vendredi 20 mars 2009



is there really any question where this flower got its name?

Heat. That's what it takes to burn green wood, especially a great quantity of green wood. Two treetops of green wood, to be precise.

I knew it, but I was trying to take the lazy way out. Just stick scrunched up paper into the great mass of bio and try to make it burn. Nope. Sheets of paper and envelopes sans fenêtres don't provide enough calories to make the kind of energy I needed. Not even packing boxes from IKEA, as well as they burn. I needed real heat and a lot of it, sustained. I'd need to build a real fire.

I have learned, although many years after leaving the Girl Scouts, badly disappointed by the quality of the time spent with them, that a big fire needs to start with a little fire that burns hot and steady, and to which you add additional material for it to consume. This fire should find itself at the center of the pile, which must never exceed its force, smothering it or overwhelming it. Having been beautiful all week, with not a drop of rain since I don't remember when, it was time to stop being lazy and go burn not only the linden treetops, but the rest of the stuff I had cut last year and never burned, as well as the drying reed roots we had pulled from the fish-pond-in-a-basin and left lying all over the top terrace.

I went up to the attic for some packing boxes, grabbed a little paper from the recycling and a box of matches and headed down the stairs, followed by Baccarat. I had taken Rapide to the vet earlier to have the cyst removed from her left tear duct. Baccarat was not herself. A quieter version of Baccarat. Baccarat in the doldrums. Then, I picked out a few choice pieces of old, dry wood and gathered up some dried out weeds from the ground around the burning pile, made a little pile, stuffed one sheet of scrunched up paper in under it and lit a match, holding it to the paper. A flame crept up, caught the dry weeds, spread to the dry twigs and I was ready to lay a small log from the pile behind me on my fledging fire. More dried weeds and twigs, and the fire grew. I chanced a second log, slightly larger. It continued to burn. Taking a chance, I picked out a slender linden tree shoot from the pile and broke it into three and laid it on the fire. It didn't sputter out. I added another, and a third, breaking each one into shorter lengths to keep the fire concentrated on the heat of its center.

They burned. It was good to go, and I needed to remove my sweater already, there in the full sunshine and heat of my growing fire. The temperature climbed to at least 18° C, without the heat of my fire. Our vet was in surgery, operating on Rapide's eye. My husband was in the OR at the infertility clinic in Poissy, inserting embryos into welcoming wombs, and I, the former, once-and-always architect, was breaking linden branches with my bare hands and boots, making a fire.

I kept on picking out linden branches, breaking each one, the larger ones under my booted foot, into short lengths, as the church bells rang 10, and 11 and, eventually noon with all the glory of midday. One treetop was nearly burned through, and my shirt and jeans were soaked through. It was hot as hell. Several times, my hand felt what a sirloin on the grill feels when it got to hot. Once, I thought I had no more eyelashes on my left eye.

My hair was stiff with sweat by the time the second treetop was burned, and it was time to start retrieving everything from the top terrace, rake the twigs and dried oak leaves from last fall, fallen all around my burning pile, and scoop up as much of the damp leaves and grass from the old burning pile, sitting next to my fantastically hot new one, as would burn.

It all burned. Every bit of it as Baccarat lay under the protection of a fir tree's lowest branches and watched the progress. The world must have felt distinctly heavier from all that released phlogiston yesterday.

Meanwhile, poor Rapide. Life sucks with a lampshade around your head. She can't get through doors or negotiate corners or steps without banging her lampshade into everything.

Last night, I took her out to relieve herself. Both dogs having finished, we started in, Baccarat on her leash next to me, and Rapide -- where was she? I waited, and then I traced my steps back. I couldn't see her beyond the BMW, which is back, almost as good as new. There she was, sitting at the corner of the building.

"Rapide? Qu'est-ce qu'il y a? Viens." Nothing. She wouldn't move. She just looked at me.

"Rapide? Mais viens. Allez." Nope. "Allez, Bacs, on va voir ce qui se passe." I walked up to her, and she didn't turn to head back for any additional relief still needed. She just sat there.

"Rapide, allez, viens avec moi." She had never done this. Not once in two and a half years. What was the problem? Why wouldn't she come? Then, it dawned on me. She must have banged that damn lampshade into the corner more than once and decided she'd had it. I took hold of her collar, laced through the base of the lampshade -- there to protect the stitches and her eye --, and coaxed her forward. "Je te guiderai. Ca va aller."

The poor thing.

This morning, there was a pile of plaster on the floor at the doorway from the living room to the entry. I found it sweeping.

"C'est quoi ça?" asked Audouin.

"De plâtre."

"Oui, je sais, mais qu'est-ce que ça fait là?" Good question. What was that pile of plaster doing on floor? "Ca vient d'où?"

"Le mur?"

"Oui, je sais, mais comment ça qu'il y a autant de plâtre parterre?" Another good question. Why was there so much plaster on the floor? The answer to that came to me when I watched Rapide try to follow me into the petit salon later. Her lampshade crashing into the doorway and scraping along the old, damp plaster that was supposed to be removed and replaced in the interior part of the contract that will never be, not now.

Poor Rapide!

If she'll hold still, I am thinking of painting it like a big Osteospermum flower. Just imagine that with Rapide's face in the center of the petals.

Only 12° C today. It was about 18° C, according to Audouin's motorcycle, yesterday at about noon. There was a frost last night. We're not quite done with winter, yet.

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