I didn't build this; Grandpa did.
And it's not set for the solstice, either, although it can be. The settings are all marked. Right now it's set for September 19th. Grandpa suggested we leaders get together now, when we have a good idea of how good the crops are going to be, but before the harvest
work really starts. We can make plans for the winter.
It always seemed like I wasn't getting the whole story, though. He always told us the laser was very dangerous, and we should always - just to be safe around it - wear a patch over one eye. However, he never wore a patch when we set it up for any of the other dates.
Pa and I came in early this morning. Last year was the first year he had me help prepare the lasing room - this year is the first time I'm doing it alone. He says his knees are too bad to climb all the way up here.
So I had to make sure I remembered all the steps: untie the big sun-doors on the west side. Open them up and tie them back so the wind won't catch them. Check the hinges; put a bit of oil on them.
Untie the animal hide blankets from the open end of the mirror dish. The two hides on the bottom of the outer blanket - the hair-outside one - need to be replaced. We brought some extra, so I could do that later in the day. The inside blanket looks good, but I could see some lacing would need replacing next time.
So that's two trips up the big ladder to the top of the dish. Fifteen steps up; this dish is the biggest metal object I have ever seen. Grandpa used to laugh when I'd say that.
Then take the cleaning pole, with a nice soft fur wrapped around the end, and wipe down the inside of the dish. My reflection covers almost the whole dish when I'm in here. Start at the top, work down to the back, back out to the front at the bottom. It always starts out looking clean, but I still always get a pretty good pile of dust by the time I'm finished.
Next wipe down the big glass rod. "Nd-Cr-YAG", says the sticker on the end that sticks out from the bronze mounting. I touch the sticker; I never touch any of the rest of the rod. Grandpa had me touch the mirror once, then showed me with a lens how much oil my finger left on the surface. Then he made me clean the fingerprint off the mirror. I don't want to have to do that on the rod.
Then one last thing before I take the ladder down - I go back over the top of the rock above the lasing room and yell down to Pa. He has a nice white rock. He waves up at me, and drops the rock in the sand of the clearing. He has a pretty good idea where it needs to be. I go back inside, climb the ladder to the rod, and look through the sighting loops. Then, yelling through the hole, I have Pa adjust the rock until it's centered in the sights.
I take the ladder down, check to make sure that everything is out of the way of the dish. Then I scramble back over the top and down to the clearing. Pa has already covered the rock with wood he's collected - by the time we're done, we'll have a stack higher than my head.
Then we'll get some sleep. The others start to arrive in the midafternoon; the party will go into the night as long as anyone is willing to put more wood on the fire.
Sometime around midnight, we'll have a ceremonial meal. We take bread dough, roll it out thin and roll it up. These are baked on flat stones near the fire.
Then - and this will be the first time for me, since I set the laser this time - I will take one of the pieces of bread (which has been curved moon-shaped), and, while everyone else goes quiet, I will tear it in half, hold up one piece, and say (though I don't know why):