Christmas trees are viking heroes. They deserve a death of flame and ash that is dispersed across the Pacific to the other side of the world or at the very least the Sierra Nevada Foothills. The wood chipper lacks romance. No one laughs or sings around the chipper truck like we do a decorated Noble Fir or bonfire. We rescue them in daylight as they dry on the curb just as the chipper turns the corner. A daring pull from the jaws of ignoble doom that is a mere half a block away. We rescue them at night, though there is no need, because it feels like being sprung miraculous.
Christmas trees sing hero songs into the flame. They do not sing carols. They chorus life, cry sun, shout triumphant as branches animated by embered gilt curl, flaking onto smoke.
They did not grow straight to the sun for our fleeting pleasure. Stack them, redeemed, in the afternoon heat. Let them dry desirable to the fire. Shove them in the back of the Tahoe, tied to the top of the car. Drag them – blue spruce, Canaan fir, Fraser fir, balsam fir, white pine – through sun-warm sand. Stack them (again) wooly and tangled next to the ordered blocks of pallets. Contrasts until the fire burns them equals.
Now wait. Choose this pyre’s location because here the sun’s fingers poke through the incoming marine layer over Point Loma and tickle the high rises downtown until each window flames like prayers. The undersides of the clouds to the West look like a secret. The moist-looking dryness of fungus in the heart of a rotted pine. Purple grey, buckled, and ridged.
El Cajon Mountain catches a spark from the downtown windows, a smoldering mound that quickly calms. The trees wait. Next to the pallets, they look discarded. Remember, fermented Spruce sap tastes like I want to be when I grow up: sparkly and shaggy and straight hearted. Willing to sing in the flame.