The rains have settled in early this year and the entire house feels damp—is damp, to be honest. The bathroom towels never completely dry out. So, on a misty rainy night, we had our first hearth fire of the season and autumn officially began.
I start by choosing the wood carefully from the tottering pile in the basement—the proper balance of laurel log, rosemary twigs, purchased fir from Mr. Bush, and old garden signs of snappy cedar, plus a candle end to get it all started. Then I build the fire pyramid; Mark mutters that I have become a pyro in the last few years, and I do take the set-up seriously. You need air circulation for a good fire. Then it’s time to rearrange the chairs, pulling the old rocker and sixties wooden armchair close to the hearth. I find the folding table rescued from a student dumpster and shift the light to between the two chairs and we’re set. Time to make dinner.
While the soup heats up, I light the fire and Mark checks the s’mores supply—marshmallows, graham crackers, and Hershey’s chocolate, all in a Christmas tin in the hallway, out of reach of ants. The cats wander in. Kayli the Sun Kitty makes loving eyes at the flames. Lucy tries out both seats. I spread an old fuzzy directly in front of the flames for Kayli and she purrs contentedly. Mark hunts down his notebook, reading material, and suduko puzzle. We have new library books. Water glasses are filled and covered by a napkin to discourage Lucy from drinking. She tries anyways.
After dinner in front of the fire, Mark cooks the marshmallows for four s’mores. Cats settle on laps. Kayli stretches out on her back, paws towards the fire, for a blissful tummy rub. We read, write, stare into the flames. The house grows dark around us—we have become a small circle of light in the universe, focused on the hearth at the center of our tiny house…I remember Wallace Stevens and “the cry of the peacocks” turning in the wind. The night feels late. The flames slowly die into the glowing coals, throwing off heat into the room. Some nights, we move the couch over and sleep there, others, I shift the laundry rack covered in jeans pulled of the line when the rains began in the late afternoon, taking advantage of the dry heat.
The next morning, I clear out the ashes and spread them on the garden beds, clearing the space for another fire, returning the laurel and rosemary to the earth. We will miss the sun—it’s warmth and dryness—but the fireplace begins to compensate for that on the long winter nights.