June 22, 2007

Strawberries and fireflies

Early yesterday evening, I drove through the hills, past cornfields and red barns and signs that pointed to ski resorts, to the old white farmhouse that belongs to Plantswoman. The wind was cool, and I was glad as I stepped out of my car that I had changed into jeans and brought my fleece. Friends were already gathered in the kitchen. Plantswoman and her daughter had spread a tablecloth on the big dining table and were setting out food: bottles of wine from local vineyards, a big cut-glass bowl of ripe strawberries picked the day before, a basket of freshly baked biscuits, a tray of strawberries dipped in chocolate, and a bowl of cream that had just been whipped.

After food and conversation in the house, Plantswoman said it was time for the solstice bonfire. The clouds were turning blue as we carried chairs up the hill, past the carefully kept garden and horse pasture, circling around a lovely pond tucked into a hill. The bullfrogs were croaking, deep and loud, and jumping into the pond with splashes, and the little green frogs added their squeaky voices.

Plantswoman had asked everyone to bring a poem. (Yes, a scientist who tells her guests to bring poems. How cool is that?) So we had books with us as we walked up to the fire, and we kept talking about books too. Two landscape architects in the group mentioned James Howard Kunstler's The Geography of Nowhere, and that set us off analyzing Snowstorm City, with those of us who have lived here all of our lives chiming in to describe what downtown was like during the 1960s. Another woman had just read Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, and that set us off into a discussion about ways to eat seasonally.

"In June, it's easy to eat seasonal produce," said one woman as she dangled a fresh strawberry above her lips.

The fire was crackling in no time at all, with flames swimming about on the still surface of the pond. "We should go skinny dipping," Biologist Woman said, looking at the pond.

The thought was tempting, but the wind was still blowing, too cold for swimming in a spring-fed pond. Instead, we gathered near the warm fire, and listened as Storyteller told stories about her childhood, and about the lives her parents had led. They lived on the River That Goes Between Two Countries, back in the days before the Seaway was built, at a time when native people could get everything they needed from the land and the river. She talked about the difficulties her people have in maintaining their language, since so many of the old people who knew the language as children were sent to boarding schools that tried to erase that language.

Three of the women around the fire belong to our community choir, and it wasn't long before they began singing old folk songs. I sat on the ground, cross-legged, and fed sticks to the fire while their voices rose around me and fireflies came out to dance in the night air.

Solstice fire

13 comments:

YourFireAnt said...

Fireflies? already?

FA

Anonymous said...

Sounds nice. A lot calmer and more nourishing than the turn the comments took in your previous post! A solstice celebration, with strawberries, poetry and wine, sounds good to me.

AF

jo(e) said...

FA: Yep, I saw fireflies last night.

Artist Friend: Yeah, I figured it was time to scroll away from that whole conversation. You would have loved this solstice celebration. You've met Plantswoman, of course, so I know you would have loved to talk to her about moss and botany and all of that stuff, but you would have liked some of the other people at the fire too.

The gathering did include three men, but there was no singing of sea chanties.

Hel said...

We celebrated the winter solstice last night.

Curry instead of strawberries but was wonderful

Sue said...

Beautiful. I could almost hear the fire crackling and the women singing...

jackie said...

Next summer I'm determined to have a summer solstice party, and I think I'll ask everyone to bring a poem!

Sandy said...

Thanks for painting that beautiful picture. Last night, just after dark, I light 4 candles in the 4 directions of my medicine wheel under the ancient cedar tree in my frontyard.

Marie said...

Stunning. Thank you for taking me to such a beautiful place.

BerryBird said...

What a delightful way to celebrate the solstice. We've had fireflies in our backyard for several weeks now. Maybe it's the urban heat island. Either way, they are a joy to behold.

Songbird said...

Wish I could have been there, too.

cieux autres said...

Ah, Geography of Nowhere: the book that radicalized me. I could've fit in at this one. At least for a bit.

Mieke said...

Your writing is always so equisite - when I read your words, I feel like I am there with you.

almostgotit said...

Lovely post! My own firefly party this past weekend involved blackberries instead of strawberries but the conviviality sounds very similiar! Kismit! :)