sinister song is a never-ending siren’s melody.

Am I powerless to show anybody that it isn’t this way? That new life can be drawn from a simple walk down to the Mississippi to pick a flower and swing in a giant swing right over the water, watching the ships go in and out? Would anybody believe me?

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Posted by on May 11, 2011 in Memory, Substances

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