Charles E. Burchfield (1893-1967), Forest Fire in Moonlight, 1920; watercolor, gouache, and pencil on paper, 26 1/4 x 18 3/4 inches; Private Collection
Charles E. Burchfield, Journals, Vol. 17, August 1, 1914
Saturday, August 1, 2015
Supper composed of westerners, which over, we set about preparing to return. Before starting to lift turtle lines, we throw two logs on fire. One is a huge hollow one and creates a draft in its heart, which finds an outlet in a hole where was a limb, and the flames shoot forth, bringing a mass of sparks from the fluffy lignin.
What a cheerful thing is a fire in the woods: Even on a warm night its heat is a pleasure; the flames take on all shapes. The weeds around camp are no longer weeds but some beings advancing on us. Away from camp we still look back at fire & feel cozy.
Beautiful colors in a fire. Rich blue & violet in glowing embers. What is in those flames — trees’ history & history of its inhabitants. I idly poke glowing hunk of log, —a cloud of atomic sparks come up, looking like thready brass wire. Wood is the poetic fuel. Day time its beautiful blue smoke is not ajar. Thus thru fire do trees gain their heaven.
The ashes do not merely blend with the earth to be become eventually fertilizer for plants. A rain brings out a peculiar orange fungus growth which is entirely parasitic on the ashes.
On return homeward, moon obscured by dapples of clouds. Nature is changed by night. Dark woods on every hand seen like aboriginal forest yet to be trod by man.
Charles E. Burchfield, August 1, 1914