It’s a forewarning of death and sleep. The daisies and coneflowers have shed their petals; they bow their brown heads to pay homage to the goldenrods and sedums. The trees adorn their coats of many colors before casting them off to sleep naked in the gray. The animals are on scavenger hunts, filling their cheeks with nuts and digging burrows to hide from the wind taking a deep breath, ready to blow away autumn’s last fragments.
It’s a season of death and sleep. The world has one more grand show before hibernation, one last exhibition of beauty before the color vanishes.
To bring life to a world ready for slumber is a delicate task. I cup my hands around my mouth and blow gently on the kindling, coaxing a single spark. Inhale. Breathe, and the straw flares with orange light, then dies.
Inhale. Breathe. The straw glows, fades, glows like a heartbeat I control with each breath.
Inhale. Breathe. Smoke hides the embers, which come to life with sizzling pops. I squint through the gray plume and blow again, carefully, not too hard to kill what I’ve created.
Flames lick the kindling. It must taste to their liking because they stretch higher, like sunflowers reaching for the sun. I lean back to admire this creature that is eating voraciously now, dancing with delight, swaying with the breeze to music I don’t understand. It mimics the coats of the trees but does one better, adding light to the color to make the leaves envious.
It is starving in its infancy. I gather thicker branches in my arms and carry them to arrange as an offering. Age will tame the beast down to rippling scales of pulsing embers and steady heat like the chest of a dragon. I lean back on my heels to admire it, my cheeks pinkening in the radiating heat waves that repel the persistent nip of the deepening dusk. In a season of death and sleep, I created a ravenous, glowing dancer that makes the shadows bend to its will and puts the leaves to shame.