We got a fireplace last winter.
Having built only a handful of fires in my life before then, I was naive as to the complexity of the art.
I knew: you start with something that burns easily – newspaper or an egg carton – and then you add kindling in a teepee-type shape overtop. You light a match, et voila!
I would pile everything into the fireplace, in just the way I was supposed to.
When the flames would start to flicker, I would impatiently pile on the larger logs.
And watch as my fledgling fire slowly flickered out, leaving a pile of half-burned, smouldering kindling.
My husband, patiently watching, having been told not to say a word, would kneel beside me at the hearth.
A fire-builder his whole life, he would remove most of my pile of burnt detritus from the stove, hot-potatoing it to the hearth below.
He would reconstruct the teepee of kindling.
He used more kindling than I had even imagined should be used; I was trying to make do with less. I was assuming that because my schema of myself is one of capability, that I could build a fire without wasting all that precious, carefully chopped kindling. I didn’t need the right tools for the job; I was capable enough to compensate for the lack.
I had gotten a bit of a flame going, and piled everything on top. I relied on my schema of capability and a heavy dose of trust: I trusted that with flame and a bunch of flammable substances all in one small space, how could a fire not start?
He waited patiently for the kindling to catch, to sparkle and roar, and added one larger log at a time, blowing, oxygenating, tending the flames. He relied not entirely upon alchemy, but also on a methodical, intuitive nurturing.
This winter, I’m hoping to become a proficient fire-maker.
I wonder if my life might follow suit.