As night fills the glass of the sky, Margarete and I walk through a pasture, straight towards the manic glare of a towering fire. We follow the thrashing light into a stone quarry, where stripped rock walls form a raw amphitheater for Midsummer’s bonfire. From the heave of bodies around the blaze, amplified music pumps new rhythms through my breastbone. I can’t feel my own heartbeat. The moil is dressed in Dirndl and Lederhosen, and the choice accessory is a bottle of local brew.
Like a row of ribs, felled trees burn on the bonfire, blackened bars of a cage that can’t fetter flame. A rib collapses, startling the blaze, and a mob of sparks swarms free. On the riptide of the wind, these fire-fish dart and flurry, flounce and dive, ebb and eddy in the spindrift. Riding smoke-tides, they sail to the end of the sky.
Girls in Dirndl and barefoot boys dance on the inferno’s shore. Pirouetting through the smoke, they saunter close enough to feel like the first explorers of the sun. Here we are again, every summer for a thousand summers, circling a Solstice fire. I step closer to remember the heat, bottling the memory for a year of rainy days. Soon, my plutonian orbit will take me far from our homemade sun. When I arrive in Iceland this September, the nights will grow longer, toothier. By Winter’s Solstice, night will have wolfed down day. Once again we will have to make our own suns, small ones.
Margarete and I are walking back through the pasture when I see three tiny lights bobbing on the shadows. Like escaped sparks riding midnight’s tides, the fireflies sail by. They are white-hot and on the run.
‘Meine erste Glühwürmchen,’ I say.
‘Im Jahr?’ asks Margarete.
I shake my head. ‘In meinem ganzen Leben.’