When I was growing up in Iowa my grandmother lived right across the street. Ok, so that’s not hard to do in a town of seven hundred people, but nevertheless you have to admit that’s a primo situation. And I’m not just talking about the cookies and “pop” at halftime of mowing her lawn — to say nothing of the twenty she slipped me when the deed was done. My grandma Louise was a dear, sweet, generous woman. Slight of build but tough as re-rod, like many of her generation. She didn’t care much though for garter snakes occasionally popping their heads up in her kitchen drain, but then, who’s keen on that?
All the years I knew my grandma she had bad eyesight, and would use a big round magnifying glass to help her read. You know, the classic steel rim, black handle, Sherlock type. Made you smarter just gazing through it. I of course would run off with this fine instrument whenever inspiration and opportunity kissed, as in when I was moved by that boy-of-the-prairie urge to roast some ants on the sidewalk. Mmmm… smoky. And don’t tell me you haven’t dreamed of doing this yourself, oh you of sheltered living. It’s a remarkable experience, and cross-cultural at that. Clearly a win-win. Now, of course you can use a magnifying glass to roast any small object you choose, but we of the higher order prefer ants as targets, probably because of that primal, largely indescribable mutual respect we most certainly share. Words cannot express. But you knew that.
You also know how this works. A bright sunny day… a slab of concrete… a few willing ants, or at least those traveling unawares… and the Sherlock. Kneeling, you hold the magnifier to catch the best line between sun and earth, and you draw it back and move it forward, and draw it back and then forward again, and… you find the point. That most precise point. That point of fire. And it’s as though all the power of the mid-day firmament is gathered and focused, heaving and firing through that glass in those few moments of fleeting boyhood. And you become aware of powers untamable. Worlds beyond. If for a moment you have managed to harness a mere glimpse of it. Wonder of wonders. The fire burns, and you cannot stand in its presence.
The middle of three. And it must have slammed into the earth, driving hard into the hole prepared. Hauling down with it sun and light of day and ease of breath until there was darkness over all the land. Timbers rough cut. And a piercing. A puncturing. And a draining off of all known things. A fresh exposure. And a terrible and wonderful grand silence. Before the rocks splitting and the curtains rending and the tombs opening and the last words of God dying above this hole of fire.