Wednesday, June 29, 2011


YESTERDAY'S STORM BLEW IN some lovely, cool weather and I spent the morning in the yard, doing chores I should have done months ago, namely deadheading the Peonies and Sedum. The Sedum should have been deadheaded last fall, but the flowers turned a rusty brown as they dried and they looked so pretty that I left them there all winter. They stood out bravely against the snow even after the vegetative parts of the plants had died back and disappeared, but now, they are grey stalks amidst the succulent green leaves, and it's time for them to go. As I crawl along my path, weeding and trimming, I notice that someone has been making a snack of the lush buds. Probably deer, but it could be Ursula. My dog is mostly good, but she has the bad trait of stealing what I want for myself: tender spears of asparagus, low hanging grapes, fuzzy, green quince. I'll be lucky to get any Sedum flowers at all. I'll use my grandmother Nanny's trick of sprinkling cayenne pepper in the garden to deter illicit snacking.

Last night's storm also deterred some from the Solstice Bonfire at the Kalyx Center. It rained some here, but I hear it was far more blusterous in Town. By 7 only a few people had arrived. I had orders from Ellis, who had band until 8:30, to find out whether the bonfire would be rained out. My youngest likes potlucks, but the conflagration was the real attraction. The potluck would carry on in the barn, rain or shine, and I have great faith in Bill's pyrotechnic skills, but even Bill can only do so much with wet wood. The storm had passed, bringing a delicious coolness to the barn (with the help of the new ceiling fans Bill had installed). The sky outside was showing a lovely blue. “I hope you like small gatherings,” Bill said, and we nibbled on the small feast, so far mostly my bread and Margaret’s crackers and cheese. Pretty soon Andy showed up with a pasta dish and convinced Margaret to go home for her dulcimer, so she could treat us to a reprisal of her “rock star” concert. (While she was gone, Andy explained that she had played her music on stage at a dulcimer convention.) Margaret’s voice is like warm honey, and the songs she writes are lovely. I sat mesmerized as she played one about a surprise visit from an old friend that made me want to show up unannounced on her doorstep. As the sky cleared, more people drifted in, adding dishes to the table. When Andy's neighbor, Carolyn, showed up I discovered that Andy's neighbor is my chicken lady from the Monticello Farmers' Market. (Actually, she once asked me if I was “the chicken lady” too, and when we see each other at the market we always talk chickens.) Carolyn added substantially to the feast with her home-made rolls so round and plump I thought at first she was carrying was a bowl of peaches. She brought a crock pot of Sloppy Joes and butter in a glass dish and strawberry jam dated a few weeks ago, so we could eat our rolls two ways—delicious!

More people, more music, more food threaded through the evening. Ellis brought a friend after assurances that Bill would light the fire. The barn filled with an inter-generational crowd, and people mingled over cobbler and salad and quiche and roasted chicken. I met a man from South Africa and a woman from down the road. Dusk fell and I shamelessly asked Bill to ignite the fire so I could get home before dawn without disappointing my bonfire-loving son. As always, the carefully constructed brush pile was impressive, and Bill asked for dedications for the fire. One man dedicated the fire to his wooden flute, and Bill dedicated it to Central America. The fire caught slowly from the center, but soon burned a chimney up the center of the pile, and bright sparks flew up into the dark night like shooting stars. The flute accompanied the kindling of the fire, slowly and lightly at first, and then faster, more energetic, the music and the flautist dancing with the growing flames. Friends gathered and danced and circled the big fire, celebrating the birth of summer. Bill's beautiful daughters and their friends sang “Country Roads” in a lovely harmony. I joined in very quietly. We stayed until the fire burned past the volcanic stage, the main structure of brush burned away and fallen to glowing logs. I imagine there were s'mores and more music, dancing and talking late into the night. Driving home I thought about this day, the longest in the year, and how it holds the seeds of the beginning of the journey toward winter.

Burn in Beauty; Celebrate Peace; Blessed Be.

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