The eastern sky was red as coals in a forge, lighting up the flats along the river. Dew had wet the million needles of the chaparral, and when the rim of the sun edged over the horizon the chaparral seemed to be spotted with diamonds. A bush in the little backyard was filled with the little rainbows as the sun touched the dew.
I know that the best time to see them is in that perfect hour before sunset when the sun sinks low on the horizon like a ripe peach and sends shafts of gold bursting through the trees. The “in between,” I call it. No longer day, not yet night; some other place and time when magic hangs in the air and the light plays tricks on the eye. You might easily miss the flash of violet and emerald, but I- according to my teacher, Mrs. Hogan- am “a curiously observant child.” I see their misty forms among the flowers and leaves. I know my patience will be rewarded if I watch and listen, if I believe.
This week I am sharing a series of photos which I took at our campfire near Great Sand Dunes National Park in southern Colorado last June. Looking at them, I not only remember a beautiful, cool summer night at just over 8,000 feet in elevation, but I enjoy making out figures and creatures in the flames. These images are like catnip for my imagination; I hope you enjoy them too!
#1: Twilight: Jupiter and Venus Approach
Night falls like a cloudy blanket while the bright planets preside, named for ancient gods of power and love. My husband wants to douse our firewood with lighter fluid but I, raised in the country, long for a steadier, prettier blaze that doesn’t stink of chemicals. The mountain air is already forgetting its moisture; I remember making fire. The local fire imps are not pretentious; a few matches and some dry wood are enough for their escapades.
#2: He Wore a Stovepipe Hat
Our first friendly imp appears wearing a stovepipe hat, his left hand flashing a peace sign- or is he making a fire bunny? No, it is only his pet snail. Dressed as he is, this dapper guest must be Uncle Sam or Honest Abe or else the duplicitous Cat in the Hat. And who was the surly rogue who fired a shot through his tall chapeau?
#3 Have a Seat
This one is asking for you, this dark skinned prince in a white tunic and headscarf. Nonchalant, he sits in the fire pit, sipping a very dry and spicy martini. While you hesitate, he becomes a gleaming prairie dog sitting before a cash register. “Are you going to pay up?” he chirps. All this talk of payment reminds me too much of Mephistopheles. Such an imp surely puts on airs.
#4 The Boy Made of Wood
Here’s a boy made of wood, his face smudged with ash and his nose lengthening suspiciously as he points into the distance, as if to blame some other soul for his mischievous handiwork. What lies has this rakish Pinocchio told tonight? Will there be more?
Soft boyish cheeks melt into air, revealing a shining, shapeshifting soul. Puck, your tail is showing!
The last deep colors of sunset conjure forth a molten geisha, lovely and untouchable. Her beauty appears delicate, but she would burn you without remorse.
Did you see something different? I’d love to know! I’ll have more fire imps for you soon!
We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us. Even while the earth sleeps we travel. We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered.