Tending The Fire

Dec 6, 2016

Tending The Fire | www.nalumana.com


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.