Saturday, November 30, 2013


Winter came and went, and before long I was nestled in a tiny cabin in the piny woods 13 miles outside of Bastrop, Texas. There was considerable downsizing involved--going from a 3-bedroom house in Austin to a 400 square foot cabin required selectivity. Among the first things to be abandoned were plastics. Anything plastic: tupperware, kitchen utensils, toys. It all went to a good home somewhere in Austin, while we rebuilt a tiny life in the woods where room could only be spared for natural materials, heirlooms, ceramics,glass, and hand-crafted furniture. This is what life was like: I (or my daughter and I) would arrive home before dusk, make dinner, then sit on the porch until night, watching first the pileated woodpeckers and finches at the bird feeder, the lizards and possums and endangered toads who (finally) had discovered our little pond. Later the tall pines would grow dark, and the owls would begin to call to one another far and near. I imagine the life of a river stone, tumbling downstream toward it knows not where. Maybe this is the best way to describe how it has been since the fire. The fire took everything, left nothing but ash, and sifting through that ash for remnants of who I might have been did not help recreate that being, not yet anyway. Still tumbling. But I have an unusual, lingering fascination with fire. I watch the heat rise and wonder: Was that what it was like? Did it hiss, was it fast? How long did my animals suffer? Tonight as I watch the dying embers of the chiminea, I am alone, and I am thinking of books lost: Annie Dillard, Adrianne Rich, and I think of this fragment of Song:
If I'm lonely it's with the rowboat ice-fast on the shore in the last red light of the year that knows what it is, that knows it's neither ice nor mud nor winter light but wood, with a gift for burning.