There’s this story my mom used to tell about her grandfather, one that lives vividly in my memory. She’d grown up literally next door to him on the family farm and whenever she spoke about him, even decades after he’d died, her voice went thick with love and affection. You could hear how much he meant to her as she’d quip that he was “a bit of character; well, a bit of everything.”
Anyway, the story goes like this: Some years but not every year, after the harvest was finished, my great-grandpa would set the fields on fire. He apparently took great joy in this task, to the point it seemed he looked forward to it more than anything else all season. One year, the blaze got a bit out of hand and as the fire truck came racing down their gravel road, my mom looked up to see her grandfather hanging off the side of it, smiling wildly. She painted such a clear picture of this moment that even I, who had never met him, could picture it in my head with total clarity.
Unfortunately, she didn’t explain to me that he set the fields on fire for a reason so for many years of my childhood, I just believed my great-grandfather was some sort of pyro and that the family, oddly, had chosen to not just accept but seemingly embrace it. It was only when she heard me telling the story to someone else that she was able to add the bigger context. He did it, she explained, because farmers believed it was a helpful way to clear the field of all that was left and to make the ground more fertile for the next season’s crops. Doing it every year was too much, but every few years? Just right.
I think people are like that too. We can’t do a massive clean-out on ourselves every year but like farmers, we often feel when the time is right. When there is too much residue left on the field; when we’ve harvested everything we can and what’s left is junk and it’s time to clear the space out for something new to grow.
There’s a name for this. It’s called a prescribed burn and though I am far from a farmer, I’ve just done the equivalent on my website. This is my first post post-burn and I am so excited to plant something new. On Friday, I’ll write in more detail about what’s next but for now, I just wanted to introduce this new space and say I totally get why my great-grandfather liked setting those fields on fire. It feels good to know when something is done; it feels good to watch it burn.