This Belgian village counts just a handful of houses, meandering across the hills. In front of the church, there’s a hand-written sign: “big fire on Saturday”. That’s about all the detail. Here, everybody knows everybody. And everybody knows where everything happens.
It’s the communal bonfire at the end of the carnival. The burning of winter in effigy.
As it gets darker, people start gathering on a hill outside the village. Some of them costumed. Kids are running around, high with excitation and fatigue. It’s freezing.
The human effigy stands at the top of the pyre, profiled against the night sky. The fire is started by a pregnant woman in a large, goofy lion costume. She lights up the front of the pyre, somebody else lights up the back. The flames are fanned by a sudden night wind.
The fire and the small crowd around it are an island of life and light in the middle of the dark. People get closer together involuntarily.
I watch the strange dance of flames and sparks flying over my head. The air is crisp and clean.
I am on a bright island in the middle of the black ocean.
What is there to burn and leave behind?
So many things.