It may seem strange to find almost an entire chapter of a book written about fire; almost fire worship, but fire for the nomad is the heart of the daily life. Gathering place for travelers and their animals the fireside; oven for the travelers’ rough but wholesome bread; protector of the family in the dark nights, it keeps away wolves, snakes, rats and vampires; giver of warmth and good scents, and always a thing of everchanging beauty in glowing embers, galloping flames and flying, spiraling sparks.
Fires are perfume from nomads; every wood burns with a different scent: hawthorn like the white blossoms of the tree, apple wood like apples, pine like the fragrant pine resin and needles, almond like the nuts when crushed, and rosewood like roses. But of all the things for burning, I love best the brushwood fires of rosemary. In the villages of the Sierra Nevada, in the stone ovens of the farmhouses of the Balearic Islands, in all of Spain, where rosemary grows wild in endless stretches over hillsides and sea cliffs and pinewoods, the bakeries and ovens are often fueled with rosemary, and the pungent rich scent of that woody-stemmed plant, mingled with the wood-baked wheaten bread, fills the air and is unforgettable.
Frequently in places where I have lived, my fires have been of rosemary, and I dried my children’s clothes by such fires, and all their clothing was rosemary-scented. In Galilee, where I stay quite often, I can do likewise, as in my herb garden there, the many rosemary bushes which I planted for my bees grow tree high. My children are grown now and have just completed military service, but I can scent my own clothes with rosemary from the nightly fires and have it wafting through my rooms.
In its beauty the wood fire is endless: the gold, yellows, oranges and reds of the flames are a true bouquet of wild tulips, and the rising smoke is many things of loveliness, like the wands of purple lilac blossom, frosted fern fronds fringed silver antlers of stags, and feathers the wild gees cast as the fly. And there is the fire music! The snapping and cracking of wood, as castanets in Spanish Gypsy hands, and the sea-like pound and roar in storm, and the overall humming fury of a swarm of bees in nuptial flight.
Juliette De Bairacli Levy
“In Memory of Juliette the Grandmother of Herbal medicine”