After the fire, I kept a small garden in the mountains. I always tended to show up as things were dead, in winter, in time for the tallest light the day would get to halo the seed husks at the tips of stalks burnt in cold and darkness. Whatever meager light is left over is soaked up into the snow, barely enough to parse the dull hues, more emitted than reflected, making the low chaos a simple binary gradient.
It was a long hike to see this, but it is still this; always more interesting than I remember and even the sexless weeds are bored with me and their place in my head. Who keeps a garden in a burnt strip on the shallow side of a mountain? This and other recent misjudgements hurt not unlike the cold air hurts to breathe. I usually unpack my tools and supplies and hack mindlessly at the frozen ground and hollow stalks, making a grain bill that wouldn’t begin to steam for 10 or 11 weeks.
I would toy with the idea of building a cabin near this garden. Nothing elaborate- like something from the Whole Earth Catalog that could be made from windfall or the welded beer cans that were once so fun to throw out of car windows. A potato radio in the kitchen and coffee beans busted with glacial erratics. A southern window made from greased butcher paper that the 2 AM zephyrs would buffet and the moon would write cyphers on. (Giggling notes: dimwitted moon.) And most certainly, a family dog escaped from the lost campers howling on the endless logging roads below would find me and be home. Many decades too late, we will appear in local lore.
The Dena’ina add fireweed to their dog food. The shoots, young leaves and flowers are edible raw. The buds can be cooked as vegatables. The stem pith can be used to thicken soups. But; it may act as a laxative if eaten in quantity. And the stalks do rattle woodenly, a dismissive heckle like an indignant samurai humiliating his disciples with a cane reed.