I’m writing this post in front of an actual fireplace at the Retreat Center at Camp Omega. Not the anti-septic gas ones we have in our houses now, but a stone fireplace that burns real wood.
To start it, you have to do more than flick a switch. You have to work and plan – you have to roll up newspapers, and put them in first, then stack logs of top, then light and pray. The initial excitement as the newspapers catches had to be tempered by a hope that the logs get involved. Sometimes they don’t, and it dies and quickly as it started.
But then, on the second or third try (I’m no Boy Scout…) it works, and you get a haughty sense of self-satisfaction. It’s tempting to beat your chest and yell, “I have built fire!! Bow before me!!”
When it burns, it doesn’t burn silently. The logs pop and hiss and whine as they burn, and every once in a file, a support log weakens to the point where the whole structure comes down in a shower of sparks.
Watching it is addictive. A group of us will just sit around the fireplace and stare into it We occasionally speak, but are otherwise just content to be hypnotized by the flames.
The heat isn’t uniform. Sometimes it’s blazingly hot so that your entire face gets warm to the touch. Then it burns low, and you have to grab a poker, brave the heat, and jostle things around until it heats up again.
Man, how I miss these fireplaces. Our home has a gas version – flick a switch on the wall, and blue flame consistently rises up behind thick glass through fake logs coated with some chemical that makes them look red hot.
It’s a sad substitute. I miss real fire.