When I was young fire was how we heated out house. And fire meant wood. In the front of the house was a huge woodpile. And grandpa would go out and cut the wood for the fireplace.
In my own naive childish way I recall wanting to help. I felt like I was so strong. There must a have been at least a few times when I actually cut some wood. When it rained the tarps on the woodpile gathered the water in little lakes.
They say firewood heats you twice. Once while you are chopping it. And then again when burning. There was a smaller wood pile in the house. And a bin for kindling. It was here me and my sister once hid the wooden spoon our great-aunt used as a paddle. And yes it was burned. But no, we didn’t stop getting paddled.
Spare the rod.
Later I recall a small fireplace when I was in the fourth grade. We had a tea kettle on the top to keep the air moist. I recall dumping water on the top of the fireplace. It was mesmerizing to watching it evaporate. With a hiss it would boil into the air. And it would be gone. And I would do it again. And with another hiss and rapid motion it would boil. The water rolling and coming together as it disappeared. I wondered if there was some limit. Not a limit to how much the air could hold. But, I am surprised it didn’t start raining in our house. But I guess a limit to how much heat the stove could lose, and still boil water.
Even later when I was older and visited my aunt. They were still using wood to heat their house. I stayed in the room upstairs. The room was always warm. The stove pipe ran right through the corner.
But at our house we didn’t use a fireplace for heat. But as a teenager I recall playing with fire. I know, don’t do this at home kids. It was innocent enough in some ways. We would light alcohol, or hair spray, or other things we could burn. I think a couple times we started small campfires in the creek. I was aware of fire’s potential danger. Bur fire was still fun. And we never caused any damage.
In college I burned candles in my room. And one day while sitting at my desk I heard the smoke alarm. The candle has melted and caught the plastic under it on fire. It scared me pretty good, but I got it out and there was no damage. This only happened to me one other time. Years later living in Yosemite.
I had a tea light burning on a plastic store drawer. And the heat from the tea light melted the plastic. The candle must have fallen in, or maybe the plastic burned from the heat. From a full sleep I awoke to the beeping alarm. Beeping beeping beeping loudly of the danger. There were clear flames and smoke. It was filling the room. I don’t know what I grabbed, but I put out the fire. And I promised myself to be more careful in the future. And I have been since . My roommate at the time wasn’t upset. But it upset me to think of how I had endangered his life.
Oh yes, my brother once burned my mother’s bed. He was playing with matches or something in her room. Then when she went and found it she started screaming. As she was going down the stairs I was going up. Along with my sister, we got water and put it out. But her bed was ruined. And she had already called the fire department. They came out and threw her bed out the window.
Once at a Rainbow Gathering on the beach I recall building my own little fire. For some reason I didn’t want to join the main fire. What I wanted was a small fire of my own. I put on the small twigs one at a time. I built with tender care. It was a perfect fire. And as it started small I added more wood a little at a time. I fed it slow and gentle like one feeds a baby. And it grew. And I gave it more and bigger pieces of wood. And it grew and grew. Until it wasn’t a small fire at all. And some people from the other fire had come to sit by my fire.
There was a girl. Who was lighting a different fire in me. I wanted to kiss her, but I didn’t because I was afraid. Also it was a rare instance of my actually having a girlfriend. And she probably would have liked it. Later I saw her having sex with another guy on the beach. (It was a Rainbow Gathering). And I thought it could have been me. In some ways I regretted not taking the chance with her on the beach. But, one silly fling in the sand wouldn’t have meant much. And she got pregnant and had a son. Which means, it could have been my son. I have some mixed feeling about how it would have changed my life.
In college though most of the fires were bonfires. We would go out as a group. Put a bunch of wood in a pile on the beach, and burn it. At one of these some of the others were chanting, “earth, air, fire, water, return, return, return.” And it was creating a strange feeling for me. I am open and believe in a lot of spirituality. It didn’t bother me they were chanting. But they were just playing games. They didn’t know what they were doing. And I think it can be dangerous on some level to play games with spirituality. So I asked them to stop.
Most of the campfires were pretty staid. I did meet Jennifer at one. And she as far from staid. In every definition of the word. I lit a fire in her, and she wanted to have sex with me in the back of her car. Not when we first met. It was later. But sex in a small car did not seem like a ton of fun and it didn’t work out.
In the east fire and sexuality are linked. And here in this writing I have linked them at least twice. Another memory is a girl I had a huge crush on. We were not dating, but close. At one bonfire some other guys were starting to hit on her. But one asked if she was with me. She said “yes.” And at the time I didn’t think she meant it, maybe she did. Our whole relationship was strange, and it needs more space to explain. Another time and place.
Fire is sexuality. But it is also home. It reminds me of my childhood and it makes me comfortable. If I had the choice I would prefer a fireplace. Maybe one of those cool fake gas fireplaces. Since chopping wood isn’t my idea of a good time. But even a real fireplace would be nostalgic. If I ever have my own home.
(Room to Write exercise)