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.