Fire on the Mountain
The other day in the library, I was rearranging the easy English readers. The pre-academic library uses Dewey, but these shelves specifically are just organized by the number of words. The students usually get assigned book reports using the readers, and they scan the shelves by difficulty level, so there’s really no point in alphabetizing.
But generally, these books get shuffled through and messed around, so it is my job to make sure the books are in some semblance of order once per shift. And it just so happened that one of the 800 word readers was misplaced amongst the 2200s, and I spotted it and pulled it out. And there, in big red letters, was the book’s title: FIRE ON THE MOUNTAIN.
For those of you uneducated readers, this title is also the name of a Grateful Dead classic, composed by drummer Mickey Hart.
I immediately took a picture of the book and sent it to my mom and sister, knowing they’d get a kick out of it.
And later, I went outside for my break, stepping onto the balcony to view the never-old, always mesmerizing panorama of the Mt. of Olives to the little Arab villages to the valleys to the Judean desert to the Dead Sea to the hills of Jordan beyond. And it is somewhat surreal, that my everyday landscape can constantly inspire Heschel-ian moments of radical amazement. And I breathed it all in, spreading my arms, to absorb in my body and soul, every molecule of the breeze and the beauty.
And I walked a little further, and there it was below me: the amphitheater where I had graduated, a mere five months ago.
But it wasn’t that event which entered my memory in that moment. Rather, it was the Mickey Hart concert I attended with my family and Him (I think he’ll be referred to as Ex1), in August 2013.
It would be the understatement of the millennium to say I was excited for the concert. A Dead Head by genetics, this would be the closest I had ever been to seeing the band that I worshiped. And I convinced Ex1 to come along, it was going to be fantastic. I kind of had to beg, actually. It was important to me. And I promised that after this I would refrain from schlepping him to any more events for a while.
Mommy, Erika and I were in our Dancing Bear tie dyes, my hair still long and wild, my shiny new diamond glistening appropriately psychedelic. Someone was interviewing people at the entrance, and Mom and I took part, talking about being Dead Heads in the Promised Land. Dad looked proudly on.
Among the sea of bearded hippies of many generations, someone called out “Amanda!”
I turned around to see Richie and Flo, two of my theater friends. “I knew you’d be coming to this,” said Richie, as he embraced me.
“Hey!” said Flo, “Mazal tov!”
Ex1 showed up pretty late. I told my family to go find seats, I would wait. And I couldn’t contain my glee about the occasion, a night of spectacular music in the Mt. Scopus amphitheater, with my family and the man who had proposed just a week and a half prior.
He didn’t smile as I excitedly took his hand and led him down the stairs. He said his hellos to my family, and I introduced him to Richie and Flo. He nodded and sat.
The concert was wonderful, start to finish. And I played that game with my dad, where we’d try to guess the song just from the opening chords. And there was “Samson and Delilah”, and “China>Rider”, and “Playing in the Band.”
I sang along, at the top of my lungs, hoping he would at least be infected by my smile. And I tried to get him excited, “Oh my gosh! It’s ‘Scarlet Begonias’! You’re gonna love this one!” but he remained unmoved, flinching away as I tried to take his hand to dance with me.
Richie and Flo beckoned me to come down near the stage where everyone was dancing. Ex1 shot me a look before I ran down. “Please come with me?” but he wouldn’t.
“Scarlet Begonias” is traditionally followed by “Fire on the Mountain.” The jams melded into each other as Erika, Richie, Flo and I swayed and waved our hands and nodded our heads among this community of like-minded people, enjoying the magic. Richie, who didn’t really know the music prior, found himself chanting the chorus along with the crowd: “Fi-ah! Fire on the mou-oo-ountain! Fi-ah! Fire on the mou-oo-ountain!”
It was glorious, and I loved it, and Ex1’s disdainful anger for leaving him to sit while I danced will not ruin that memory for me.