Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lying by a fire

It has been really cold the last couple of days.  So cold here, in fact, that it froze water on the dock and in the wetland near the house.  Every morning I look out the bay window in the bedroom to see the woods and the wetland.  There are seven acres of woods here with all live oak, water oak, cypress, tupelo, gum, pine and dogwood dominating.

Because the woods are dense, it is inevitable that limbs will fall or trees will die.  I do mourn the passing of a tree.  It doesn't seem right that trees succumb to heart rot or fungus or some kind of introduced disease.  We humans seem more suited to those kinds of mortal wounds.

I remember the seven huge elms that fronted the home place in Virginia.  I stood under them to play, to catch the school bus, to ride my bicycle, to sit in the shade during hot summer days. They were magnificent.  I never thought about them dying, but eventually they succumbed to Dutch elm disease.  One by one they were cut down and now have been gone for years, rotting somewhere or burned up.

After Hurricane Hugo came through in 1989 and stripped the leaves from the trees with its deadly wind,  the trees were stressed.  A large water oak in the front yard died within a year.  Lots of limbs came down.  I probably worked about four months to get all of the wood split and stored.  All the while I was wishing that the tree was still there and not being cut up with a chain saw and split for fire wood.

Because of the woods and the finite life of trees, there is an ample supply of wood in the wood shed.  And on the type of cold days that we have been having it feels good to have a fire going.  There are four fireplaces here--two that use wood and two that use gas.  Most of the time, we light the gas logs that are in the bedroom and bath.  But the last few days, we have had a wood fire in the fireplace near the kitchen.

Having a fire is a wonderful thing to me.  I was happy when we would have a fire going when I was a kid.  It felt good to come inside after being in the cold and warming up near the fire.  It is romantic too.  I had a lot of good times on the sofa in front of that fireplace when I was in high school--those stolen kisses and raging teenage hormones seemed as hot as the embers burning.

I have lain in front of many a fire.  I welcomed its warmth on so many occasions over the years.  We have slept in front of the fire here on sleeping bags when the house was being built.  We would stay here late painting and build a fire and snuggle next to each other while the fire burned.  We have also slept next to fires on the beach, wrapped up in each other, after surf fishing at Hatteras or a long afternoon sail. 

I am glad that the wood hasn't all gone to waste.  Some of it has provided warmth when nothing else has, some of it has added heat to what was already hot, and some of it has transfixed me as the sap popped and sizzled, and the flames flew up into the night sky.  Mesmerizing, lying by a fire.


  1. It has been cold here as well,but that again it is winter.

  2. Energy is neither created nor destroyed and as the wood burns, it is good to remember that.
    Lovely post, Syd.

  3. Throw a log on for me!

  4. i lived outdoors for a year...fire became a good friend on cold nights...

  5. Having a history together sounds nice. Even if the years aren't always perfect. You can still share the memories and as you get older you only remember what you want. Nice post.

  6. I wish it were cold enough in my state in Australia for it to get cold enough to need a fire. I love watching a fire burn. I find it really relaxing, though where I live, there is no need for it. I wish it were different though.

  7. i've always felt like fire has more than physical transformational power. i realize it is also a rapid completion of the carbon cycle - but sending something into the universe through fire always seems... something.

    reminds me, i need wood.

  8. a friend of mine recently told me her observations on how building fires warm us up in three ways..
    by collecting the wood,chopping it and enjoying it ;)

  9. Love sitting near a fire, I made quite a few this Holiday.
    Sure does warm my spirit.

    Nature I loved, and next to Nature, Art;
    I warmed both hands before the fire of life,
    It sinks, and I am ready to depart.


  10. yup, the natural elements are still the most comforting to me...

    fire, water, and the great beautiful green expanse of trees

  11. Yes, in our climate the trees don't fare well in frigid temps. I remember an ice storm about three years ago when the branches of the big trees surrounding my little house snapped because of the weight of the ice on them... it sounded like we were in a war zone and was very frightening.

  12. After a storm, it is good to recycle what can be used. Maybe the four months of cutting the wood brings more appreciation to you for the wood to burn now. Nice post.

  13. Love a fire... Our fake gas one is a poor substitute.

  14. I, too, love a good fire, Syd. My next home will definitely have a fireplace.


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