Fire is everything during winter out here. Sticks are gathered before a rain, broken, and assembled into a tangled mass. Paper bags, unwanted mail, and newspapers collect in the corner for fire starter. A chainsaw is brought into the forest where fallen trees and limbs scatter the ground. Once cut, the wood is hauled into the yard where it is split with nothing more than a sharp block of steel on a stick and manpower. Split wood fills the space between the rock wall and the kitchen counter on a good day.You get use the splinters in your fingers and burns on your hands.
There is an art to building a fire. The template, the material, and the quality of your resources can make all the difference. But a master can make sparks fly in any condition. Still, it requires persistence and constant maintenance. It only takes a good movie, devoted cleaning, or intense conversation to forget about the fire. I have tried to wake up in the middle of the night to keep the stove hot, but sleep is just so warm and comforting in contrast to the cold hardwood floor. First thing in the morning, before coffee is brewed, the fire must be tended. If no coals survived, a flame must be kindled. Usually a few cinders remain, but it is often not enough to catch the wood. Instead it fills the firebox with smoke, so opening the stove's door lets clouds out.
Recently, I spent time in a modern house. After weeks of giving a gentle nudge to the thermostat any time I didn't feel comfortable, I forgot about the fire. Central heat and air made me weak. I wore short sleeve shirts and walked on carpet with bare feet. The frozen world beyond the house couldn't touch me. The reality of winter was lost.
Today, I made a fire again. I collected moist sticks, ripped a paper bag to shreds, stacked my logs, and lit a match. As heat slowly emanated from the black box, I shivered, dreaming of that heavenly modern heating system. But then, I trudged outside and gathered frosty logs in my arms; upon entering the house again, I felt cozy and grateful. Listening to the crackle, touching the radiant heat, and smelling the faint smokey scent, warms much more than the body.
- Roslyn Imrie
- I am a mother, a teacher, and a nature lover. I grew up on a mountain we called Owls' Knob in the Ozarks of Arkansas. The first seven years of my life were spent living in a log cabin, far from a store or streetlight, without electricity or running water and after twenty years of travel, I returned to the abondoned homestead. Now I live on a hill by a small lake and work at a public garden. These are stories about nature written from a women deeply influenced by place.