Bonfires. Fire pits. The open hearth. Obviously, I’m not the only one who’s drawn to fire—and not in a weird or unusual way (i.e., I’m not pyromaniac!). But I will admit, I’ve always been drawn to the magic of fire. A controlled, planned, contained arrangement of dancing flames.
An ever-changing screen-saver for my life.
The house I grew up in had a big, open, fieldstone fireplace. Early on, even before oil began its inevitable rise to unaffordable, my father would light a fire in the hearth on special occasions: family gatherings, holidays, nights when the blowing wind and snow took our power out. And I, even as a small child, would plant myself just beyond the uncomfortable zone of the heat and snapping embers to stare, in wonder, at the light show.
Fire has fascinated man since the Early Stone Age. It frightened him, challenged him, and eventually became his best friend. His ally against man-eating foes, as well as his tool. Many cultures still worship fire, and have rituals and celebrations built around it.
Fast forward a dozen years, to my senior year in high school when the annual bonfire celebrated the homecoming game. I was the geeky, shy, bookworm nerd who never attended any school events (I went to one football game during my entire high school career—and hated it). But I went to the bonfire. There just seemed something magical about this tradition. I stood on the outer edges of the “cool-kid crowd,” and stared mesmerized at the leaping orange and red tongues licking toward the black night sky. Although I did nothing you could even remotely call social that night, I went home feeling renewed, and somehow more complete.
Later, when I set up household with my husband, we had no fireplace, but we did have a woodstove. Now, these are nifty gadgets with which to heat a home during brutal upstate New York winters. But their steel doors must remain closed in order for the unit to operate properly. So not fair. In retaliation, I found myself collecting candles, lighting one in almost every room of the house as the short days cloaked our home in darkness even before the supper table was set.
Over the years we’ve had a number of fireplaces, and I eagerly accepted the role of fire-builder. And I got very, very good at it.
I think I’ve passed the obsession on. I recently spent a week visiting my son in Florida (we now live in Massachusetts). He’d just purchased a fire pit. As we sat on his back porch, he tried night after night to get that blasted fire going. But no matter what he did, the fire just wouldn’t catch.
So, at the risk of bruising his male pride, I demonstrated my technique of starting the perfect fire. Within minutes, it was roaring. The grim set of his lips told me he wasn’t happy to have been outdone (especially by Mom), but I know one thing for sure—he’ll use my method from here on in.
This past weekend my husband and I spent a magical night in Lake George, N.Y., one of my favorite places to be, and the setting for my Love at Lake George Series. This trip, though, was for R&R. When our usual accommodations announced they were closing down for the season, we ended up at a Best Western up the road. We lucked into a premium suite at a fabulous rate—complete with fireplace, Duraflame log, and pack of matches.
Can you say *sigh*?
Now, starting a Duraflame log makes my usual process of fire-making look like brain surgery. But I’m not complaining. One match, forty-five seconds, and we had a gorgeous fire casting its warmth and glow over the entire suite. And while my husband sat on the sofa and watched TV, where was I? Sitting on the floor, wine glass in hand (it was actually a plastic cup, but no matter), gazing at the flames.
The Yule Log. Are you familiar with it? I mean, the TV version. Beginning in 1966, WPIX began airing an uninterrupted, static clip of a brightly burning fireplace log for several hours during the holiday season. It has since spread to other stations, and as far as I know (and hope), the program will continue to air, complete with traditional carols playing. In fact, the end scene of my women’s fiction, The Phoenix Syndrome, features the Yule Log accompanied by Carol of the Bells on Christmas Eve.
In recent years, I haven’t needed the TV version. In my home office, I have a lovely brick fireplace. My daughter and I have made it a tradition to wrap gifts here, sitting on the floor in our PJs, wine glasses nearby, with a fire crackling in the background. But after this weekend’s experience with the ease of a Duraflame, I don’t think I’ll be hoarding newspapers or scouting up kindling this year.
Do you love to watch a fire? Light candles to set a mood? Share with me your rituals that have to do with dancing flames. And make me feel like less of a closet pyromaniac.
Claire Gem is a multi-published, award winning author of emotional romance—contemporary, paranormal, romantic suspense, and women’s fiction. She writes about strong, resilient women who won’t give up their quest for a happy-ever-after—and the men lucky enough to earn their love. Visit her at her website.