Saturday, February 21, 2015

Fire in the Morning

Years before I knew it would be
important to me
I learned a little something about the
glories of woodburning stoves.
My mom married my step-dad on a
hot June day
and we immediately loaded up the blue Volvo
with coolers and suitcases
and headed out
on a "new family" vacation/honeymoon
to Yellowstone National Park.
After the long drive
across three states
we arrived at the park
to find temperatures
hovering just below freezing
every night.
We loaded the necessities
of the four of us
into a cabin just like this one
arriving near dark
and confronted with the frigid reality
in short order:
the place had no heat
other than the tiny little
woodburning stove.

That night
as we hurried back from the bath house in winter coats
our new step-dad stuffed the woodburner
with wood and all manner of kindling
with great care
to keep his new brood of
family women
warm through the night.
I remember pulling quilts up over my ears that night
looking down towards my feet
just beyond which stood the little stove
happily pressing warm air into the room.
I fell asleep,
noticing I could see stars
outdoors in the night sky
through cracks in the roof of the cabin.
Cool enough, I thought as I drifted off.
Cool enough.
At some hour
buried deepest in the wee ones
of the early early morning
I remember waking to whispers.
And discomfort.
And sweat.
Beads of it.
No......not beads.
More like rivers.
My sister
who shared my bed
was kicking me.
Well, I thought she was kicking me.
She was kicking blankets.
And I realized
I was kicking mine too.
And the whispers I heard
were that of my parents.
They were both up,
one at the window
and the other at the door,
fanning the cozy little cabin
by opening and closing them.
At some point
my step-dads
fabulous fire-building skills
unfolded into full bloom
sending waves and waves
of heat...
blistering, sweltering heat....
into every corner
of the tiny cabin
and deep into our pores.
I suspect we were all
spontaneous combustion.
My mom's face was flushed.
And I just wanted to smack
my sister for no reason.
(This was an impulse often attributed
to over-heating
in my youth.)
Over the ensuing years
my parents would
recollect the moment
and the heat
with laughter;
it became an important footnote
on the page of our
new family relationship.
Our first
group memory.
A sweet one.
A warm one.
Definitely a warm one.
But sweet, indeed.
Years later
I kept my own family warm
through years and years
of judicious
management of a
lower level
in a 70's
split-level tract home.
Grandma taught me how to
bank a log at night.
Not gonna sugar coat
the truth
when there is truth
to be told:
I was a kick-ass
hauling logs
and risking cardiac arrest
over the parade of spiders
that crawl from warming logs
as you haul them into the house
won over the economies
of heating with wood.
yes, I know, green young people,
we returned to the allure
of the convenience
of fossil fuels.
Fast forward.............
wayyy, wayyyy forward....
Today started grey.
It started grey
and overcast and even if the thermometer
says it's warmer than a few days ago
it's still cold.
So I built a morning fire.
And even though the sun found it's way
past the clouds this afternoon
the heat of the early flames
reached out and licked at me,
warmly ministering not only
to my shivering skin
but sinking in
and sending warm, comforting waves
through all of the empty
spots in my heart.
Fire warmed our new little family
all those decades ago.
Fire warmed my own little family
through my kids growing-up years.
Fire warms me still.

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