It had been another day of strong winds blowing across southern Kansas. According to the National Weather Service, a “Red Flag” warning was in effect until 10:00 p.m. For those of you who might not live in a place where you have to worry about the countryside catching fire, a Red Flag warning means it’s a really bad idea to set something on fire. Dry conditions, strong winds and a few million acres of dead grass is just the sort of combination that can alter lives in a really bad direction. Mostly, people who deliberately set stuff on fire during Red Flag warnings are regarded as non-desirable elements in the local culture.
Having lived in a place or two where on a really quiet night you could hear the gene pool shrinking, I try to be cautious about flirting with a Darwin Award. But when I stepped out onto our small deck last night just before ten o’clock, there was almost no breeze at all. Since I was scheduled to leave for several days the next morning, I thought a little romantic diversion was in order.
So, I set the chiminea out on the deck and arranged the firewood in the burn chamber. (You can just almost see the whole story starting to unfold now, can’t you?)
I arranged the lounge chairs appropriately, poured a couple of small glasses of elderberry mead and invited Randa out to the deck. She was properly impressed with my efforts and the fire started up quite nicely. Lovely tongues of flame were soon rising up around the very dry wood that I had cut up from dead limbs that had dropped off a maple tree nearby. We settled back into our chairs, slowly sipping from our glasses and passing the time.
As it turned out, the passing of time shifted into the fast lane. That light breeze turned into a fame-seeking wind. Flames whipped out the leeward side of the chiminea, leading us to suddenly see the wisdom of moving our chairs back a couple of feet. As the wind surged and shifted, pushed and lifted, the flames changed directions.
Apparently, the National Weather Service does not have firm control over the moods of the wind in our part of the country. We decided not to add any more wood to the fire and kept a cautious eye on the deck, the yard and the neighbor’s wooden fence. After twenty minutes or so of something considerably less romantic than my intentions, the fire had died down to coals. Another twenty minutes and the last glow of coals had died into the ashes.
I have learned that not only is caution the better part of valor, it can sometimes also be the better part of romance. No matter how good our intentions, we should never forget that our intentions do not always control the outcomes. Some ideas have far better results in our imaginations than in the conflagrations that sometimes break out in the places where we live and work.