Dec 30, 2012

A fire-free funk

The little gas burner, running about half-speed, issues a hissy warmth, and the thermometer on my desk registers 72 degrees. I shouldn't be cold enough to require a jacket over a sweater over a shirt, all topped by my blaze orange hunting cap.

My wood fire is dying, down to a few smoldering embers, marking my hours of depression on a dead winter night. On the other side of the big window it approaches zero,

Still, 72 degrees? Such a swelter would have moved my ancient Gaelic fathers to throw wide the door to the thatched-roof drystone hut.

It must be as Yogi said: "Half  of this game is 90 per cent mental."


About once a week the ashes pile high, and you must haul them out. There is no workaround. You let the fire expire, get the special shovel, and carry it three times across the room, out the door, and along the deck. A deft toss deposits them in a pile.

Meanwhile, you briefly live like most other civilized Americans, with fossil-fuel heat, available at the twist of a knob. If you're me, you hate it. There is something inherently, atavisticly, wrong with comfort so easily won.

A thousand generations of human experience calls it good to loll by fire light and fire warmth. Hearthside is where a man bathes in a feeling of competence; he has mastered nature's cold by personal sweat, personal creativity. How do we praise highly enough that first human who reasoned that if he piled his wood around the fire pit he had a wind break, the first faint conceptualization of a house?


I could do that man, or woman, more honor by  getting up from the goddam computer and taking care of the fireless fireplace right now. But it's still dark, and the magic of the propane fairy is marginally more attractive than stumbling around in the outside night, dumping the dross and assembling kindling and squaw wood for a fresh blaze. I'll do it after sunrise, a couple of hours off. By eight o'clock three or four  large, dry, oak splits will be combustifying happily, and life will again be balanced.

No comments: