When I was young, I started a fire. My parents had recently removed the old Christmas tree from the living room, and they’d left it lying a few feet away from the end of our brick patio. Spring was coming rapidly, and the whole family was outside. My brothers and I were playing together, racing around the house, shouting our little heads off. Mom and Dad were working on some yard project or other.
I can’t remember all the details, but I remember that tree, bursting into flame like a match. It made a whooshing sound when it went up, like evergreens tend to do. The blaze popped and crackled, and it was so hot I had to back away, to watch. When my parents asked what had happened, I told them that my younger brother had done it. Years later, though, I confessed the truth of the matter.
Fire is an amazing and wonderful thing, and I suppose I can understand the fascination with it that surrounds Ron Rash’s “Burning Bright.” As years passed and I grew older, I was often given the responsibility of starting a fire when my family was working in the garden. Living in a forest as we do, there’s never a scarcity of wood that needs burning, or can be burned for sausages.
I always put care into kindling the flame, and my father often commented on the constructions of logs, twigs, and dry bark that resembled miniature pyres, or Lincoln logs. Lighting them was a pain, at times, and I’d burn through several matches before they went up. But those first few minutes of a fire, when the wood is funneling the breeze into the budding flame and the blaze is roaring like a distant lion, are magical. Staring into the flame, I’d let my mind drift and wander, and wonder what it’d be like to listen to all the stories told around a fire in the evening.